Thai Tourism Enters Era of Niche Markets

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The tourism industry is now entering the era of niche-markets. But what kind of niche markets? The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Marketing Plan for 2014 clearly shows the directions ahead. Here is an exclusive Lookeast compilation of some emerging niche-markets from key countries.

Japan
In Japan, a new generation of travel agents is emerging as the market recovers from years of consecutive downturn between 2006 to 2011. In 2012, they restarted selling other destinations such as Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Hua Hin but need more updates about the new developments in these places.

Other target markets are the: 1) silver market, the increasing number of retirees over 65, with a population of 28.74 million; 2) the female market aged 20-40, with a population of 23.782 million, who enjoy shopping and find Thailand good value for money and a large segment which enjoys going for the luxury products; 3) the family market, with a population of 11.10 million households, also in search of good value for money; and 4) Wedding & Honeymoons, aimed at an estimated 706,000 couples who get married every year.

China
Because of economic progress, political change and globalization, the self-confidence of Chinese consumers is growing. This leads to an emerging desire for individualization which can be satisfied by shopping and travel, among other things. Chinese tourist groups will be seeking more individual freedom of choice in order to make their tour more special in comparison with others. The number of trips in small groups or individual trips (family, couples, and friends) is also projected to increase.

Many change are also taking place in Chinese travel consumer behavior, e.g.: 1) Online booking is new trend; 2) Direct booking thru website of airlines, hotels and tourism attractions; 3) Prefer go shopping by self instead of forced shopping by tour guide; 4) Tourist repeater prefers travel as FIT instead of group tour; 5) Prefer to stay in hotel/resort to enjoy facilities and relax instead of tight tour schedule; 6) More high-end consumers join hotel membership and stay in international chain hotels abroad; 7) High spending for local handicrafts instead of brand items; 8) Try to experience local culture and life instead of just taking pictures.

Korea
Due to ageing societies, the silver market is growing in numbers with the retirement of baby boomers. The affluent class of this generation tend to seek and travel relatively long period of stay. Thailand, specially Chiang Mai is seen as being a suitable destination for this group.

The silver-age population is estimated at 6.59 million people, or about 14.5 percent of total Korean population. In addition, business travelers are also set to grow as the economic links between Korea and Thailand expand.

South Africa
The more sophisticated and discerning South African understands value and is willing to pay more. At the moment, this potentially covers predominantly the white English and Afrikaans market, as well as Indian travellers.

In addition, there is one rapidly emerging market, the so-called “Black Diamond” market. These visitors are those who have benefitted from the Black Economic Empowerment, a programme launched by the SA government to rectify the inequalities of apartheid and raise the economic status of previously disadvantaged South African groups. This has succeeded for many black South Africans. Their interest in travel on the rise, with a strong focus on shopping and culture.

Iran
Yes, even Iranians come to Thailand in small but significant numbers which were growing strongly but have been affected by the U.S. economic sanctions. For the first time during past few years, some Iranian travel agents have participated in the TAT fam trips and started promoting eco- and adventure-travel packages to their clients. A number of Iranian diving schools have started to send their trainees to Phuket for their certificates and final training. Jewellery exhibitions in Thailand are also attracting Iranian businessmen.
Brazil
A total of 30,387 Brazilians came to Thailand in 2012, up 23.73% over 2011. It’s a very long-haul market but now growing steadily thanks to one-stop connections via Dubai, Doha, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and some of the major European hubs.

Brazilians traveling these long distances certainly have the means to travel and are either business people or those with a higher disposable income. Potential products for those these travelers go beyond the well-visited Phuket, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. Brazilian consumers are said to be television-addicted and highly influenced by TV programs, especially cooking shows.

France
In France and other European countries, the target markets are the high-spenders, females, honeymoons and weddings, and families. In recent years, the TAT has sponsored beauty pageants and worked with celebrity stars to make their movies and TV series in Thailand.

The French film, Largo Winch II, was shot in Thailand, with many backdrops of scenic views and luxury hotels. Luc Besson, a well-known French and Hollywood film director and producer, used Thailand to shoot his film “Dans la Lumiere (In The Light)” starring Michelle Yeoh.

All this leads to considerable exposure both directly to the consumer as well as within the media industry by word-of-mouth marketing.

Australia
Promoting “Culinary Experiences” is the way to go. Farmers’ Markets and travel food shows have taken off in Australia and some chefs have become full-fledged celebrities. There is an opportunity to develop “food and travel” experiences including product that includes visiting farms and meeting the farmers, visiting local food markets to learn about ingredients and then putting into practice with cooking schools to dining at local street markets.

Another target is the Australian Health and Wellness sector. Australia’s aging population is set to grow from 1.4m to 2.4m in 2030. Medical tourism is viewed as a “healing” treatment and will continue to grow strongly. Health and wellness, which is seen as “prevention” treatment, will also see strong growth as seniors look for healthier ways to live longer and maintain their health.

USA
Thailand is already perceived as probably the gay-friendliest destination in Southeast Asia. The total size of this market in the U.S. is between 15 and 16 million. This represents approximately between 5-6 percent of the total U.S. population. The LGBT community has been an avid supporter of Thailand. Moreover, the private sector in Thailand has embraced our outreach to this market and has given their fullest support thus far.

According to research cited in the TAT marketing reports, the LGBT spend on travel in the U.S. alone amounts to $78 billion, up 7% despite an economic slowdown; 79% have a college education; and 84% are heavy internet users. They are also known to prefer luxury travel as well as countries with “progressive policies toward LGBT people.”

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