Authorities believe that the current Covid-19 outbreak will urge every country reset its own tourism strategy, while the annual largest tourism event – ITB Germany 2020 was canceled with short prior notice.
February 26 – March 4, 2020 – Tourism Key Persons in Phuket had organized road show event ‘Endless Discovery Roadshow to the Belgium-Netherlands 2020’, aiming to introduce Phuket as a new tourism destination for Europeans in Brussels and Antwerp – Belgium, also in Amsterdam – Netherlands.
At the event, the team which was led by Phuket Governor, comprised of members of Phuket Provincial Administrative Organization (PPAO), Phuket Tourism Association (PTA), Thailand Tourism Authority (TAT) – Paris Office, and Phuket tourism operators had met with the tourism operators of both countries, focusing on promoting tourism to learn about local lifestyle and create new experiences, while the annual ITB Berlin event announced the sudden cancellation after taking place over 50years due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Phuket Governor – Mr. Phakaphong Tavipatana, mentioned that despite the cancellation ofITB, the world’s largest tourism fair in Berlin on 28th February, just a few days before scheduled, PTA had already organized a roadshow in both Belgium and the Netherlands, and it is gratifying that the representatives of various agencies are overwhelmingly interested which he expects more reservations will be seen during the coming tourist season, while Phuket province has given confidence in the situation of Covid-19 to ensure that it can be 100% handled.
Mr. Phakaphong also said that, there have been many fakes news on the online media which caused a lot of damage to Phuket and the country, therefore he would like to ask for cooperation from everyone to reconsider before spreading news, and people should only share the news from the government’s media channels to avoid the Computer Act’s issue.
Mr. Sakchai Chaowai, PPAO Council Vice President said that, PPAO’s primary goal of promoting tourism is including both beautiful sandy beaches and the famous Phuket’s traditions such as the Vegetarian Festival, the memorial ceremony of the 2 heroines – Thao Thep Krasattri – Thao Sri Sunthorn, the Loy Kratong Festival, Phuket’s Halal Food Festivals etc. which are held every year. PPAO has allocated the budgets for these events to stimulate tourism which regarded as stimulating the economy as well, which helps local people gain more income to be able to look after their families, which also means better quality of life. Mr. Sakchai also added that, PPAO welcomes any ideas from other agencies who want to do activities to promote tourism, which PPAO has the budget to provide if that project has been approved by the PPAO Council.
Mr. Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, PTA President, said the reason for this road show is to stimulate the tourism market by emphasizing the Phuket tourism’s image and negotiating business with the target group and the reason of choosing to do the marketing in these 2 countries because they are the important countries for European economy either the capital Brussels, and the north city of Belgium like Antwerp.
Mr. Bhummikitti added that, PTA has 3 main issues to clarify to the market; first is to update Phuket’s infrastructure situation such as public utility, smart bus, smart wifi, including the tourism policy especially to ensure tourists how will we process to build confidence in the Covid-19 situation for tourists coming to Phuket.
The second issue is to update tourism products, such as shopping sources and new tourist attractions that tourists can access now, and the third issue is to bring both side business operators to meet and negotiating about the business. Mr. Bhummikitti said that this event has stimulated more interest of tourists from these two countries as they like to visit Phuket during the entering of low season, which will help balancing Phuket’s tourism market better through the year.
Mr. Bhummikitti has mentioned about the situation of Covid-19 that, it has now become the world’s issue, not only for any single country. Tourists all over the world have delayed their trips. This outbreak has now been more challenging and it’s hard to predict as the situation keeps changing all the time.
“I would like to pass my message to the government to be more active as this crisis requires a lot of intelligence and unity. However, PTA is not only mainly promoting tourism but careless about the safety of Phuket people. We still attach in importance of safety manner to make sure Phuket more secure.”
As for the question of “What if Phuket does not run a tourism business anymore?, Mr. Bhummikitti said this question is very interesting since we have never put Phuket to be anything other than a tourism city, and if there is no tourists, then what city Phuket will be?
“It must be the mission of both central government and private sector to help each other, that is, if the word tourism is missing, we still don’t know how to continue. However, if you look at the crisis in Covid-19, I think there is still an opportunity to sit and discuss that if we are not running tourism, then what will Phuket do?”
Miss Worapa Angkhasirisap, TAT Director, Paris Office who supervises Thailand’s tourism in France, the Netherlands and Belgium, said the strength of PTA and the Phuket entrepreneurs will help stimulate both the Belgian and Dutch markets. It should also help restore the image and stimulate Thailand ‘s offering in this market well even if affected by the Covid-19 virus which no different from many other countries, she would like everyone to have strong encouragement and take good care of personal health to be able to confront every work in the next step.
“When the situation improves, TAT is ready to help restoring the market and keep updating with the events that competing countries will do. Our interesting target groups apart from family groups will be Honeymooners and the groups that are interested in health care tourism, as well as individual tourists who design their own trips. However, we still require travel agencies in booking or helping to manage certain trips like helping tourists who are interested in the lifestyle and culture. Our main competitor would be the United States, but their selling point for tourism is quite different from Thailand. In Asia, we consider Japan, Indonesia and Vietnam as potential competitors, but from the current virus situation, it’s likely that everyone will face the same problem and have to start again.”
Ms. Naphitra Chirayus, Director of The Merlin Phuket Hotels & Resorts, said about this road show that, this is considered a good opportunity for the resort because this market still has many growth opportunities. It’s also the chance to create brand awareness because some of tourist groups do not know much about Phuket therefore it would be a new destination for them and also a good opportunity for Phuket as well.
“The main selling point of our resort is ‘Beach Destination’, as we have our own accessible beach and swimming pools. Tourists can swim in the pool or go to the beach with high privacy, not as crowded as other spots in Patong. We are also located within walking distance to other attractions therefore I think we should be able to draw attention from this group of customers,” Ms. Naphitra added.