BANGKOK, 6 June 2017: Tourism Authority of Thailand joins hands with the Online Tourism Club (Thailand) that seeks to minimise online operators that sell what it called ‘lower quality tour packages.”
The recently-established Online Tourism Club (Thailand) is made up of 44 members who represent tour operators and attractions across Thailand.
The club claims the objective is to work with TAT to stem the practice of selling cheap low quality travel to Chinese independent travellers.
TAT claims all the club’s members are all legally registered under the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Business Development and Department of Tourism’s Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration.
But TAT said screening the members’ status was the club’s responsibility.
TAT hopes to discourage zero-dollar tourism from China where holidays are sold a breakeven forcing the local ground handling agent to live off commissions mainly generated by taking clients to shops and attractions that offer kick-backs.
The new club members say they hope to minimise online tour operators who sell low quality tour packages.
Eliminating cheap online travel will be difficult as many Chinese FITs pre book through their mobile apps, pay with credit cards prior to leaving China and are offered incentives and discounted services in the Thai destinations all sold through mobile phone apps. There are even competitions that offer points if the Chinese traveller goes to a particular restaurants dines and flags the experience in the app. By taking a photo and tagging visits to restaurants, shops and attractions during their visit they gain points and ultimately earn a discount. The photo contest is particularly popular in Phuket.
While the club says it is look after quality, tourists traditionally love a bargain and seek out the best price. There is no guarantee that the club members who charge more can offer a better quality product. Critics posted comments on Facebook pages saying they thought the club was hoping to eliminate competition and might be guilty of over pricing or unfair trading by fixing prices between members in a manner that would not serve the best interests of consumers.
According to the club’s statement on its Facebook, it focuses on five key elements.
Suppliers must provide clear pricing that complies with a minimum selling price, the net price and the walk-in price.
Suppliers must strengthen their products and services and do not neglect to market themselves online to FIT travellers.
TAT will coordinate and increase rules for government awards such as the Thailand Tourism Awards to include a clear price setting for products and services on minimum selling price, net price and walk in price.
TAT will support marketing and public relations such as inviting suppliers and tour operators to make a joint declaration to counter price cuts and create awareness in the market through roadshows to promote quality tourism for FIT and through the TAT website.
According to TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn, ensuring high standards as well as standardized prices are needed to ensure that the country’s tourism is fair for everyone including tourists.
An ongoing project will tackle price cutting on group tours from China to rid the market of zero-dollar tourism.
The measures have been partly successful, but the same principle behind zero-dollar (commissions and kick-backs) has emerged in the FIT sector online selling space too.
The Online Tourism Club (Thailand) president, Nipon Boonmasuwaran, said: “Some online travel agents are more interested in increasing website traffic and building databases in order to boost their company’s shareholding values than in offering memorable holidays to tourists planning trips to Thailand. By selling lower prices, they undermine the industry creating unfair conditions for operators. Now, we need to tackle unscrupulous operators targeting FIT travellers.”
TAT Deputy Governor of Marketing – Asia and South Pacific, Srisuda Wanapinyosak, said TAT will help to promote the standard pricing of the club’s members via TAT’s communication channels.
“We will also organise roadshows to Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou where online Thai tourism operators can meet with operators of 10 major Chinese travel websites to discuss cooperation.”
In addition, TAT will help to promote the Online Tourism Club (Thailand) at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2017, 14 to 16 June in Chiang Mai, as well as through its five offices in China. Any travel agents who want to join the Club can register via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Source: TAT and the Online Tourism Club (Thailand))