TTM tweaks format; will it work?

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CHIANG RAI, 8 June 2018: Trade shows are evolving and Thailand’s annual TTM is no exception.

Next week, the 17th edition of the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Subregion (TTM+) convenes in Pattaya, the nation’s first international beach resort that has grown into a sprawling city by the sea.

But for some of the stalwarts of the travel industry, who have supported the TTM for 17 years, this year’s choice of venue may have shunted them out of their comfort zone.

We can expect a chorus of complaints from those with long memories of better days gone by.

The last time this august trade show convened in Pattaya was in 2001 when the Royal Cliff Hotels Group’s PEACH exhibition hall, brand new at the time, offered to take the resort’s MICE business to a new level.

So there will be comparisons made between a purpose-built exhibition centre and the temporary custom-built marquees of the Ocean Marina.

It would be unjust to assume that Pattaya lacks an exhibition centre capable of handling an international show.  PEACH has hosted the ASEAN Tourism Forum and the PATA Travel Mart so the reason for moving the TTM to be besides the sea was prompted by other considerations. Some of them are quite romantic, no doubt.

TTM has to re invent itself after 17 years so perhaps a smaller event more focused on a niche market and in a setting that will generate conversations is just what the doctor ordered.

TTM’s theme is romance and luxury travel so what better venue could be found than a marina with its million dollar yachts at anchor and the romance of candlelight dinners under the stars?

Nothing can beat it as long as the notorious southwest monsoon storms stay well clear of the marquee and food kiosks set out in the marina’s garden and marina forecourt.

That’s always the risk when you are creative in the rainy season.

But the marina venue might get a shrug of resignation and not much more. B2B participants are professionals. They spend their entire careers moving from one show to the next often meeting the same people. They may even become best of pals.

However, TTM’s shift to table rentals replacing booth space did not sit well with many sellers who appreciate having their own space to stick up posters in a 9 sqm cubicle. It’s kind of private and negotiations can be conducted without a nosey neighbour listening in.

The tent environment has forced TTM for the first time to adopt a table-top format that is simple and far more environmentally friendly than building booths and throwing them away after just three days.

Finally, will TTM stick to a single theme from now on? This year it is the romance of travel, honeymoons and wedding supported by luxury travel. That could explain the smaller turnout of buyers if the focus was on hosting specialist tour operators.

For TAT the show always provides a conundrum. It appears to succeed, but year-after-year it is sandwiched between other shows and competition is getting tougher by the day. The reservoir of buyers is limited as other channels connect the trade more efficiently. Having an executive almost permanently running around the Asian trade show circuit is no longer cost-effective in the digital era.

Possibly the decision to give TTM a theme that reaches out to specialists makes sense in order to tap new buyers, especially if quality tourism is the watch word in Thai tourism.

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