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Bloggers to the rescue of Thailand?

June 5, 2014

The Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit was busy with participants to the Digital Innovation Asia latest workshop with some 60 to 70 participants present to listen to advices from professionals about bloggers but also from bloggers themselves. An almost normal atmosphere, contradicting mostly the news which continue to display Thailand as a Kingdom under Military rule. This is of course true but the country remains peaceful while life is increasingly turning normal again.

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But the spreading news of the coup had harsh consequences for the tourism industry. A total of 62 countries have issued travel advisories against potential travel to Thailand, reminded in the opening session Mario Hardy, PATA COO. “This is not much the advisory itself than its practical consequences on potential travellers. For example, many tourists and MICE groups cancel their trip as they are not covered by insurances due to travel advisories. “We know that it will have an impact. We forecast earlier this year that total tourist arrivals in 2014 could decline by 5% with ongoing political violence and instability. But following latest data release that we received on booking, we now see tourist arrivals by 11%”, added Mario Hardy.

A pessimism that the Tourism Authority of Thailand does not necessarily share. By experience, Thailand bounce back is always rapid and if the situation continues to be normal, the last quarter –traditionally considered as Thailand peak season- is likely to show strong growth and compensate for the rest of the year…. “We are confident as we see some positive moves already. We now forecast a slight decline of total arrivals of 1% compared to 2013”, explained Thapanee Kiatphaibool, TAT Director of Marketing Information Technology Group.

It will then all be around the proper way to communicate to bring back confidence. “Most of the favourable speechs in TV interviews done by specialists of Thailand are immediately annihilated by the same TVs projecting in the background pictures of military in the streets of Bangkok. It then reminds that Thailand is under military rule”, analysed Olivier Dombey, Digital Innovation Asia COO.

What could be then the strategy to balance the flux of negative images? One of the first measures taken by TAT is to launch a selfie contest showing any activity in Thailand. “My Thailand 2014 is only the first step. We are working also for a campaign with google Thailand as well as Thai Airways to tell the world that Thailand is safe and ready to welcome travellers”, added Thapanee Kiatphaibool. Will selfies be sufficient to counteract the flow of bad news over the Kingdom? Nothing is certain…

More communication tools will certainly be necessary such as videos for example. “We are also looking at showing videos of daily life in Thailand. This is an area where we could further work out strategies. Especially as the military government assured us that we are free to post whatever we think is necessary to bring back tourists”, says the TAT director.

Of course, bloggers are another way to lure back key audiences. “Bloggers have an image of integrity, passion. They are not restricted like journalists by constraints generated by the article’s format, the article thematic or advertising considerations”, underscored Jens Thraenhart, Founder of Digital Innovation Asia.

A panel of bloggers invited to speak highlighted the advantage of communicating through blog- creators. “Bloggers generally offer a highly personalized advice. The blogger is very similar to a friend giving his best tips or advising what to do on the move”, said Australian blogger Michael Turtle, formerly a journalist. “Blogs are also targeting a niche audience which might be for travel companies the right group to communicate with”, added Andy Higgs, a British blogger living in Norway, a specialist of affordable luxury travel products.

“A lot of bloggers today are also appealing to a local audience, a normal move as they are best to understand the interest of their own countrymen”, explained Anton Diaz, owner of the most popular travel blog in the Philippines.

Finally, what Thailand tourism companies and authorities should learn is how to communicate properly, efficiently and show more reactivity. But this is another forum to debate about…

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