It is perhaps fair to say that the world has been turned upside down by the Covid 19 pandemic. Many aspects of life, which we have taken for granted for so many years, we now find ourselves reappraising. The unwritten parameters which have corralled our thinking and behavior, both socially and in business, have been put on hold, the old and tired conventions of the pre-pandemic era may even be permanently consigned to history.
One of the worst market sectors affected by the pandemic has been tourism. The effect this has had on Thailand’s economy should not be underestimated. Pre-Covid, tourism in Thailand accounted for 21.9% of GDP for 2019. This figure dropped to 6.78% of GDP in 2020. Thailand’s income from tourism, like that of so many other countries, has taken a beating.
The darkness of a tourism death has, for a period, meant that people have found solace by embracing digital cyberspace and the internet at unprecedented levels. Millions of people have begun a new affair with a new medium. Although thrust upon them, it is unlikely that they will relinquish this new relationship in order to return to the old normal. People around the world are now ready to embrace the new normal.
The flickering light of post-pandemic emergence can now be seen In Thailand’s tourism. Cautious optimism can now be embraced as the budding shoots of a tourism recovery across the country starts to gain momentum. But, the conventional norms of marketing, on which Thailand’s tourism has been so reliant, may no longer apply.
We are now entering into a phase where conventional wisdom will need to be challenged. New marketing strategies will need to be drawn up. Strategies will be built and shaped to compliment the new norms and conventions that will, once again, drive Thailand’s tourism to the top of international listings.
Marketing Tourism by Convention
Let us not forget, pre-Covid, Thailand’s tourism was flourishing with Bangkok being the most visited city in the world, ahead of London and Paris. It was sound marketing strategies that awakened people’s curiosity and instilled a desire to visit the Land of Smiles.
The key to the awakening of people’s curiosity and desire is the transference of information. For decades people have been watching television documentaries about Thailand, reading books and magazine articles extolling Thailand’s vibrant culture which echo the sights and smells of the orient. These conventional marketing strategies were complimented by travel agent’s shops on the high streets of cities across the world selling the virtues of a Thai holiday through glossy brochures showing the diversity and beauty of the kingdom.
This marketing strategy drove Thailand’s tourism and brought prosperity to thousands of Thais. The action man, or woman, the adventurer and the hedonist have all found their mark in Thailand, and, along with those seeking a more spiritual and enlightened experience, will do so again.
Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, conventional marketing strategies within the tourism industry were evolving and becoming a part of the digital age. Perhaps the greatest loser in this evolution has been the “Package Holiday”, whereby a single booking secured flights, transfers, hotels and, very often, food and drink, and it was the large international travel companies that controlled the market.
The Digital Marketing Takeover
The digital savvy millennials of the 21st century have seized upon the opportunities that today’s internet marketing strategies have brought them. Anyone can now tailor their Thai holiday to suit their individual needs with direct access to the provider of those needs. Effectively, this cut out a whole layer cost as the would-be tourist deals with the required service at source.
The new millennium and the burgeoning digital spectrum meant that the marketing of Thailand’s tourism was no longer the preserve of the big international tourism companies. Each and every individual trader was presented with the opportunity to market their product and service. Everyone, from the hotelier and restauranter, to the tour guide and the diving instructor, were now able to put themselves into a potential customer’s living room.
Digital marketing traffic aimed at Thailand’s tourism had been steadily increasing year on year until the Covid 19 pandemic, at which point it fell away almost completely. However, the love affair with the digital world didn’t. In fact, due to global lockdowns, an even greater level of passion ensued and drove internet traffic up by 50% in 2020, according to data supplied by Stackscale.
Now, in 2021, as the world starts to look beyond Covid, new horizons are starting to emerge. However, what was normal pre-pandemic will be no more. Across the world, everyone involved in tourism marketing, is eyeing, and weighing up how the “New Normal” is going to affect their strategies going forward.
The ease and convenience that the internet brings to almost every aspect of life has now been experienced, and embraced, by millions more people than ever before. The public feel more empowered and in control of their life choices, and are unlikely to give up their new found entitlement.
As the world emerges from the pandemic, one of the first things people think of is travel, to get away and consign the dark days of lockdowns to history. The opportunities that are beginning to open up for the tourism industry are formidable. Now, more than ever, it is vital for Thailand’s tourism industry to reassess their marketing strategies.
Building a Post Pandemic Marketing Strategy
1. What is motivating my potential customers? Most people have always enjoyed at least one holiday a year. They work hard and look forward to a break away from their daily grind and drudgery. They want to escape, be touched by the sun, see new sights and experience different cultures. For many, this is seen as their right, a right that has been temporarily withdrawn from them by the Covid 19 pandemic.
As we emerge from the pandemic the motivation to travel is, for many, stronger than it has ever been. They feel they have been robbed of their rights, and so, are now more determined than ever to embrace the freedoms that are beginning to reemerge.
2. How will potential tourists to Thailand find the information the require? Following the virtual death knell of the package holiday, the customer is in control of building their own holiday package. From arrival, they can decide on their mode of transfer to their chosen hotel. They decide in which restaurants they want to dine in, the cities they will visit, the sights and sounds the wish to experience.
Tourists now expect this information, and much, much more, to be available by simply tapping a keyboard and clicking a mouse. As the potential tourist is confronted by a plethora of search choices, it will be those with the best marketing strategy that sparks their interest holds their attention.
3. How will my potential customers want book my services? For the potential customer, every aspect of Thailand’s tourism must be available to book in an easy, uncomplicated manner. If the potential tourist become frustrated or confused with any part of the booking process, they will move on in search of something more simplified. A clear, uncomplicated reservations and payment process is essential in instilling confidence in the customer.
