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Asian source markets keep tour agents afloat
Thailand’s travel companies are on target to have closed the year 2017 with a respectable 6% to 7% increase in clients. In its latest assessment posted before the New Year, the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) noted member companies handled 5,495,806 clients at Bangkok’s two gateway airports from Jan 1 to Dec 10, 2017. The number represents an improvement of 6.81% and almost guaranteed that ATTA members would close the year on this positive note. For the period Dec 1-10, association member companies handled 164,925 clients, an increase of 57.25% over the same period last year. It was not good news for all members, however, but only for those who handle travel itineraries generated by a booming China outbound travel market. In December alone, Chinese tourists handled by ATTA agents were on target to increase by 113% year-on-year. Based on the performance throughout the whole of 2017, China represented a 59.45% market share, leaving tour companies that specialise in North American and European markets having to get by with marginal growth rates, or even declines. It is not that there are fewer Europeans visiting Thailand, but the hard truth for travel agents is that many of them, mostly budget travellers, are booking their Thailand holidays direct. Tour companies handling Western tourists will argue that their clients spend more in Thailand, but they also have massive overheads to run offices across Thailand and the Mekong region countries. In addition, consumers in Europe, particularly the UK, are tightening their belts and have less discretionary cash to spend. Of the top five supply markets for ATTA member companies from Jan 1 to Dec 10, China topped the list with 3,267,035 clients, representing an increase of 4.15%. Vietnam followed in second place with 273,745 clients, up 25.66%. Korea was third with 264,391 clients, up 57.44%, India fourth with 233,677 clients, up 24.01% and Japan fifth with 158,062 clients, up 10.38%. ATTA identifies 15 top nationalities that use the services of its member travel companies. The highest-placed European outbound market on the list was Russia (6th) with 158,082 visitors using travel company services, but down a hefty 27.5% when compared with 2016. The UK, once considered the jewel in any travel firm’s crown, is struggling in eighth place with 81,904 clients, down 12.7%. Always considered a priority market for Thailand’s travel companies, Germany is in 11th place with 50,578 clients, but the market did improve by 10.3%. France in 12th place also improved by 19.4% delivering 44,102 clients for Thailand’s travel firms. Spain in 15th place supplied 29,888 clients, up a respectable 30.9%. Just one other Western market, the US, appeared in the top 15 markets, with 30,377 clients and a marginal improvement of 0.85%. Out of 15 top supply markets only six were outside of Asia, a telling indicator that suggests travel firms that are still majoring on Western markets will see business contract and in the long-term they could face a crisis. – Don Ross Don Ross is the Managing Editor of TTR Weekly. Email donr@ttreport.com











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