LATTE chats to Richard Barnes, CEO of Worldwide Events, and Yathasak Supasorn, Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand, about bringing the first Amour Asia Pacific trade event to Thailand, romantic trends and honeymoon highlights.
1. Tell us about Amour.
Richard Barnes: Amour is a luxury travel trade event designed specifically for the elite romance travel market, including honeymoon curators, destination wedding planners and romance travel designers. The event brings together the most romantic destinations and hotel suppliers throughout the region with the best global buyers of romance travel. The three-day program is an exciting mix of one-to-one meetings, networking activities, gala dinners and after parties, allowing buyers and suppliers to network and build relationships that will enhance their own business offering.
We launched Amour in Venice earlier this year and it was such a huge success that we are hosting three in 2018: Los Cabos in Mexico, Monte Carlo in Monaco and Bangkok, Thailand, 14–17 February 2018.
2. What was behind the decision to bring Amour to Thailand?
RB: At the inaugural Amour event in Venice, there was such appetite for romantic properties throughout Asia Pacific it made sense to hold an event right here on your door step. We asked the buyers who attended Venice where they would like to see the first Amour Asia Pacific held and Thailand was unanimously voted as the preferred destination. This is a testament to Thailand, who have been working over the past few years to position themselves as the romantic hub of Asia. Buyers are taking notice. We have been working with Tourism Authority of Thailand to put some incredible famils together for our luxury buyers so they will really walk away with a true sense of the romantic offering Thailand has to offer.
3. How is Amour equipped to create relationships between buyers and romantic suppliers?
RB: At Worldwide Events, we do things differently. We believe building relationships is the key to securing quality business, so relationship building is at the heart of all our events. We keep mornings for meetings and hold fun activities in the afternoons. In Venice, for example, we had a craft afternoon making masks for our masquerade ball and we’ve done horse riding and cooking classes. When people have fun together, they remember each other, and that’s what really drives good business in this industry.
We have been perfecting the art of creating genuine lasting relationships between our hosted buyers and top luxury romance suppliers from around the world, by pioneering a carefully crafted programme of individual meetings, networking and destination discovery activities that work time and time again.
4. How have you seen luxury romance travel change?
RB: Like all forms of luxury travel, there has been tremendous growth in the luxury romance sector. A feature of that growth has been diversification, both in terms of supply and demand. On the demand side, the demographic of the luxury romance traveller has broadened. It’s no longer dominated as it once was by honeymooners and old world money. The modern world has given rise to a new class of luxury traveller coming from a broad range of destinations, backgrounds and age groups and as a consequence, what they demand has become increasingly varied too.
It’s been exciting to watch the supply side respond to this: hoteliers becoming ever more creative with their concepts and travel designers handcrafting extraordinary experiences for their clients. Romance travel is ambiguous to the travellers, and we are seeing some pretty unique and special experiences being dreamt up because of this.
5. What top three trends do you see defining luxury romance travel in the coming year?
RB: Experience over ownership. There is a general trend for the wealthy to prioritise experience over material ownership. This is great news for the travel market, because there is no better experience than travel. This shift is being fuelled by cashed-up millennials, who want to stay true to their love of finer things in life while sinking their teeth into adventure, local culture and even sustainable travel.
Long-haul romance travel is on the increase as travellers want new and exotic experiences. While there is always a place for the luxuries of five-star resorts, Michelin-starred restaurants and personal chauffeurs, people today are also looking for experiences that allow them to be part of the process and are willing to travel across continents to find them. That said, we are also seeing a trend for short-haul high-volume romance trips. Just look at the growth for ‘minimoons’ made popular by Pippa Middleton.
Last-minute decisions. Travel designers are not going to like this, but one of the demands of the modern luxury traveller is the need to make last-minute decisions or changes. Elements of the romance sector (destination weddings and honeymoons) are immune to this as those are fixed well in advance and (hopefully) stuck to.
6. Why do you believe couples are choosing romantic getaways in Thailand?
Yathasak Supasorn: Thailand can be considered as a one-stop service for romantic couples with the natural attractions, including stunning beaches, as well as compelling arts and culture. There are also plenty of activities for couples and a full range of amenities and luxury hotels with experienced and innovative service personnel. Thailand is also renowned worldwide for its friendliness and warm hospitality, so couples will be impressed by our great service mindset.
7. What experiences are they seeking out once they arrive there? Is this changing?
YS: For Amour Asia Pacific 2018, we are offering the best of our tourism products for the luxury romance market through networking activities in Bangkok and post tours, representing the various shades of Thailand, such as “Thai floral class”, representing our exquisite inherited intellect and delicacy of Thai floral art as well as the original and world famous “Thai boxing class”. We would also like to present the unique experience of Thai gastronomy from exciting street food to famous restaurants in town with our “Bangkok Food Tour”. Moreover, for first-time visitors, we offer 3 routes of “Bangkok Highlights” to Khlong Bang Lung, representing the amazing art of Thailand; to explore Rattanakosin Island by exciting long-tail boat and Tuk Tuk; and to admire the “Legend of Thai Silk” at Jim Thompson’s House.
As for our post tour, 4 routes to the world-famous romantic destinations in Thailand are offered with a variety of activities suitable for luxury romance visitors; namely, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Samui and Krabi.
8. Which destinations are considered the most romantic in Thailand? Which properties?
YS: Our main romantic destinations for international luxury couples are Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, Krabi and Chiang Mai.
Bangkok is not only a shopping paradise, but also where countless facilities and activities for couples are provided.
Phuket is known as a dream wedding and romance destination that has impressed thousands of couples with its white sandy beaches, luxury yachts and five-star hotels, a perfect place for a honeymoon.
Ko Samui is renowned as an environmentally friendly destination with beautiful private beaches and luxury spas for couples.
Krabi, with its world-famous beach of Ao Nang, Railay Beach and Ko Lanta, as well as beautiful coral reefs, is one of the top list destinations for honeymooners.
Chiang Mai is our northern province full of unique Lanna culture and history. It can offer a memorable experience through the Lanna tradition, art and the abundance of mountainous nature.
9. With multi-destination honeymoons on the rise, which destinations best complement a honeymoon in Thailand?
YS: Our 5 romantic destinations (Phuket, Samui, Krabi, Bangkok and Chiang Mai) offer different and unique honeymoon experiences. Couples can tailor their trip to these destinations and enjoy Thailand’s unique romance. For example, they can start their trip in Bangkok and enjoy various activities in the capital city. Then, proceed to Chiang Mai to be surrounded in the Northern Lanna tradition and art, and end their trip with the dreamy sea, sand, sun at beach destinations such as, Phuket, Samui or Krabi.
10. What’s the best coffee experience you’ve ever had?
RB: As a Brit, I’m more likely to order a pot of tea than a coffee, however, I did indulge when I was in Venice for our inaugural Amour earlier this year. You order your caffè latte or un caffè (which is an espresso) and drink them standing at the bar with your croissant – you never sit down. In Italy, coffee is deeply embedded in the culture and I enjoyed being part of the morning ritual.
YS: My best coffee experience is when I get the opportunity to try unique local blend made with local product such as the Muanjai Blend. Each blend has its own special aroma and taste which is unique to each location. The whole experience is amplified when you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery.