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Travel’s dynamic changes – A personal perspective

The Thaiger

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Travel’s dynamic changes – A personal perspective | The Thaiger

by Andrew J Wood – President SKÅL International Bangkok

With the dramatic announcement of the sale of retail travel giant Thomas Cook following the loss of £1.5 billion brings the blight of the travel agent community into the news once more. Last week Wall Street bank Citigroup advised investors to sell shares in the travel company.

Confidence that travel agents can survive in the age of DIY bookings online is paper thin.

The sheer convenience and ease of being able to book flights and holidays online, with loved ones participating in the process AND at a time and place convenient to yourself, is very attractive to most of us.

Gone are the days when you make a trip to the travel agent on the high street during office hours.

It was the only way to book a holiday in the bad old days. Booking travel online then was a complex, mystical and stressful experience with lots of jargon we didn’t understand. On top of that booking a flight was only possible on airline-backed computer systems using special codes and trained staff. Most of us didn’t know where to start.

Now it’s out with the laptop, sitting in bed in your pajamas at home, or on the settee with a cup of tea and it’s as easy as 1-2-3.

My family own a travel company. Business is nothing what it used to be. My friends work in DMCs – they certainly aren’t what they used to be.

Travel’s dynamic changes - A personal perspective | News by The Thaiger

A high-profile BBC journalist speaking at a travel industry event, recently warned the travel industry that large, well-established brands no longer have the trust they once enjoyed. That is certainly true.

“We are living through a crisis of trust,” the journalist warned.

Today instead of listening to ‘experts’ or ‘institutions’, we now now put more faith in the opinions of our colleagues, or friends on Facebook.

The BBC journalist also said, “We live in an age where feelings resonate more than facts. People now value empathy over expertise. We all need to work out what this means about how we should talk to customers.”

So it’s clear that selling travel has fundamentally changed, as was forecast more than 10 years ago. I fear during this time that this advice has largely been brushed under the carpet and as an industry, we have been largely unsuccessful in making these changes. The example of Thomas Cook demonstrates that even big travel hasn’t worked it out neither. We all need to talk to our customers in a way that appeals to them. There’s a danger for any industry that doesn’t adapt quickly enough to new audiences — remember Kodak?

Thomas Cook looks like the latest failure.

In the last 18 months there have been more retail failures than since the start of the century. Many brands have lost the art of communicating with the marketplace. They don’t know how to engage with customers.

My family are already talking about diversifying and moving into other areas of tourism and travel. I hope it’s not too late.

SOURCE: Travel Daily News – Asia Pacific

 

Andrew J Wood

English born Andrew J Wood, is a freelance travel writer and for most of his career a professional hotelier. Andrew has over 35 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a Skal member and a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is also a former member of the Executive Committe of Skal International (SI), National President SI THAILAND, Club President of SI BANGKOK and is currently SI Asia Area a.VP Southeast Asia (SEA), and Director of Public Relations Skal International BANGKOK. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

Travel’s dynamic changes - A personal perspective | News by The Thaiger

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Economy

Asia leads the world in medical tourism

Greeley Pulitzer

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Asia leads the world in medical tourism | The Thaiger

Over the past ten years, Asia has become a favourite destination for medical tourism for people from around the world. Besides the white sand beaches, historic monuments and rich cultural legacy, healthcare in Asia is now a major attraction. From transplants and surgeries to dental procedures and botox, people are turning to Asia.

But what makes Asia the most popular destination? Some say lack of specialised treatments in their home countries or the affordable cost of treatment in Asia: these combined with ease of travel and lax visa rules for medical treatment have opened vast avenues for the region.

In 2017, some one million medical tourists visited Malaysia and 3.3 million visited Thailand. India too saw a surge from 4,27,014 medical tourists in 2016 to 4,95,056 in 2017.

Here’s a look at the top Asian countries for various medical treatments:

Thailand is popular for breast implants and gender reassignment surgeries. Since 2003, the Thai Government has taken steps to make Thailand a global centre for medical tourism through its Centre of Excellent Health Care of Asia initiative, and now has 37 Joint Commission International (JCI) accredited hospitals.

A 2016 WHO study revealed that medical tourists visiting Thailand were more likely to be residents of the eastern Mediterranean or south-east or south Asia. However, what makes the country a preferred destination is its world-class hospitality, highly specialised care and tailored care packages.

India is a favoured destination due to its its advanced technology, world-class surgeons and cost-effective treatments. Patients visit India not just for specialised treatment and surgeries but for routine check-ups as well.

India amended e-visa rules for 150 countries in 2016, making visa procurement easy for foreigners. India’s National Health Policy specifies that the government supports medical tourism and issues visas patients’ accompanying spouses.

Singapore is a choice for patients seeking state-of-the-art facilities, well trained doctors and quality care. Although it is one of the most expensive cities in the world, the city-state has more than 15 hospitals catering to medical tourists. Singapore was ranked the most attractive among seven Asian countries in terms of “patient experience”, but was also one of the least attractive in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Malaysia is picking up the pace and is a preferred destination for people from other Asian countries, especially Indonesia. Of one million medical tourists who visited the country in 2017, 600,000 were from Indonesia.

According to the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, Malaysia has set a target of at least one million medical tourists from Indonesia by 2020. Since the health ministry regulates the prices that private hospitals charge in Malaysia, quality care at affordable prices lures patients from across Asia and the world.

World-famous for its beauty clinics, South Korea’s ambitions go beyond cosmetic surgery. According to the South Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, about 3,64,000 foreign medical tourists visited the country in 2016, including patients from Canada, the USA, UAE, China and Japan.

