Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thailand's Travel Tidbits


Travel industry to maintain growth

KARNJANA KARNJANATAWE

In 2008 the global tourism industry is expected to maintain the five percent growth it posted last year while service quality, environmental concern and social responsibility will become key factors for travellers in choosing their destinations, says a study by the international tourism consulting group IPK.

Asia will lead in terms of both inbound and outbound travel, and according to the study, travel patterns may change. For example, the US market will favour Asia at the expense of Europe, while the increase in oil prices that led to rise in fuel surcharges have had "almost no impact" on travel demand because travel has become an integral part of people's lives and it is not likely to be sacrificed for whatever reason, the study noted.

The other reason is that the cost of travel continues to decline in real terms. Asia will become the new leader of travel and tourism, outperforming all other regions of the world. This is clearly seen by the massive number of aircraft on order by airlines in the region, and by non-Asian airlines planning to expand capacity into Asia. The growth in Asia this year will also be stimulated by the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.

All age groups are increasingly looking to travel to provide an enriching experience, whether this involves activities, adventure or more community based educational experiences. Stronger focus on hospitality, authenticity and tradition are all considered important, as well as there is an increasing demand for uniqueness, individuality and sustainability.

"Quality is now the buzzword," said Rolf Freitag, president and founder of IPK International. "It is rapidly replacing the 'cheap is chic' slogan," he said.

Internet is another important factor that can give travellers greater control of their travel decisions because they increasingly turn to individual web sites to research their travel options, monitoring consumer views rather than having to rely on suppliers and the travel traders. This has increased individual travel, both among young people and the growing numbers of seniors who have more time on their hands.

In addition to the issue of climate change and other related issues such as social responsibility are starting to influence travellers' choice of holidays and destinations.

Some aspects of maintaining the local environment and being "socially conscious" are increasingly attractive to travellers - particularly those associated with local culture and communities.

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Mekong tourism

Tourism ministers from countries that make up the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) agreed at a meeting held recently in Bangkok to launch the so-called "Visit Mekong Year 2010" campaign to promote tourism.

According to Mekong Tourism Office (MTO), the idea was presented by Peter Semone, its senior advisor. The year-long campaign aims to increase awareness about tourism products available to international travellers in the sub-region that includes Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, and Yunnan and Guangxi provinces of China.

"There will be activities in each country and their private sectors will be fully involved. Our aim is to establish the Mekong sub-region as a recognised destination brand," Semone noted.

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Maps that matter

ESRI (Thailand), a one-stop GIS service provider, has published a map detailing travel routes and destinations in Thailand accompanied by short descriptions and related views.

Called Highway Map, it is an updated version of the previous issue and has new maps of places such as Pai, Mae Sot and Pak Chong. It has information on an additional 1,000 new locations complete with GPS coordinates and phone index that make it easy to read. The book costs 345 baht.

Meanwhile, Sarakadi Press has published Map of 76 Provinces: Travel Throughout Thailand. The map expands on the previous issue, but what is more interesting is that both the versions complement each other. On the facing page of each map is information about places of interest, where to eat or buy souvenirs. It's priced 350 baht. Both maps come only in Thai language.

If you have comments or news to share, email to karnjanak@bangkokpost.co.th.

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