Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

27 Oct, 2008

Thai Tourism SME Group Scores Big Win at ITB Asia 2008

SINGAPORE: Eleven small Thai hotels and service apartments scored a huge win here last week by pooling their meager resources to produce a high-powered joint presence at the Asia Pacific’s newest travel show, the ITB Asia

“We were busy all through,” proclaimed Mr. Kamol Ratanavirakul, President of the Thai Hotel and Hospitality Management Association, brandishing a collection of nearly 300 name-cards, mostly of small and medium sized tour operators who had come to do business at the booth.

“There is no doubt that the economic and financial crisis is beginning to hurt tour operators who are looking for lower-cost hotels for their clients. We provide that option.”

Mr. Kamol said each of the 11 properties would follow up their individual business talks with the tour operators, and the name-card contact details would be entered into a database for more detailed marketing and promotional follow-up.

The 11 participating properties were: In Bangkok, the Bangkok Rama, New World City, Bangkok Boutique, Hope Land Executive Serviced Apartment and Victory Executive Serviced Residence; upcountry properties were the Khaoyai Garden Lodge, The Kris in Phuket, Mantrapura Resort in Pattaya, Banburee Resort & Spa in Samui and the Baan Talay Dao Hui in Prachuap Khiri Khan.

They ranged in size from the 32-room Baan Talay Dao Hui to the 172-room New World City hotel.

This was the first time the THSMA had organised a joint presence at an international travel show. The costs of the 27 sq m booth were defrayed by participating members paying 35,000 baht each, excluding their individual hotel and transportation costs.

Mr. Kamol said response had been so good that he has already booked twice the space at the 2009 ITB Asia.

“None of these small properties can afford to go international shows like ITB Berlin so when we heard that ITB Asia was offering special participating rates to small and medium sized enterprises, we decided to go for it,” said Mr. Kamol. “And having the show so close to home made it better.”

He said the ongoing global financial crisis had actually helped. “We represent small, niche-market properties with lower costs and lower rates than the regular hotels, but just as good in terms of location, facilities and service standards.

“So of course the tour operators, especially from within the Asia Pacific region, wanted to know more about us. They want to retain their clients and offering lower prices is necessary to keep business moving these days. It was successful for us, and a good experience, too.”

The good news from the THSMA was in contrast to that from the “official” booth taken up by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. There, TAT officials said Thailand was still suffering from the impact of the domestic political crisis.

“Many Singaporeans were affected by the closure of Phuket airport,” said one TAT official. “It got a lot of coverage in the local media. Even now, there were TV images of the (PAD) demonstrations on Ploenchit road and near the Paragon shopping centre.

“That is affecting us because people do not want to take the risk of coming to Thailand as long as the instability continues,” the official said.

Overall, however, the ITB Asia proved to be a successful show for most of its global participants.

It was organised by Messe Berlin with strong support from the Singapore Tourism Board. It is the first foray abroad for Messe Berlin, which is best known for its mother event, ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel trade show.

According to an official post-show announcement, ITB Asia chalked up 6,208 delegates, 24.2% more than the 5,000 originally projected. A large percentage were day-visitors who flew in from around the region just to have a quick look.

As business friends and colleagues found each other, the networking created a buzz of activity that was more than apparent, and continued late into the evening.

The only quiet areas were the non-Asia Pacific country booths, such as Argentina, Mexico, some European and Middle East countries.

Organisers said 651 exhibitor companies took 10,600 sq m of space at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre, 30.2% more than the targeted 500. Buyers and trade visitors arrived from 70 countries.

A number of board members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association were spotted walking the show in an apparent attempt to evaluate the impact it will have on the PATA Travel Mart next year.

A number of PATA members admitted that the ITB Asia has made a good first impression and they will have to see how it stacks up against the PATA Mart in terms of delivering business and networking opportunities.

One Singapore Tourism Board official admitted that Singapore would be evaluating its membership in PATA more closely now that it has its own home-based trade show, which it badly needs, given all the new casino and integrated resort developments due to come onstream by 2010.

Comments are closed.