ATTA agents ahead by 10%

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BANGKOK, 23 July 2018: Thailand’s travel agents handled 10% more clients between 1 January and 10 July, but 82.88% of the bookings were generated from Asia.

The lion share came from China that commands a massive 60.31% slice of all ATTA member tour bookings, or 1,991,579 travel clients, while 2,737,378 visits were sourced in Asia.

If China opted to turn off the proverbial tourism tap due to security or safety concerns, Thailand’s travel agents would be left crippled and many would be forced to close shop.

Overall, the year-to-date figures, January to 10 July, are ahead. Travel agents handled 3,302,151 clients, who arrived by air at Bangkok’s two international airports on pre-arranged travel itineraries. That’s a respectable 10% increase compared to the same period last year, when agents handled 3,000,309 clients.  In 2017, ATTA agents handled 5,820,205 clients.

Association of Thai Travel Agents released its latest data, last week. It measures clients arriving at Bangkok’s two gateway, airports on pre-paid itineraries, using member companies. ATTA does not register client pick-up at other gateway airports such as Chiang Mai and Phuket.

ATTA members pay a meet-and-greet fee to the Airports of Thailand per client. It offers a reliable indicator of the health, or otherwise, of the more than 1,000 travel agencies that make up ATTA’s active travel company members.

The business mix has remained relatively stable since 2016 reflecting the dominance of Asia’s outbound travel markets for Thailand, while European markets have remained flat or even suffered declines.

While Asia supplies 82% of tourists travelling on travel company itineraries, Europe’s market share has shrunk to a small 4.3%, followed by Russia and former CIS nations with a 2.87% market share and a tiny 0.66% from the Americas and a 0.31% sliver from Australia and New Zealand.

On the surface the unrelenting expansion of low-yield markets such as China worry tour operators, who have enjoyed huge margins on high-yield tour business from Europe in the past.

China supplied 1,991,579 travel clients for ATTA members up 14.74%, while the UK market (8th), the only European market to figure in the top-10 supply chart for January to 10 July, supplied 51,658 registering a 9.72% improvement.

There is also a massive gap between top producer China and second place Vietnam that supplied 177,865 clients, up 13%, while the third top producer, Korea (3rd) with 143,272 clients, actually declined by 3.68% year-to-date.

India was positive in fourth place with 246,057 clients, up 11.97% and Japan (5th) with 100,948 showed an increase of 15.49% and climbing steadily since 2016.

Two other of the top 10 markets showed declines; Russia plus former CIS nations (6th) delivered 78,948 clients down by an alarming 25.91% and Indonesia (7th) with 55,080 declined by 2%

The Russian/CIS markets have suffered a sharp decline since 2015, seriously threatening Thai travel agents that specialised, or entered into joint ventures with Russian tour operators.

Taiwan in 9th place generated 48,559 clients, up by a robust 44.87% and Hong Kong (10th) 32,068, up 13.42%.

Outside of the top-10 suppliers, France bucked the negative trend in business for Thai tour companies showing a robust positive growth line since 2016, while Germany over the same two period was flat as was the Scandinavian market since 2016, following a dramatic decline in 2015 (due to a currency exchange dip).

The first-half performance based on data covering just two Bangkok airports, suggests Thai travel agent are facing a serious challenge. They are losing traction in high-yield markets, while picking up low-yield business from China.

There are plenty of examples of destinations and tour operators elsewhere tapping the growing high-yield outbound travel market in China, but in requires innovation and creative thinking to deliver travel experiences that cannot be bought on the shelves of online travel booking sites.

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