Thailand shifts away from mass tourism

David Archer

12 August 2016

Tourism in some parts of Thailand has reached critical mass. Later this year, some popular beaches are scheduled to close due to “overcrowding and environmental degradation” attributed to high visitation. How will the destination respond?

Given today’s challenges, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced their 2017 marketing plan, which emphasizes “value for experience” over “value for money.” The plan will highlight local experiences, cultural value and sustainability. To achieve this, TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told that keys to the plan’s success will include building “strength from the grassroots” to help improve the experience. At the same time, TAT has set targets to increase revenue in 2017 from both domestic and international visitors by 10%.

As a major global travel destination (32 million international arrivals are estimated for 2016), TAT’s move toward sustainability is significant. Frank Cuypers, Senior Strategic Consultant at Destination Think, explains why this change marks an important trend for the destination marketing industry.

“It’s a U-turn from a volume-driven approach (seeking many tourists) to a quality-driven approach (seeking the right tourists), says Cuypers. “That one of world’s most well-known mass tourism destinations is using the phrase ‘value-for-experience’ instead of ‘value-for-money’ for the first time is an important signal.”

What prompted the change? “The reason for this is not that someone saw a sign in heaven or got an epiphany, but the real motivation is that they were on a downhill path,” says Cuypers. “Destinations that continue to grow in volume will reach a point at which they risk destroying the experience.”

Ultimately, this move to sustainability can create a win-win situation as destinations seek to improve the quality of their product.

“Real marketing is about creating value for both your visitors and your residents,” says Cuypers. As more destinations realize this, marketers will work even harder to “improve the quality of place. A brand means nothing without a positive user experience (UX).”

Related reading: Why place branding needs to be built from the inside

Featured image credit: James Antrobus, Flickr


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