South Korea’s healthcare system is considered one of the best in Asia and has established a niche in the medical technology industry. To promote medical tourism, the government offers a special visa to medical tourists and insurance that covers both injury and death resulting from medical treatment or procedures.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Patong

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms

The Thaiger

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Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | The Thaiger

by Sophie Deviller

Hotels on Thailand’s most popular holiday island are being forced to slash prices, with rooms left vacant and beaches sparse as Thailand’s tourism chiefs struggle with a plunge in Chinese visitors caused by the US trade war and a stronger baht. Phuket was the most visited destination in the country last year, after Bangkok, and a good gauge of the state of its crucial travel industry.

Tourism accounts for 18% of Thailand’s gross domestic product and Chinese holidaymakers make up more than a quarter of total arrivals. But while 2.2 million people from the country visited in 2018, according to official figures, the numbers for January-September were down almost 20% year on year.

Claude de Crissey, the French Honorary Consul in Phuket and owner of about 40 rooms in the Patong Beach area, says Chinese tourists are usually present even during the current low season.

“That was not the case this year,” he said, adding he had to lower his prices by as much as 50%.

The problem is not only in Phuket, with hotels also struggling to fill rooms in the seaside resort of Pattaya on the mainland and on Koh Samui.

Trade tensions with the US have already made some Chinese reluctant to take holidays owing to uncertainty back home, while the Thai baht has risen about 10% against the yuan this year.

A boating disaster off Phuket’s coast that killed 47 Chinese holidaymakers in July 2018 also scared some off.

“We are worried,” said an industry insider, declining to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic in a country where tourism provides tens of thousands of jobs. Adding to the headache is the fact that more than 3,000 new hotel rooms are being constructed on the island, raising the question of who will fill them.

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

“In terms of business, it’s not good,” said Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, vice-president of the association of hotels in Thailand and director of Vijitt Resort.

“Because … we have more hotels, more rooms to sell, we have more restaurants, more coffee shops.”

Still, tourism authority chairman Yuthasak Supasorn said he remained “optimistic.”

“We should reach our goal of 39.8 million foreign visitors.”

However, that is only up from 38.2 million in 2018, much less than the jump seen from the previous year’s total of 35.6 million.

Counting on India

Now hoteliers and tour package operators are targeting visitors from elsewhere, particularly India, which experts see as a huge untapped market.

A rapid expansion of the middle class in India, increased direct flights and visa-free travel have prompted Thailand to revise forecasts upwards.

It now expects two million Indian tourists this year, after an increase of nearly 25% on-year in the first seven months. But for now, the lower arrivals is evident on the streets of Phuket.

“I’ve never seen anything as bad as what it is at the moment,” said Paul Scott from Australia, who said he has been coming to Thailand for 15 years.

He mainly blamed the stronger baht for the drop-off but also the fact that Thailand wasn’t the untouched vacation paradise it once was. “Now it’s not so new … and it’s not cheap,” he said.

SOURCE: AFP

Phuket hotels slashing the price of rooms | News by The Thaiger

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Coronation

Indian tourist numbers to Thailand steadily climbing

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Indian tourist numbers to Thailand steadily climbing | The Thaiger

The number of Indian tourists coming to Thailand has doubled over the past half a decade and continues to grow by an average of 15% each year. The figures are from a survey conducted by researchers Nutchanart Kuprasert and Jidapha Chuayphan on behalf of the Bank of Thailand.

Contributing factors include an overall increase in Indians travelling overseas as evidenced by 10 million new passports being issued annually. Thailand is a popular choice for first-time Indian tourists as distances are short and travel is easy thanks to some 3,000 direct flights now being offered by various carriers between both main and secondary destinations including to Phuket plus the introduction of free visa-on-arrival.

The study indicates that Indian tourist will keep catching up to the leading tourist demographic, the Chinese , but not surpass them any time soon. Projections for the next decade show that some 21 million Chinese tourists will visit Thailand compared to 14 million Indian nationals. But in terms of spending, Indian tourists are similar strong spenders, like the Chinese, and able to travel to Thailand all year round, even during the low season.

Popular destinations are listed as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin and Chiang Mai. In addition, information from tour operators in Thailand reveals that Indian tourists are not as sensitive as Chinese tourists to unexpected events. Generally speaking, if the trip has been planned in advance, they will not change plans or cancel travel.

Indian tourist numbers to Thailand steadily climbing | News by The Thaiger

The report divides Indian tourists who enter Thailand into 3 main groups…

• Tourism for vacation accounts for 85%. Most visitors are between the ages of 25 and 35, prefer to travel with friends or come here for a honeymoon because the cost is not high. They spend an average of 27,000 baht per person and favour the country as they can get a visa on arrival. Some groups use Thailand as a base for visiting other countries.

• Weddings account for 5% of visitors, mostly amongst the well-heeled. The data show that more than 300 Indian come to get married in Thailand every year often with wedding parties exceeding 200 guests. In India, luxury events such as weddings are a show of family status, and the budget ranges from 10 million to 120 million baht per event. Couples favour 15 well-known 5-star hotels and the average spending per person is 50,000 baht.

• MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) groups or group meetings account for 10%, with many large companies choosing Thailand as an incentive destination. These popularly travel in large groups of around 800 people and are likely to visit Thailand on multiple occasions. The average spent per person per time is 76,000 baht. Thai business tour operators indicate that some groups request specific travel programs in Pattaya, ask for entertainment venues and request hotels that allow outsiders to stay.

The study shows that seminar tourist groups and marriage groups spend the most and recommends that Thailand focuses on attracting these visitors while also paying attention to maintaining the millennial tourist base because India has a large young population. However, it also points to a need to modify Thailand’s image as a cheap place to stay and erase its reputation as a ‘sex’ destination.

SOURCE: The Nation

Indian tourist numbers to Thailand steadily climbing | News by The Thaiger

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