7 May, 2015
Dubai — Thailand has launched a new campaign to position the Buddhist-majority kingdom as a Muslim-friendly destination and attract a larger share of the rapidly growing market for halal tourism. Launching the campaign at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) on 06 May 2015, Minister of Tourism and Sports Mrs Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul noted that it would fit well within the context of the 2015 ASEAN integration when Thailand is expecting a surge in visitors from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalaam, in addition to the growing number of Muslim travellers from across South Asia, Central Asia and North Africa.
She said it would also contribute to job-creation among the emerging generation of young Thai-Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority.
The campaign will get a further impetus at the upcoming Thailand Travel Mart 2015 in Bangkok from 3-5 June when, for the first time, the Tourism Authority of Thailand will invite about 100 travel agents and media from the Muslim markets to the country’s premier trade show. They will have workshops, forums and presentations as well as trips to various sites. “This will send a clear message that Thailand is ready to welcome Muslims,” the Minister said.
The Thailand stand had an extensive array of promotional literature and brochures in Arabic. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, which also exhibited at the ATM, proudly displayed a special brochure listing the dozens of halal-certified Muslim restaurants now available in the capital.
The launch event was held at the ballroom of the Dusit Thani Dubai, the first Thai hotel to open in the commercial capital of the United Arab Emirates. The full text of her speech is reproduced below.
2015 Discover Thainess Networking Lunch, ATM 2015
Speech by H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul,
Minister of Tourism and Sports
Wednesday, 6 May, 2015, at 12.00-15.00 hrs.
Al Wasl Ballroom, Dusit Thani Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Sawasdeekha and As Salaam Alaikum (อัส-สลาม-อาลัยกุม)
Distinguished guests, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of Thailand and the Thai tourism industry, I would like to extend to you, our valuable friends, a warm welcome. Thank you for sparing your valuable time with us today.
First of all, I have a little question to ask you. Can you guess how many mosques do we have in Thailand? A recent study by Ministry of Culture shows that we have 3,406 mosques located in 61 out of 76 provinces of Thailand. That is why we always come here. That is why you are not only our strategic partners but you are Muslim travellers and our long term friends.
Thailand has been exhibiting at the Arabian Travel Market since 1998. It also marks Thailand’s seventeenth year of participation in the show. This year, we have 59 Thai hotels, tour operators, travel agents, hospitals, and other related operators in the Thai delegation. I am proud to recognise the unparalleled contribution of this great event in developing the Middle East travel to Thailand.
Our country remains a popular destination to many Arab travellers as well as others from the Middle East region, as it has been named as one of the Top 10 Muslim friendly tourist destinations in the world by the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2015.
Thailand Tourism Situation
Thailand has faced a very challenging 2014, but I am glad to report that visitor arrivals to Thailand totalled 24.8 million (24,779,768), with earnings of 35 billion US dollars (1.15 trillion Baht). A turnaround in the last quarter of 2014 has gained strength, and this significant growth has continued in the first quarter of 2015.
In 2015, TAT has set the revenue target of 41 billion US Dollars (1.35 trillion Baht) that will be generated by 28 million international visitors.
Significance of the Middle East Market
In 2014, Thailand welcomed approximately 650,000 Middle East visitors, with more than 150,000 visitors from the UAE, 78,000 from Oman and 62,000 from Kuwait.
The target of the Middle East tourists in 2015 is 696,400.
The Middle East market has remained an important source market for us with an increase in the total number of arrivals; for example, in January alone saw an increase of nearly 50 percent (49.62%).
This is a great sign in which we expect that tourist arrivals from the Middle East will continue to be positive throughout of the year. Thanks for the support from all the airlines as well as the travel trade partners.
The Middle East in general and Gulf Cooperation Council countries in particular, are very important sources of visitor arrivals. Visitors from the Gulf countries have a high average length of stay and daily expenditure. For example, in 2013, visitors from the UAE had an average length of stay of 10.6 days, while Thailand’s overall average was 9.8 days. The average daily expenditure of UAE visitors was more than 195 US dollars, while the overall Thailand average was 150 US dollars.
We are proud to enjoy the status of being the top destination for Middle East travellers in Asia. Perhaps the best way of proving that statement is to look at the airline flight schedules. Emirates Airlines flies 6 times a day from Dubai to Bangkok, Etihad Airways flies 3 times a day from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok, and Qatar Airways flies 4 times a day from Doha to Bangkok.
