Thai sellers lead the field at ATF 2010

Thailand fielded the largest exhibitor contingent at the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2010 (ATF) held during 21-28 January, 2010, in Brunei Darussalam.

The total number of 108 exhibitor booths as listed in the delegate directory was well ahead of the second largest country contingent, Malaysia, which had 63 exhibitor booths. They included 90 hotels and resorts, 10 tour operators, and other related tourism businesses.

The 28th ATF was attended by a record number of delegates, including 370 buyers from 52 countries and 383 sellers from the 10 ASEAN countries.

Amongst the buyers, India was the biggest delegation with 21% of total buyers. Altogether, 60.3% of the buyers were from the Asia Pacific, 30.8% from Europe, 6% from the Americas, and 2.7% from the Middle East.

This year’s ATF had special business opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand to sell their products. Of the 28 new SMEs exhibiting their products, 22 were hotels, especially those categorized as boutique properties. These fashionable and intimate products are being marketed under the slogan: ‘CHIC By Thailand’.

ASEAN arrivals to Thailand comprise the biggest market share of all visitors. International visitor arrivals to Thailand by Nationality in 2009 totalled 14.09 million of whom 3.92 million visitors were from ASEAN countries. This was a small decline of only 1.2% over 2008.

Malaysia topped the list with 1.73 million arrivals, followed by Lao PDR 639,692 and Singapore 563,191. Other markets that showed growth during the period included Cambodia, Myanmar, Lao PDR and Vietnam. The markets that showed decline were the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia.

TAT is projecting 15-15.5 million international visitor arrivals to Thailand by this year. This is assuming there are no further global crises.

The ATF 2010 also presented an opportunity for the new TAT Governor, Mr. Suraphon Svetasreni, to introduce himself to his colleagues amongst the ASEAN national tourism organisations.

In the Thailand media briefing, Mr. Suraphon highlighted Thailand’s long-standing contributions to the cause of ASEAN tourism.

“The ATF is the first international travel trade show that I am attending since my appointment. I am looking forward to the challenge of heading TAT at a time when both Thailand and indeed the ASEAN tourism industry are both at a very critical juncture in their development paths.”

The Governor said Thailand is “very proud of the leadership role we have played in enhancing the role, image, and status of both the Thai and ASEAN tourism industries.”

He said that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International. “Both TAT and Thai Airways have helped grow regional tourism by bringing more visitors to this part of the world and raising its international profile.”

He noted that the historic campaigns to promote Bangkok as an aviation hub of Asia helped to attract scheduled and charter airlines. Unique marketing and branding campaigns like the Visit Thailand Year 1987 were copied all around the world and also led to the famous “Visit ASEAN Year” in 1992.

He noted that the development of the Thai tourism industry has also contributed to the development of the ASEAN and Asia-Pacific tourism industries. “Many of our senior industry leaders, including our early TAT governors, were heavily involved in the promotion of ASEAN tourism.

“Thailand also played a lead role in the establishment of the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office which helped set the stage for strong promotions of the Greater Mekong Subregion after the entrance of Lao PDR, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Myanmar into ASEAN.

We in Thailand are very proud to have done more than our fair share for the promotion of economic progress, jobs, culture, and heritage in the entire region.

The governor said that the travel and tourism industry “has changed beyond recognition thanks to technology, research, investment trends and marketing campaigns.”

He added, “The challenge of creating growth is over, the challenge of managing this growth has begun. This will mean finding new ways of attracting customers, delivering the promise, dealing with crisis and underwriting sustainability.

“There is no shortage of people wanting to travel. The key is to bring them to our doors, keep them coming back and get them to encourage their friends, families and business colleagues coming as well.

“We will need to become more creative in our online marketing strategies. But we will also have to ensure that the destinations and products we offer maintain the qualitative edge.

“We cannot just focus on average daily expenditure. We also have to ensure that the environmental impact is kept to a minimum. If the first 50 years of tourism development was focussed largely on maximising the economic returns, the next 50 years will require an equivalent focus on minimising the ecological impact.

“It is my firm belief that we in Thailand and the ASEAN tourism sector at large are more than ready to face these new challenges. The future lies in Asia and the upcoming partnerships between ASEAN, India, China, Russia, and our other dialogue partners almost guarantees that we will succeed.

“I can safely say that we in Thailand will live up to our claim to be a truly Amazing Thailand in terms of marketing strategies, product development, sustainability and service delivery,” Mr. Suraphon said.

Tourism Authority of Thailand