How has Tourism Authority of Thailand fared in 2016 when it comes to visitors from India?
Tourism has been very positive in 2016. We have received 1.1 million Indian visitors during the year, which is about an 11% increase in numbers. However, in terms of tourism revenues this translated into US $1.5 million, which is an even better growth of 14%. We had targeted 8% growth, so the performance has been far better. In 2017, we are expecting a further 7% growth in number of visitors from India.
Where does India rank in terms of tourism traffic to Thailand and how are you trying to boost traffic from the country?
Presently India stands at the 6th place after China, Malaysia, Korea, Japan and Russia, but we hope it will become No. 5. We do a lot of marketing activities to promote Thailand as a destination. Indian travelers can be divided into first-time travelers and repeat visitors. We promote the big destinations to the first-time travelers.
For example, if you go to France for the first time, the destination on your mind is Paris. In Thailand, on your first visit, the big draw is Bangkok. We have lots to offer beyond Bangkok, but there is also a lot to offer in Bangkok for the returning visitor, which is why they come back again and again. It is no wonder that about 70% of tourists are returning visitors.
To give you an example, we have a full night tour. The tour includes visits to many restaurants, fine dining, views from rooftops and drinks of your choice—whether you take spirits or are a teetotaler. We also have cooking tours, where you can go and live in a household and learn to cook Thai food—it is a live and learn experience.
We are also targeting the woman traveler, because we have so many products, services and experiences for them. Bangkok is a very attractive shopping destination for women. In fact, beginning last year, we are celebrating women’s month in August. There are many exclusive offers for women during the month. For example, when you are travelling, our partner airlines may allow you to carry 10kg more of baggage. Stores will also offer special discounts to women.
So, when it comes to marketing, we promote various products and services for both the first-time and repeat travelers.
Thailand isn’t seen as a luxury destination. What does Thailand have to offer to the luxury segment traveler?
Thailand has everything from hotels to cruises to other luxury amenities, all topped off with our Thai hospitality. In fact, we have everything a luxury traveler can ask for, and that too at a more affordable price. So you could say it is in a way more affordable luxury.
What is the theme for the Thailand Travel Mart?
Thailand Travel Mart is the big marketplace we created for sellers and buyers to do business. This year the focus is going to be on couples and romance and we will be focusing on these for the tourism business. We have been promoting leisure for about 20 years, so this year we are looking at doing something different, something special.
Thai food is very popular. Can you give us a better sense of the local food?
You are right, people all over the world know Thai food. But now we would like people to try the authentic local food. We have 76 provinces in our country and we would now recommend that you try 76 signature dishes, one from each province. Some of these dishes, even many local Thai people may not have tried, if they are from the other parts of the country.
There’s also a wide variety of food for vegetarians. In fact, in October we have a vegetarian food festival—this is when a lot of the local people are eating only vegetarian.