The feedback was brought back to Phuket by members of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA), which led a delegation of 20 Phuket tourism businesses to the event, including hotel and tour ground-handler operators.
ITB Berlin this year again cemented its status as the world’s leading travel trade show with 10,000 companies and organisations from 186 countries exhibiting their products and services to around 170,000 visitors, including 110,000 trade visitors, at this this year’s edition, held from Mar 7-11.
PTA Vice President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam explained to The Phuket News that the delegation to the show presented a unified effort to attract more European tourists to Phuket.
“Operators from Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) titled ‘Andaman One for All’ last year, so our theme this year was simply about the Andaman region,” Mr Bhummikitti said.
The PTA itself kept its effort simple, focussing on Sun Sea Sand, culture, and weddings and honeymoons, he added.
During the first three days of the ITB, which was open only to tourism trade operators (the ITB was open to the public on Mar 10-11), the Phuket booth remained a popular stop for trade representatives, Mr Bhummikitti said.
“There was an influx of wholesalers from throughout Europe visiting our booth to negotiate trade agreements such as room rates, conditions, allotments and so on during those three days of trade.” he explained.
However, Mr Bhummikitti noted, “We got some feedback from the event that Phuket is a nice place to travel to, but the management of the province in terms of issues such as traffic, the airport and safety is not good enough.”
The effect has been obvious, with return tourists from the Scandinavian, British, Swiss and German markets increasingly continuing to choose to travel in Khao Lak in Phang Nga instead of Phuket, while newcomers from Russia and China continue to choose Phuket for their first-time visit, Mr Bhummikitti said.
“I think the government and the private sector should work together to solve these management issues in order to keep our tourists,” he said blankly.
After ITB, the PTA and several members of the rest of the Phuket delegation in conjunction with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) on Mar 12 staged a Phuket road show in Warsaw, Poland, which has been identified as a growing source market of tourists to Phuket.
“The number of Polish tourists coming to Thailand increased by 19% last year, so we hope that the more Polish people will come to Thailand, and especially Phuket, in the future.” Mr Bhummikitti said.
“Moreover, there is an agreement between TUI Poland and LOT Polish Airlines, so there will be direct flights from Warsaw to Phuket twice a week beginning in November. They will be charter flights in the European winter season, which will automatically increase the number of tourists looking to enjoy their holidays at that time of year,” he added.
Keeping the focus on Eastern Europeans, the delegation held another road show in Prague, Czech Republic, the following day (Mar 13).
“The number of Czech tourists coming to Thailand increases every year, so we think the Czech Republic is an interesting market,” Mr Bhummikitti said.
“We believe the number of tourists from Eastern Europe, including places like Poland and Prague, will increase next year,” he added.
“As for other European markets, we are still monitoring the situation closely because there are lots of factors, such as their own economies, that affect whether or not more tourists from these countries will come to Phuket.
“If everything go well, we expect Phuket tourism from these markets will also grow,” Mr Bhummikitti said.
– Jirarat Rakjamroon