Thailand, TTM+, travel agents

“Emerging Destinations” was the theme at TTM+ (Thailand Travel Mart) 2019 in Pattaya, Thailand, last week. The event brought buyers, sellers, travel agents, and journalists from all over the world to connect and learn about the new directions Thailand is taking in terms of tourism.

Tanes Petsuwan, Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) explained that Thailand received 38 million arrivals in 2018 which resulted in $62 billion in revenue for the country.

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Thailand continues to gain popularity, which is made clear by how many international hotel brands are opening hotels in the country this year such as the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River and Waldorf Astoria Bangkok.

Despite the continued growth in Bangkok and Phuket, popular tourism destinations, the country is putting its focus on two trends in 2019: responsible tourism and emerging destinations.

Multiple emerging destinations were presented at TTM+ 2019, including Pai in Mae Hong Son province, a millennial favorite, Chonburi province, Nan, Pathalong province, Chiang Rai, Ko Kood, Trang province, and Ko Rang in Trat province.

In speaking about Trat, one of Thailand’s emerging destinations, Steve Johnson, the Marketing Manager of TAT in New York said, “You’re going to find one-way roads, riding in open air taxis. The food is very local and traditional. Some of the best snorkeling I’ve experienced in Thailand is in Trat.”

He added, “It’s Thailand 30-40 years ago.”

TAT authorities at TTM+ 2019 were quick to point out that emerging destinations may not be all travelers’ initial goal when visiting Thailand.

“On first timers, we focus on the main attractions. Emerging destinations are targeting the repeater,” said Runjuan Tongrut, TAT Director of the Americas. She added, “The cities we’ve mentioned have facilitated enough to [manage new tourists]…that meet the standard of American and Canadian [customers].”

When asked how travel agents can learn more about Thailand’s emerging destinations, Johnson pointed out Thai The Knot, a downloadable app that allows travel agents to become Thailand experts.

“It takes only 30 minutes to become a specialist because the objective is not for them to pass a test. It’s for them to be able to have information at their fingertips,” Johnson said. “Whether they’re planning an itinerary, whether they’re speaking to a client cold-call on the phone, they’re able to answer with correct information and present Thailand in a very professional way.”

“We’re educating them about the emerging destinations, as well as the existing destinations,” he added.

Cheow Lan Lake, lake, boats, Thailand

Travel agents will find tools they can use to inform travelers about Thailand, a gallery full of downloadable videos and images to be used on websites, itinerary templates, special offers, and a directory of Thai hotels and tour operators in the U.S.

“Our objective is to be able to ‘tie the knot’ with Thailand, so to create a long-lasting relationship with Thailand,” Johnson said.

Responsible tourism was another main talking point at TTM+ 2019. TAT officials noted that they’re undertaking environmental initiatives with private and public sectors and have programs like the Green Leaf Hotel Initiative which encourages hotels to be more environmentally-friendly.

TTM+ 2019 put their eco-friendly beliefs in practice at the event making it plastic-free and limiting the number of printed documents in favor of flash drives and online directories. They even asked sellers applying to TTM+ 2019 to explain how their Thai tourism business was environmentally-friendly before inviting them to participate in the event.

In terms of the U.S. market, TAT noted that women travelers are especially interested in Thailand. Whether they’re solo or traveling in groups, they feel safe exploring the country, particularly in search of wellness experiences.

The destination is also doing well among millennials, LGBT travelers, and those interested in romance destinations. TAT is also looking to amp volunteerism as the country offers multiple opportunities to volunteer in terms of the environment, animal welfare, and more.

TTM+ 2019 ended with new connections and exciting opportunities for agents, buyers, and sellers. With emerging destinations to present to travelers, travel agents, especially, will be able “to show [tourists that] Thailand is not only Bangkok or Phuket,” as Tongrut said.