Lifetime vocation attending travel shows

BANGKOK, 5 June 2017: June is a reminder that Asia’s travel trade scene is packed with events that will change how you do business, talk fests that entertain and a smattering of the old fashioned travel shows that motor on despite disruptive technology.

This week, the Mekong Tourism Forum convenes in Luang Prabang, a World Heritage town and a premier destination driving tourism to Laos. It is six years since the forum was last held in Laos when it convened in Pakse.

Many of the faces have changed, but most of the core issues have not.  At the MTF 2011 in Pakse organisers rolled out the theme, “Destination Mekong: The Making of a Star,” while this year the focus is on “Prosper with Purpose”. Following each event the theme is deposited in a box appropriately named “been there done that”.

Credit Tourism Authority of Thailand

New themes will follow mostly conjuring up a play-on words, or subtle changes in a story line, Yet they have never prompted the question “why are we doing this?”

Is Mekong Region tourism cooperation alive and well? Or perhaps the players are really competitors? Is there a true and resolute commitment to grow the Mekong Tourism office, increase its funding and end its one-man band image? Then there are the re-runs of strategic plans that are created at great cost usually every five years. You would be hard pressed to find a single tourism benefit that was born in those expensive pages that describe tourism jewels, gems, clusters, necklaces, routes and triangles. Do they ever see the light of day? Or perhaps they become  filing cabinet fodder forgotten until the next consultant is hired to write an update?

Just days after the MTF closes, travel trade executives will travel to Chiang Mai to join Thailand’s premier event known as TTM Plus. The annual travel show hosts hundreds of international tour buyers who network with travel sellers from Thailand and its neighbours Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

The business model has its roots in the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s travel marts and the ASEAN Tourism Forums established in the 1980s. Essentially the formula remains unchanged. Tour operators travel to Thailand to network and contract business two years up front. Hello?

The digital era has disrupted the formula and reduced the pool of legitimate tour operators who generate tourism for Thailand. And as for two years up front where have the organisers been hiding? More like two weeks up front these days.

Trade shows prosper as do talk fests that promise to move your business painlessly to the next trend. I often wonder if travel executives spend any time in their offices. They are nomads constantly shaking hands and meeting “event friends.” There is always another event around the corner. Just look at your July calendar and count.