BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Tourism in Southeast Asia remains deeply influenced by political developments. You would probably think about the political situation in countries such as Thailand or Indonesia, which in the past suffered from toruism set-backs due to political instability. So far for the ongoing 2011, the political situation looks exceptionally quiet and did not influence tourism’s development. Or has it? Looking at the upcoming Thailand Travel Mart (TTM) taking place from June 8 to 10 in Bangkok, observers will probably notice that politics – and this time foreign politics – still remain an influential factor on the well-being of the tourism industry.
The travel show, hosted every year in June by both Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), remains a success. According to latest figures provided by TAT, the show will have 367 participating companies and 347 recorded buyers. However, if compared to 2009, the TTM Plus edition in 2010 cannot be compared because of its postponement following the turbulent events that occurred in May 2010 in Central Bangkok. If compared it would show a marked decline. In 2009, TTM Plus had 405 exhibiting organizations meeting 360 buyers. However, more countries are present in 2011 than 2009: the 347 delegates will come from 55 countries against 50 countries in 2009. Included in this total, 78 delegates are first-time participants, while Serbia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Bosnia, Estonia, Lithuania, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil are among the new source markets present.
The smaller number of exhibitors hangs especially on one factor: the “Plus” adjoining the TTM logo is indeed turning this year into a “Minus.” The “Plus” was originally meant to represent all countries and territories of the Greater Mekong Subregion, which are present at the TTM. As Cambodia and Thailand have been fighting for over a year on border issues around the temple of Preah Vihear, Cambodia consequently decided to boycott the show. None of the usual Cambodian participants will then be present this year at the show. Vietnam will also be absent, as the Vietnam National Tourism Administration gives now its full support to its own travel show taking place in September in Ho Chi Minh City. Only Laos and Myanmar will then be represented, while Executive Director Mason Florence from the Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office confirmed to ETN his presence to the show.
Meanwhile, Thailand is looking to break a new record in 2011, hoping that the coming elections will not derail what seems already to look like a very promising year. Figures for the first quarter of 2011, communicated by the Ministry of Tourism, points to a growth of 14.4% to 5.33 million travelers. Among Thailand’s most important incoming markets, Russia was up by 43% during the 3 first months of the year, followed by Germany (up by 36.2%), Laos (up by 36%), China (up by 30%), and Sweden (+ 22.9%). For the second quarter, the Ministry of Tourism estimates that arrivals should jump by 37% to reach 3.9 million arrivals compared to 2.9 million for the same period of last year. This dramatic growth is, however, distorted by the fact that tourists deserted Bangkok during the domestic violence of April and May last year. Thailand expects over 16 million travelers in 2011, up by 12% over 2010.