Representatives of hotels, resorts and tour operators promote Thailand at the event. PICTURE: Shaji
By Joey Aguilar/Staff Reporter
Thailand is wooing travellers from Qatar and other parts of the Gulf with tourist attractions beyond Bangkok.
During a roadshow held at Oryx Rotana yesterday, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) director Chalermsak Suranat told reporters that they saw a huge potential in the Qatari and Kuwaiti markets. Last year, Thailand recorded a rise of 36% and 15%, respectively, in the number of visitors from the two Arab countries.
Suranat said the significant increase can be partially attributed to medical tourism, for which the country has been popular, adding that there were 37,718 visitors from Qatar and 69,223 from Kuwait in 2012. According to him, the other major reasons behind Thailand’s popularity were value for money, uniqueness of the country’s tourist attractions and high-quality hospitality.
The official noted that GCC was an important market for Thailand as the number of visitors from this region had steadily improved.
In addition to food, wellness and medical tourism, Thailand is also being promoted as a top wedding and golf destination as part of its strategy to look for a niche market. “In the south, the beaches provide a romantic option - Phuket in particular. Besides, the golf courses cater to a large number of Arabs, particularly Qataris,” said Suranat, adding that Thailand now has at least 200 golf courses where tournaments are organised regularly.
The country is also focusing on “Green Activity”, which allows tourists to visit local communities to experience nature and Thai traditions. It also includes bird-watching, eco-friendly diving, bicycling tours, visit to herb gardens and waterfalls and relaxing with Thai massage. At least 13 of the 54 species of hornbills can be found in Thailand.
Suranat said many tourists want to visit green destinations nowadays, which offer eco-friendly accommodation and a tryst with nature.
The officials also said they aimed to use the roadshow to promote new Thai destinations in the two Arab countries by focusing on family-oriented attractions, value for money and medical/wellness tourism. “It also aims to create more business opportunities and wider networks in the region, involving Thai travel businesses and partners around the Middle East,” he added.
Thai Ambassador to Qatar Panyarak Poolthup stressed that Thailand had several tourist destinations and attractions, including beaches, mountains, trekking in the forest, historical structures, cultural villages and year-round festivities.
“They (tourism officials) would like the Qatari people to know that Thailand has tourist destinations other than the usual favourites like Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai,” he asserted.
Some of these “other” attractions, which include places such as Hua Hin, Krabi, Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya and Pattaya (eastern hub), are also known for medical tourism. Besides, Thai cooking is also being promoted among potential tourists.
From Bangkok, it takes only about an hour and 10 minutes by plane to reach these destinations. From Doha, it takes an average of seven hours to reach Thailand.
The ambassador announced that they would hold another event, “Amazing Thailand - Enchanted Cultural Show”, at Katara on May 29. “We will bring a big cultural troupe from the Ministry of Culture in Thailand,” he said. The event will be free to the public.
Asked about “Amazing Thailand” being used as the country’s tourism slogan, Poolthup said it could be attributed to the uniqueness of Thailand in terms of its food, culture and “everything that seems amazing to visitors”.
The slogan was conceptualised more than 10 years ago. “A lot of people keep saying ‘amazing, amazing’. The word was picked up for the slogan as it was easy to remember, catchy and described the country very well,” he said. The tagline “It Always Amazes You” was added later.
After the roadshow, a raffle draw was held and some of the attendees won free plane tickets and a two-night stay at different destinations in Thailand. Thai tourism officials and representatives from select hotels, resorts, tour operators and the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau were also present at the event.