Eye on Asia – Is Thailand too reliant on mass tourism?

Eye on Asia – Is Thailand too reliant on mass tourism?

Thailand needs to move beyond its ‘Amazing’ brand, embrace quality tourism and build mega-attractions, according to David Keen, CEO of Bangkok-based brand strategy and communications agency, Keen. While statistics show that Thailand’s international arrivals recorded annual growth of 7.5 percent between 2005 and 2010, Keen said that the statistics are ‘misleading’. “Look closer and you’ll discover that long-haul, long stay, higher spending visitors are being replaced by shorter stay mid-market visitors who spend less per capita per visit,” he said. “A new and unsustainable trend has emerged. The country has to run faster to stay still. Because more tourists stay shorter and spend less, Thailand needs to maintain double-digit growth in arrivals just to match the preceding year’s tourism earnings.” Keen added that increased hotel beds and aircraft seats are creating a state of over-capacity in Thailand. “Empty hotel rooms and low load factors are causing price dumping and desperate short-term marketing pitches to mass market suppliers,” said Keen. “I am increasingly concerned. The over-supply of rooms and seats are among key factors pushing Thailand’s brand reputation into a downward spiral. Huge volume, cost-conscious tourists bring the country’s brand down, which in turn attracts lower yield tourists.” In February the Thai Hotel Association reported that 2,282 new hotel rooms would be added in Bangkok this year, but Keen argues that the Thailand needs fewer, more high-end and unique offerings to generate high-spend tourism. “If you’re going to build, stop building so many hotels and start building iconic mega projects,” he said, citing the examples of Singapore integrated resorts, and Hong Kong’s Disneyland and Ngong Ping 360 attractions. Thailand, Keen argued, has “very little new to offer except more amazing sales and discount prices”. “My hope is that Thailand will unite to build brand equity. We should move on from the worn out ‘Amazing Thailand’ mantra to a new era based on higher yield, higher value leisure and business visitors,” Keen concluded.

Mark Elliott
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Mark Elliott
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