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16 Feb, 2018

Northeast Asian destinations hammering ASEAN in pursuit of Thai outbound travel boom

Bangkok – With Japan at the forefront, Northeast Asian countries and Special Administrative Regions are clobbering the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in attracting the booming Thai outbound tourism market.

A survey of the recent Thailand International Travel Fair, held between February 7-11 showed clearly how Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR are using their visa-free accessibility and strong airline connections to grab a larger share of Thailand’s booming outbound travel, which is nearing the 10 million mark this year.

By contrast, ASEAN countries are trailing. In spite of having just paid the traditional annual lip service to the cause of promoting ASEAN as a single destination at the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Chiang Mai in January 2018, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore were located in separate halls at the TITF.

The rest of the ASEAN countries were represented by private companies, and also located in separate areas.

The ASEAN logo, the supposed branding symbol of an integrated region under the slogan “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” was nowhere to be found.

For the first time, China had a large pavilion at the TITF, the bi-annual trade fair organised by the Thai Travel Agents Association which groups the outbound agents, tour operators, wholesalers and other associate companies.

Amongst the South Asian countries, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives were well-represented. Bangladesh and Pakistan were absent.

Australia was represented by Qantas. The only two African countries were South Africa and Ethiopia. Other notable absentees were the U.S., New Zealand, Europe and Latin America.

Thai tourists to Japan have soared since the lifting of visa requirements in 2013. More than 100 of the 1,200 booths at the TITF are taken up by the Japan National Tourism Organisation which sub-lets the space to dozens of Japanese prefectures, cities and SMEs, all of whom exhibit as one destination, unlike the ASEAN countries.

All the other Northeast Asian destinations – Korea, Taiwan, China, Macau SAR and Hong Kong SAR – were prominently positioned under one roof in the main hall. All were well prepared, with Thai-language collaterals, special offers, games, selfie-opportunities, and more.

Thai outbound travel is expected to be the Next Big Thing in Asia-Pacific travel & tourism.

Thanks to a stable economy and a relatively strong currency, Thai outbound travel hit 8.2 million in 2016, is projected at 9 million in 2017 and could well edge past 10 million in 2018 or 2019.

The gradually maturing market will follow the same development path as other destinations, shifting from flag-following group tours to more specialised, selective niche-customer segments seeking higher levels of comfort, facilitation and experience.

The first comprehensive report on tapping the Thai outbound travel market is to be launched by Travel Impact Newswire at the end of February. The ground-breaking report is designed to help all interested parties identify opportunities, focus marketing strategies, generate ideas and improve the return on investment.

One of the highlights is an opening chapter on “20 Reasons why Thailand will be The Next Big Asian Outbound Travel Market.” The report covers all the key factors that will drive this market forward, including the economy, demographics, market trends and opportunities to tap both the Thai and expatriate market.

Because Thailand has long been an A-grade inbound-tourism destination, it is served by 118 airlines. By comparison, the kingdom hosts only 11 foreign national tourism organisations.

Over the next few years, several more NTOs are expected to set up shop. Regardless of their budgets, the report will help them save time and money in doing their homework, point them in the right direction and open doors in what is likely to be a great new source of business.

Those interested to purchase this landmark report, please email Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil: imtiaz@travel-impact-newswire.com. A special introductory offer of 50% discount is  available for the first 10 purchasers only.