4. What part of the research and booking is likely to annoy or frustrate my potential customers? From the first click, the content needs to be fast and responsive, enquirers want answers, and they don’t expect to wait for them.
The tourist needs to feel an attraction to the content. They need to feel engaged and intrigued. The marketing content needs to spark interest and hold that interest from start to finish. Without the interest factor your potential customer will soon be bored and look elsewhere.
Information needs to be easy to locate, a customer will soon become frustrated and disinterested if they cannot find the information they want quickly. It then needs to be presented in an easy-to-understand format without volumes of unrelated information.
Websites are the supporting framework for your entire marketing strategy. You should be keeping your website under constant review and optimizing it regularly. This will keep it fresh and relevant, maximize user approval and conversion rates.
Many websites, when accessed on a mobile device, respond badly. They can be slow, cramped or just appear too old and tired looking. Ensure your site is optimized for clicks and conversion levels, it should also be regularly tested for its speed. It is always advisable to consult an expert with appropriate industry knowledge to ensure your optimization is up to par.
There can hardly be a single person on the planet that hasn’t heard of Facebook. Nowadays it seems almost obligatory for a business to have a Facebook presence. According to Facebook’s own figures, they now have almost 3 billion users worldwide. An audience that large has enormous potential for marketing Thailand’s tourism.
The Facebook platform allows text, pictures and videos to be loaded, and is an extremely low-cost showcase as part of any marketing strategy. Facebook marketing will help raise brand awareness, increase the level of referrals and aid in steering traffic to your main website.
Becoming increasingly influential to Thailand’s tourism marketing, is Instagram. Approaching 1.4 billion people are now regularly using this platform. Instagram leans more heavily on the visual aspect of marketing, which is perfect for the tourism industry. With uncannily fortuitous timing, Instagram launched IGTV shortly before the Covid 19 pandemic. Although getting off to a slow start, worldwide lockdowns suddenly catapulted IGTV to overnight popularity.
Live video marketing is now a major marketing tool for the tourism trade. According to figures published on Regiondo, 82% of people prefer to watch live video feeds as opposed to recorded content. Hotels, restaurant and all manner of tourist attractions and activities can be viewed in real time by millions of potential tourists.
As an example, The Hotel del Coronado has camera set up showing its beachfront with a permanent 24/7 feed. Going forward, live feeds, as a marketing tool, are almost certainly going to become an essential part of Thailand’s tourism marketing strategy. Any marketing expert would advise tourism providers to establish their brand now via the use of live video.
Continuing along the theme of the visual, everyone is now familiar with the term “Influencer”. Last year started to see the emergence of the “Micro-Influencer”. Those pursuing this new phenomenon tend to be experts in their own niche area of a market sector. The hair, beauty, fashion and tourism industries are now starting to engage micro-influencers as part of their marketing strategy with positive results.
The Importance of Blogging
Past, present and future customers want to hear from their tourism provider. With your blogs you can keep your clientele up to date with relevant information with opinions and thoughts can be shared. Regular blogs also help to give your business a personality, which makes it feel more human within the world of marketing, which can so often feel cold and impersonal.
Your tourist business should have a regular schedule for blogging, 2-4 or even 5 times a week. Let potential customers know what is unique about your business or service. Inform tourists of the dos and don’ts that are relevant to tourism in Thailand. Offer tips and localized information useful to the traveler. It’s worth remembering that you have insight and knowledge that the tourist doesn’t have, so share it.
There are now many review sites across the internet. TripAdvisor and Google Local are two of the most well-known. Review sites add greatly to the online presence of your business. Be sure to respond to reviews, this helps to maintain the personal feel of your business, customers warm to a business far more if it feels more human. Also, if clients feel they can interact with a business through its own marketing platforms it will raise client confidence in that service.
Conquering the challenge of search engine optimization, or SEO, will now be essential for Thailand’s tourism service providers post pandemic. Potential visitors to the country will start researching their travel using an internet search engine, and you need your business on the on the first page that loads.
However, getting your website lofted into the higher echelons of SEO rankings is no mean feat. Success in this area of your marketing strategy is essential and requires an industry expert. Commissioning such an expert is a sound investment as part of your overall marketing strategy, and one that will pay dividends.
Marketing the New Normal
Businesses involved in Thailand’s tourism are numerous, many and varied. Products and services may be similar, but each and every one is unique in its own way. As such, no two marketing strategies will be exactly the same. Your marketing strategy is a window into the DNA of your business, it must reflect efficiency, trust and reliability.
Marketing Thailand’s tourism PP will not be for armatures. The businesses that invest in sound, bespoke marketing strategies will the ones that prosper as Thailand, once again, looks to be one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Very soon the hotels will be full, restaurants will be buzzing, and clubs will be throbbing. The tourist attractions will be alive, and the neon will once again be flashing, sadly not all those involved in old normal of Thai tourism will benefit. Those that do benefit will be ones that seize upon the new normal and properly invest in a professional marketing strategy.
But future exuberance must be balanced with caution as we look towards the new normal. Only trust the marketing strategy of your business to experienced professionals that can demonstrate a track record of success in the complicated world of digital marketing, particularly within the tourism industry.
Marketing Ignite is one such team of professionals and have become one of the leading lights in successfully marketing businesses across Thailand and Southeast Asia. With a proven track record, it is only professionals of their ilk that can be trusted to create a marketing strategy that will propel your business into the new normal and beyond. Contact Marketing Ignite for a Free Consultation.