5%, 2013 +51.2%, 2014 +45.0%).
We also learned that there is strong growth by Chinese tourists to all short-haul destinations which will reach 97.3 million by 2014 (+12.5%) and long-haul 9.90 million (+16.47%).
As part of the roadshow sales calls to agents, wholesalers and OTAs were organized, and the following day we participated in tabletop discussions which were organized at the Jin Jiang Tower hotel. There were presentations and lunch for approximately 100 Chinese outbound agents.
Commenting on the roadshow, Khun Chaiwat Charoensuk, Director/Chief Representative at the Tourism Authority of Thailand's Shanghai office, when I asked if he was pleased with the event, said: "We are very grateful for the private sector support of this very well-organized roadshow and the way it has been arranged. The presentations and tabletop discussions with agents [are] very professional and informative so TAT invited agents from Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Nanjing to attend today. Sellers from Thailand had an opportunity to meet buyers from China; it is really great.â
Commenting on the tremendous growth of Chinese visitors to Thailand he said, "We have three offices in China, and we all work together to market Thailand effectively, and it is now easier to attract more visitors, and all three offices in China work hard to promote Thailand, and we were very successful last year."
In discussing the challenges for the Chinese market, Khun Chaiwat said: "We cannot solve Thailand's image which is seen as a cheap destination as the Chinese agents are reluctant to sell hotels higher than RMB 4,000 (approx THB 850 or US$28). We try to explain that if they pay higher rates they get better quality, value, and better service, but this will take time, because China has [a] 1.4 billion population and only a small percentage are traveling to Thailand.
"More people are booking through OTAs and are looking at other people's recommendations online. The trend luckily is moving more towards luxury, and thank you to the private sector again to identify the good quality products such as five- and six-star properties and help educate the agents. The problem, however, is that the majority of Chinese agents only sell three- and four-star hotels.â
The Shanghai roadshow was organized by Malaysian agent See Toh Holidays in conjunction with TAT and a VIP group of hotel owners from Phuket, Krabi, and Samui. I asked MD Mr. See Toh how he felt the first roadshow to Shanghai had performed. "Actually we have had many roadshows in different countries, but in China this is our first, and we chose Shanghai because it is quite civilized with good spending due to high disposable incomes. With regard to the results for today, it is very good, and the attendance is quite satisfactory.
"The feedback on the way we are asking questions is all very positive and constructive; I think the potential is very big. Actually we recently handled a FAM trip to Thailand from Beijing and Shanghai prior to the roadshow, and the feedback was shopping is not so important, however, because China is a very busy place with very little space. We found that room to relax-space, is what is important to the Chinese market. They are focused about the living standard and lifestyle, and they like quiet and comfortable, because in Shanghai now it is too crowded. Frankly I was surprised that they are not like normal Asians - they don't just like shopping but are very interested in the type of hotel with space with a high quality of service.â
We found that OTA business in China is very sophisticated. Companies like Ctrip, who are involved in many segments of the tourism market, whose headquarters are based in Shanghai, employ 4,000 people in just one center and generate 2,000,000 room nights each month, and this is growing.
Commenting on this growth Helen Li, Senior Procurement Manager for Ctrip based in Shanghai, had the following to say: "Ctrip it is now the biggest outbound travel agent in China. Our company has been operating only for 12 years but now employs 15,000 staff. We are finding more people are making their travel arrangements via smartphones, and we have a number of apps to help us with this business. We send over 10,000 people per month to Thailand. In these last two years, our Thailand business has increased a lot, not just hotel bookings but also leisure tours. We have over 100 groups a month going to Thailand and Thailand is our number one best-selling destination," she said.
Commenting about the number of airline seats available on flights from China to Thailand, Helen Li had this to say, "Capacity is a little problem, but now Thai Airways [is] planning to increase flights daily to different destinations, not only to Bangkok but also to Phuket and Krabi, and also now we have charter flights to Chiang Mai, so I definitely think this will attract more Chinese to travel to Thailand."