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TAT to promote street snacking

November 6, 2012

The Tourism Authority of Thailand says medical tourism, shopping and street snacking are three magnets that will draw more tourists to Thailand and help to generate higher tourism spending.

The government has set a lofty tourism revenue target of Bt2 trillion by the year 2015 and that has prompted the TAT to identify so-called segments that could lift revenue.

Last year according to the Department of Tourism, Thailand earned f Bt1.26 trillion (Bt776,217 million from international tourism and Bt 483,224 million from domestic tourism) in tourism revenue.

TAT’s tourism products and business deputy governor, Vilaiwan Twichasi said the three segments have already been included in TAT’s tourism products promotional plan for next year.

Ms Vilaiwan said medical tourism enjoys a strong growth rate expanding from 500,000 people in 2009 to 1.4 million people in 2010. Spending per head is also as high at Bt130,000/ trip with an average stay of one week.

Most of the spending goes on medical treatments probably leaving around 30% for hotel and food expenses. The spending average does not include airline tickets.

“This segment will play an important role to drive tourism revenue to Bt2 trillion by 2015,” said Ms Vilaiwan.

On the medical tourism front, TAT views Russia, China and the Middle East as the main source markets. Russian visitors are interested in traditional Thai medicine, while plastic surgery is the top treatment for Chinese visitors. The Middle East market, the first and foremost source of medical tourism,  is mainly concentrated on hospitals in the Ploenchit-Sukumvit road area.

Shopping has always been a top draw card since the early days of tourism, but Chinese and Indian visitors have taken it to a much higher level buying far more than just traditional handicrafts.

TAT plans to invite China UnionPay a credit card in China to partake in its annual Amazing Thailand Grand Sale, which is usually held during the  low-season of each year and has in the past been sponsored by Visa and MasterCard.

China UnionPay has around 3 billion domestic cardholders in China and has around 50,000 shops in Thailand that accept the card.

“We want to attract Chinese shoppers who are going to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore,” said Ms Vilaiwan. “This means we need to plan promotions that fit the Chinese people as they usually travel during major holidays such as Chinese New Year,” she added.

The CLMV market (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) is also identified as target market.

Street snacking has been around forever and is probably the one activity that tourists can share with Thais that is truly authentic. In the past, TAT promotions focused on elaborate dining experiences offered by hotels or expensive Thai dinner and dance shows. But there has been a gradual shift that now  recognises the importance of street food as a major tourist draw.

Street food scored a high ranking in the TAT’s Thailand Destination Image survey that interviewed 3,640 people from 14 countries. In response the TAT will organise a food festival in April next year. It will be based on famous food shops selling their dishes in a hawker style setting.

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