In addition, we have daily flights to Bangkok from Muscat, Kuwait, Bahrain, Cairo, Amman, and Tehran. No other Asian capital city can boast such a large number of flights from this part of the world. Moreover, Etihad Airways, Emirates Airlines, and Qatar Airways have direct flights to Phuket.
Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE can obtain a 30-day visa-free facility at major international gateways in Thailand. Saudi citizens can get a 15-day visa on arrival for tourism purposes.
For other countries in the Middle East which require visas, the Royal Thai Embassies and Royal Thai Consulates in the respective areas will do their best to facilitate visa issuance.
The Airports of Thailand plans to expand Suvarnabhumi Airport in order to enhance its capacity from 45 million passengers per year to 60 million per year. In October, Don Mueang International Airport will open its second terminal to increase the capacity to 30 million people per year. Moreover, Phuket International Airport will expand its annual capacity from 6.5 million to 12.5 million.
“2015 Discover Thainess” Campaign
Ladies and gentlemen,
Here at ATM, it is my pleasure to officially kick off our global marketing and promotional campaign “2015 Discover Thainess” for the first time in the Middle East Market.
This campaign will emphasise the priceless treasures of Thailand, which give Thainess its charm, makes us unique as a people, society and culture, and gives us our competitive advantage.
The marketing messages will highlight the concept of Creative Tourism under which tourists can experience the Thai way of life, Thai culture, Thai wisdom and hands-on Thai activities; such as, Thai boxing, Thai massage, Thai cooking, and Thai classical dance. The “Thainess” lifestyle is reflected in all our traditionally designed handmade products and services.
We are introducing 12 new emerging destinations that tourists must not miss, and special festivals and activities throughout the year for all to discover “Thainess” around the country.
As part of the 2015 Discover Thainess, we are promoting Thailand’s textile heritage. Between 18-23 April, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) hosted leading fashion designers, fashion design students, bloggers and the press from nine countries to a special ‘Thailand Academy III’ educational project to inspire them to promote the use of Thai textiles in the world’s fashion industry. The 36 fashion designers and students explored Thailand’s textile cultural routes in the North, Northeast and South during this period. I am happy to report that the UAE was one of the countries sending 10 designers visited the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat as part of this project.
Thailand as a Muslim Friendly Destination
Thailand has its fame for being a Muslim Friendly Destination with the strength of catering to varieties of products, especially to facilitate Islamic tourists from not only the Middle East but also the other Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
This is not just applicable to tourism, but will also become a very important part of our overall national and regional development plan. After the advent of the ASEAN Economic Community from this year onwards, we project a huge increase in Muslim visitors from our ASEAN neighbours to the South, specifically Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
Besides that Thailand will promote ASEAN Connect Tourism for visitors who have interest to experience new countries in ASEAN. Two Kingdoms One Destination Packages will be launched within this year for any interest in Thai-Myanmar, Thai-Cambodia, Thai-Laos, and Thai-Vietnam.
We are already seeing many of our shopping complexes providing facilities for Muslim prayers. Halal food is becoming commonplace. We are also seeing increasing investor interest in developing halal-tourism hotels. All this is good for us, because it will create jobs for our emerging younger generation of Thai-Muslims and promote national inclusiveness and integration.
Thailand highlights for the Middle East
Health and Wellness: The art of rejuvenation and healing, from organic spa therapies to traditional Thai massage, is an integral part of Thai culture.
At either end of the wellness spectrum, you will find that our private hospitals are world-famous medical tourism magnets in themselves. This has been a great success story, especially from the Middle East market. Thailand’s track record on the medical frontier has frequently won international acclaim. Many hospitals out of 200 international standard hospitals and clinics, have Arabic-speaking interpreters, prestigious American and European board doctors and gentle Thai nurses.
Moreover, I would also like to remind you that nationals of GCC countries; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, can enjoy their medical treatment in Thailand for 90 days without a visa. The regulation also allows a patient to have not more than 3 individuals who are GCC nationals (i.e. parents, children, spouse or maid), accompanying him or her to stay in Thailand for 90-days without visa as well. Further details are available on the website of the Royal Thai Embassy and Royal Thai Consulate in all GCC countries.
