China is rolling out initiatives to encourage outbound tourism.
The ASEAN-China Centre (ACC) in Beijing has plans to launch a series of programmes in 2013 to increase tourism from China to other states. The initiative will especially focus on Southeast Asian regions where tourists from China have not been going in large numbers.
ACC secretary general, Ma Mingqiang, said, ‘Some 90 percent of Chinese travel to Europe, the US, Japan and South Korea, but only about 11 percent head to South-east Asia. There is obviously still a lot of growth potential for this region. Chinese tourists spent USD7.2bn in Europe during the last Lunar New Year holidays. Why should Chinese tourists go all the way to Europe when the same luxury products they desire can be found in Singapore and Malaysia too?’
The focus of the initiative is on developing local markets and also markets in nearby nations, which will generate returns for China in the long run. The centre said that it would employ a number of means, the most important being awareness through the media.
There is a general belief that the Chinese know little about the 10 ASEAN countries, and there are plans to promote documentaries via China’s TV channels and hold a tourism exhibition at the Wangfujing building in Beijing during the Labour Day holiday, which sees 310,000 visitors daily. A travel guidebook for Chinese travellers will also be produced
Welcoming ACC’s initiatives, Saly Phimphinith, director general for tourism marketing department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism in Laos, said, ‘I hope (ACC’s efforts) will drive the middle- and high-end segments to Laos, as Chinese tourists to Laos are generally lower-spending compared to Europeans.’
Five years ago, Thailand’s lucrative tourism industry looked untouchable. But due to the country’s ongoing political struggle and a series of global health scares, the once unshakable Thai economy appears to be stuck in a permanent rut. Internally, the economy is an image of health, but a sunken tourism sector and limited demand for long-haul flights may continue to keep travellers away.
Thailand has historically been one of Asia’s tourism capitals, drawing in millions of visitors every year and enjoying an industry that brings in almost seven percent of domestic revenue. However, a series of political movements have left the nation’s previously spotless international record slightly compromised. Travel industry experts have pointed to June’s protests as cause for the decline.
June marked the height of the country’s political worries, when thousands of protesters descended on the country’s capital, forcing major hotels to close and heightening international travel warnings related to the country. Experts have estimated that the protests may have cost Thailand’s lucrative travel industry up to one-hundred million dollars, pointing to low demand and decreased spending.
With the city’s Intercontinental Hotel and Metropolitan Hotel at the centre of the controversy, it’s certainly a number that checks out. Occupancy rates remain low at Bangkok’s largest hotels, while travel to other areas of the country is beginning to slowly trickle in following the protests. Tourism industry operators expect visitors to increase throughout the country’s Christmas travel season.
In the meantime, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has announced a sixty-day Smile @ Siam plan, designed to reintroduce the country to international travellers. Known internationally as the ‘Land of Smiles’, the plan is one of several nationwide moves aimed at improving Thailand international reputation. With hundreds-of-thousands of jobs in the tourism sector, we’re hoping it’s a success.