Mumbai: The new Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Mumbai is set to enhance travel trade and media relations in India to promote newer destinations in Thailand and boost arrivals from India in the coming years
What are your top three priorities as the Director of TAT Mumbai?
My foremost priority is to enhance our existing relations with the travel trade partners and to come up with exciting packages/products to attract repeat travellers. Khun Soraya has set the standards high, so I will strive to maintain that. It would be great if I can become part of the Indian community, which will be my second home from now on.
In this endeavour to deliver a lifetime of memories for visiting families, Thailand goes all-out to provide a warm, welcoming, adaptive and an overall friendly atmosphere to each guest. These aspects are going to be the guiding pillars of our tourism approach in the coming years.
What has been the response from India to the new campaign ‘Open to the New Shades’?
‘Open to the New Shades’ campaign has been received very well by Indian visitors. I am expecting it to be amongst the most successful campaigns by TAT so far. The campaign primarily focuses on the visitors to open their minds and hearts and to broaden their perspective about the unseen and yet-to-be-explored Thailand.
The campaign, which was launched earlier this year, aims to target repeat visitors from India. We have been capitalising on the success of the campaign, connecting with our partners and showcasing new products to further popularise the same to Indian travellers. We have chalked out a list of promotional activities to ensure larger footfalls in some of the lesser-known attractions of Thailand.
With Thailand hoping to welcome 40 million tourists in 2019 (about half of the nation’s population), there are major concerns around the evils of over tourism. Please comment?
We, I mean Thai people, welcome everyone to our country with open arms. It is our nature. We focus on quality not quantity of tourist arrival to Thailand. In fact, we focus more on the revenue from tourists than the number of visitors. Of course, during high season, there will be a lot of tourists.
We work intensely to draw tourists to Thailand during low season by working with our partners. Besides, under the ‘Open to the New Shades of Thailand’ concept, new and fresh services and products are waiting for tourists.
There is widespread concern around safety after the recent unfortunate boat tragedy. What is the government doing to beef up safety and security of tourists?
For us, this issue is top priority. On August 14, 2018, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and TAT held a forum themed ‘Travel around Thailand, Safe Everywhere’. Presided over by Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism and Sports, it was also attended by Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor, TAT, and representatives of numerous private and public sector associations.
Weerasak said, “Thailand has recently experienced numerous incidents impacting the safety and security of both Thais and foreign tourists. This has had a negative impact on the image of tourism and could potentially impact the tourist atmosphere of the country over both the short and long term. In the short term, it could lead to cancellation of travel bookings. In the long term, it could lead to a lack of confidence in the service business, especially in relation to the safety and security of life and property of tourists.”
In the forum, it was discussed that if Thai tourism was to maintain its competitive advantage, in accordance with the 20-year national development strategy (2017–2037), it would be necessary to set measures and guidelines to strictly enforce the rules and regulations and ensure proper coordination among all the various entities.
Yuthasak said, “The overall goal is to reduce the number of accidents, crime and threats to the life and property of tourists. This will ensure the good image of Thailand as a quality tourist destination and boost the confidence of tourists in our safety and security measures.”
Thailand is focusing on targeting the LGBT travellers in a big way. A bill allowing marriage of same-sex couples is expected to be passed in Thailand by the end of the year. Can you explain the opportunity you see here?
Yes, TAT has for the first time joined the LGBT Travel at the ITB Berlin 2018 as the ‘ITB LGBT Presenting Partner’ with a booth at the dedicated LGBT Pavilion and a series of Thailand presentations at the LGBT events. TAT New York has created a website – gothaibefree.com as a travel resource and blog on LGBT life in Thailand. You’ll find news about upcoming events, LGBT-friendly travel curated by them, as well as weekly blog posts about gay life in Thailand. They try to show readers what life in Thailand is like for a LGBT traveller as well as educate you about Thai culture along the way. They cover almost everything for the gay community in Thailand. As I said, Thailand welcomes every one of you. We treat you as a friend. You can be truly yourself in Thailand. Personally, I can see immense potential in this.
What are the major changes you are seeing in the preferences of Indian travellers visiting Thailand? How do you attract repeat visitors?
Indian travellers seek new products and services. We have more repeat Indian travellers than first-time visitors. As I mentioned before, we are introducing new products and services as part of the new marketing campaign.
• Bangkok night bike: Spend a magical evening cycling off the beaten path in Bangkok
• Stand-up Paddle Yoga (Nuan Chawee Bridge Pathumthani): It involves throwing sun salutations on a paddleboard, cut adrift on water
• Bangkok Flow House (Sukhumvit 26): Bangkok’s only beach club featuring a flow rider surfing machine.
• Perception Blind Massage (Silom Soi 6-8): Massage centres providing employment for blind or visually-impaired therapists
• Thai Fit Studio (B.I.D.A Dance Sukhumvit 42): A ‘dancercise’ club which blends one-hour cardio of step-aerobics with Thai classical dance
What did you hope to achieve with IIFA in Thailand? Are you happy with the mileage?
Bollywood always connects with the Indian audience. We saw a huge increase in Indian arrivals to Thailand when we hosted the event for the first time. This year again, we hosted IIFA to promote the concept of our newly-launched campaign ‘Open to the New Shades of Thailand’. We are overwhelmed with the mileage we have received as a destination. We will be happy to associate with them in the future as well.