Halal food: One of the key factors that attracts Middle East and Muslim visitors to Thailand is the availability of halal food. There are dozens of Islamic restaurants all over Thailand which have received the Halal Tourism Certificate. The Halal food logo which appears in front of a restaurant guarantees that restaurant has been certified with Halal food standards by the Halal Standard Institute of Thailand.
We have also established Muslim World First Halal Science Lab Center at our renown Chulalongkorn University for more than 8 years to arrange training courses for Halal food manufacture.
Phuket is gearing up to be a Halal food centre. While Thai Muslims make up about 30 percent of Phuket’s population, the resort island also welcomes an average of 100,000 Arab tourists each year. The provincial authorities realise the standard Halal food preparations will show the island’s readiness in catering to the special dietary needs of Muslim visitors.
TAT also forecasts in the near future Phuket and Thailand’s Andaman coast will become one of the top destinations for Arab visitors. The readiness of Halal food restaurants on the island will certainly be a key factor.
Green Season: The monsoon rains make the period from May to September the ‘Green Season.’ We promote it as a good time for families to visit Thailand, when the country becomes green and fresh, and visitors can experience another aspect of our country that they may have never seen before.
The opening of Cartoon Network Amazone in Pattaya has attracted more family tourists and the young generation and recently, the Safari World and Phuket FantaSea theme parks have announced a cooperation in developing a new theme park on Kamala Beach in Phuket, to be completed by the end of the year 2017.
Shopping: Apart from our famous sea-sand-sun magnetism, there is no doubt that shopping in Thailand is made for shopaholics.You will see an extensive range of shopping outlets from luxury department stores to street vendors. Starting from the world-class luxury shopping stores, like the newly opened Central Embassy, andthe EmQuartier of the M District,as well as our thrilling action-packed open-air bazaars like the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the new waterfront markets like the Yodpimarn Flower Market and the Maharaj Pier, and the wholesale fashion destinations like Platinum Mall and the Pratu Nam area, are ready to serve all shoppers.
The Amazing Thailand Grand Sale is an annual shopping extravaganza held in all the country’s principal tourist centres. Special discounts of up to 80 percent are available at participating department stores and retail outlets; look out for the distinctive ‘Amazing Thailand Grand Sale’ sign and promotional material. This year, the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale will be from 15 June to 15 August, 2015.
Promotional plans to tap the Islamic World
Besides tapping the Middle East Market, the Tourism Authority of Thailand would like to share with you the promotional plans to attract Islamic tourists worldwide:
- To show how serious we are about growing our share of Muslim visitors, this year for the first time, we will invite about 100 travel agents and media from the Muslim markets to our own premier trade show, the Thailand Travel Mart 2015 to be held in Bangkok from 3-5 June. They will have workshops, forums and presentations as well as trips to various sites. This will send a clear message that Thailand is ready to welcome Muslims.
- To promote Thailand as a safe destination specifically for female visitors and families, offering a wide range of tourism products and activities including fabulous shopping opportunities, reasonably-priced yet quality products, exhilarating natural resources suitable for ecotourism activities and honeymoon holidays. These are supported by world-class hotels and modern hospitals with health, spa and beauty facilities, and also student camps in Thailand.
- To participate in travel trade events in the Islamic world and encourage more Thai tourism-related small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to promote their products and services in these trade shows.
- To attract Muslim families to spend the upcoming Holy Month of Ramadan in Thailand, especially in some of our South Thailand beach resorts; such as, Krabi which is positioning itself as a “Dream Destination for Muslims.” For the next two or three years, Ramadan will fall in the hot summer months across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. But in South Thailand, the fasting month can be spent in a lush green atmosphere with monsoon rains.
Before ending the speech today, I would like to apologise for my rather lengthy presentation. I just want to assure you that Thailand can create a win-win partnership for all in this coming year and beyond, and to become a truly top Muslim Friendly Destination for all.
I would also like to invite you to visit Thailand’s booth at AS8350 where you can meet with our exhibitors, witness demonstrations of umbrella painting, fish mobiles, and our world popular sport, Muay Thai.
I thank all of you for joining us today and for your ongoing support. We are looking forward to welcoming you to “2015 Discover Thainess” in Thailand.
Thank you and sawasdee kha.