Thailand Travel Mart Plus (TTM+) – the country’s most significant B2B travel trade event – made its return last week after a 2-year COVID hiatus. Held over three days at the beachfront Angsana Laguna Phuket, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) used the show to highlight the destination’s ‘Amazing New Chapters’ to buyers from 43 countries including Australia, Europe and the United States.
Now in its 19th year, and timed to coincide with Thailand’s full re-opening to tourism on 1 June 2022, the event this year took a hybrid format, featuring 222 buyers who attended the event in-person (8 from Australia), and an additional 55 buyers from China engaging with sellers online. Of the more than 260 sellers, almost two-thirds were repeat exhibitors, a testament to the value of this annual event.
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During the show, buyers exchanged knowledge through TTM+ Talk sessions, addressing up-to-date topics relating to the current tourism situation including the role of social media and the metaverse, the growth of wellness tourism, DIY workshops of local handicrafts, and two full days of appointments to meet sellers one-one-one. There was also time for networking at fun evening events held at two of Thailand’s biggest water parks, Blue Tree and the brand-new Andamanda Phuket.
Participants had the opportunity to participate in pre-event famils focused on responsible and sustainable tourism, visiting community enterprises at work – traditional fishing practices, a rare buffalo breed, and visiting an indigenous community to learn a local way of life.
Opening the event, Thai Minister for Tourism Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said TTM+ was the ideal platform to communicate and create awareness of Thailand’s new ‘Visit Thailand Year, Amazing New Chapters’ campaign, giving participants up-to-date information, direct experiences from real locations, as well as understanding the model of responsible tourism.
Under 6 pillars: Nature, Food, Thainess, Experience, Fun and Love, the campaign showcases Thailand’s abundance of tourism experiences, cultural diversity and richness, with an A-Z directory demonstrating that Thailand really does have it all.
Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications outlined Thailand’s plan for tourism growth from 2022/24. Cheawsamoot noted that for the 2021 calendar year Thailand welcomed 427,869 tourists – half of those in the months of November and December when the country’s ‘Test & Go’ program was introduced.
So far in 2022, for the five months ending 31 May, Thailand had tripled its 2021 visitor tally, with more than 1.34 million arrivals. Numbers are steadily growing month-to-month, Mr Cheawsmoot said, as entry restrictions ease.
Thailand’s goal for the June-September quarter is 500,000 arrivals per month, with the target for Q4 (traditionally the start of the high season for the nation) doubling to a goal of 1 million arrivals per month.
Moving forward, the target is 20 million visitors in 2023. In 2024, the focus will shift towards a tourism revenue goal of $3 trillion baht, $1.92 trillion of that from international arrivals, driven less by arrival numbers, but rather an increase in expenditure.
Australia remains key to this growth, Ms Sukanya Sirikanjanakul, Executive Director, ASEAN South Asia & South Pacific Region for TAT told LATTE. While Australia currently sits just inside the Top 10 inbound markets for Thailand in terms of arrivals so far in 2022, the goal is to elevate Australia into the Top 5, fuelled by big spenders.
“Australians were the first back after borders re-opened and remain key to Thailand’s tourism recovery and growth,” she said.
With high-end accommodation bookings reportedly increasing the quickest, luxury will be a key driver and target segment over the coming years, as well as wellness, wedding & honeymoons, digital nomads, sport and medical travel with an emphasis on responsible tourism – increasing spend from tourists, rather than numbers, and encouraging them to spend in local areas to support local communities.
“Accessibility is key to this growth,” Sirikanjanakul added, revealing that they were already in talks with Thai Airways International on direct flights from Perth to increase accessibility from Western Australia in particular, along with boosting capacity from important Australian cities.
Next year’s TTM+ will be held in Bangkok from 31 May to 3 June 2023.