Global tourism is trending towards reliance on tailor-made experiential products to capture rapid changes in traveller behaviour amid digital transformation.
Tailor-made experiential and sustainable tourism are growing trends. Pattarapong Chatpattarasill
Experts say it’s vital for operators and tourism-related agencies to adjust and embrace new challenges if they hope to survive in the competitive and lucrative business.
Regardless of political instability and slow economic growth worldwide, the global tourism sector remains strong in light of digital advances.
Aaron Shang, marketing director of China Adventure Tours, said the inbound tourism trend in China is quite different from the patterns seen in the past decade. More than 70% of independent tourists enjoy travelling in big Chinese cities, as technology makes travelling more inclusive of people from all walks of life.
There is strong demand for tailor-made tour packages for experiential vacations such as hiking, trekking, mountain climbing and horseback riding, he said, and tour operators should provide such packages to individuals and small groups of tourists.
In today’s world, operators can’t just follow the traditional methods of the tourism business.
“Developing websites and partnering with leading online tourism platforms are the keys to connecting with customers,” Mr Shang said.
Tour operators aren’t too worried about global tensions or the trade war, he said, but they are concerned about how to come up with ideas and new marketing in dealing with tourism business amid rapid global change.
“The case of giant operators like Thomas Cook is a lesson for operators to adapt to digitalisation as fast as possible,” he said.
Xue Ling, director of the China National Tourist Office in London, said improvements in China’s standard of living have broadened opportunities for Chinese to travel more. Many of them start by visiting neighbouring countries in the region.
Thailand remains a popular destination for younger generations and honeymooners.
China is considered the world’s fastest-growing tourism market and will play a key role in the sector’s development. According to the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of global travellers will exceed 1.8 billion by 2030.
“No matter what happens, I am sure that most Chinese people will travel to see the world outside their hometown on an annual basis, especially young people who are eager to explore and prefer to travel as independent tourists,” Ms Xue said.
She said tour operators have to diversify tourism products and research into target groups to keep up with the trend of Chinese tourists, which will serve as the biggest source of outbound tourists for the next 10 years.
A welcome sign displayed at the entrance of the World Travel Market 2019 held earlier this month in London. Dusida Worrachaddejchai
In the first six months this year, international tourist arrivals grew by 4% compared with the same period in 2018, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer released in September.
Growth was led by the Middle East (+8%) and Asia-Pacific (+6%), followed by Europe (4%), Africa (+3%) and the Americas (+2%).
Destinations worldwide received 671 million international tourist arrivals between January and June 2019, almost 30 million more than in the same period of 2018.
Growth in arrivals is returning to previous trends and is in line with the UNWTO’s forecast of 3%-4% growth in international tourist arrivals for all of 2019.
Last year saw 1.4 billion tourists globally, up 6% year-on-year. Air passengers stood at 4.3 billion, up 6.1%, with an overall passenger load factor of 81.9%.
Napira Techacharn, managing director of Napira Travel Stylist, a travel agency that provides community-based and volunteer tourism in provincial areas, said quality tourists seem to choose travel with responsibility and meaningful local experiences. These types include a range of activities like home stays, cooking local cuisine and inspecting dams, rather than luxury.
“For the outlook in 2020, more tourists will be interested in experiential tourism at local communities over the popular tourist hotspots that they visited before,” Ms Napira said. “Tour operators have to think outside the box to create products that encourage visitors to participate with locals and get out of their comfort zone.”
Thai operators have learned that tourists, especially those from Europe, are conscious about the environmental impact caused by tourism and that growing awareness would support the growth of the eco-friendly tourism segment in Thailand.
Additionally, Thai travel operators have been encouraged to highlight sustainability and showcase the concept in overseas markets, firstly at the World Travel Market (WTM) 2019 in London earlier this month.
Led by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), 42 operators joined the event to exhibit Thai tourism products.
Srisuda Wanapinyosak, the TAT deputy governor for Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas, said the WTM is a meeting place for numerous buyers and sellers.
Attending international tourism roadshows not only helps generate ideas for new tourism products, but also enables operators to learn management techniques used in other countries, she said.
“For example, Maldives is considered a luxury destination, but they also use a low-price strategy to draw tourists,” Ms Srisuda said.
Operators should remember that tourism products differ for various types of tourists, especially repeat visitors who want to explore new places and try new things while travelling to Thailand, she said.
“We have to balance the demand to seek new segmentation and offer new products, be it for high season or low season, mass or niche tourism, and weekends or weekdays,” Ms Srisuda said.
Since the European market, one of the most important, is experiencing an economic slowdown, it’s vital for the TAT to enact marketing campaigns, she said. The agency is joining forces with companies and partners like airlines to launch campaigns in order to maintain positive momentum from the European market.
A total of 42 Thai travel operators exhibited under the theme ‘Amazing Thailand’. Dusida Worrachaddejchai
Ms Srisuda said the TAT will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year and focus on responsible tourism to ensure that trips to Thailand will minimise negative social, economic and environmental impacts.
Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor for marketing communications at the TAT, said the agency has outlined a marketing direction for Europe under the 5 Go plan:
Go High to promote luxury products.
Go New for new markets in major cities in the British Isles outside of London, such as Cardiff, Sheffield, Leeds and Dublin.
Go Low Season with special campaigns such as Book Now, Travel Now for the British market to generate more demand during the off-peak (or “green”) season in Thailand.
Go Local to offer new authentic local experiences in emerging destinations such as Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai, Kalasin, Buri Ram, Phatthalung, Ranong and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Go Digital using different platforms and celebrity marketing to connect with tourists.
For destination management, the government is paying more attention to transport and infrastructure to simplify travel, Mr Tanes said.
Investment to connect skytrain and subway systems in Bangkok and surrounding suburbs will conclude some time by 2025, he said. Moreover, connectivity in Thailand is set to be enhanced further by air, land and sea.
The World Travel Market 2019 brought together 5,000 exhibitors from destinations worldwide. Dusida Worrachaddejchai