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Backpackers, students remain vital for Thai tourism, says TAT
Timothy France, reporting from Thailand Travel Mart Plus, Bangkok, June 8, 2012

DESPITE the push for high-yield visitors at this year’s Thailand Travel Mart Plus, the backpacker and student travel markets are still a top priority for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).


TAT trade marketing manager, Chris Lee, insisted that backpackers and students were integral to industry growth. “Quality tourism does not only mean luxury tourism. It is about how much money the tourists are going to spend, and their average length of stay,” he said.


“The average spend per day of the student and backpacker markets may not be a lot, but if you look at the (total) amount of money they spend while they are (in Thailand), it is pretty good, because they are here for so long," he added.


According to Lee, students and backpackers helped drive up the average length of stay by UK travellers in Thailand to 17.5 days last year, an increase of 1.5 days compared to the year before.


“The average length of stay for the normal tourist is two weeks, so what’s making (up) the difference from 14 days to 17.5 days are the backpackers, who are obviously staying a lot longer,” he explained.


This increase in average length of stay has contributed to the growing value of the mature UK market, which is seeing limited growth in absolute terms, but significant growth in revenues generated. The market registered a 1.5-per cent year-on-year increase in arrivals in 2011, with receipts up by 17 per cent over the same period.


Lee attributes some of Thailand’s success in tapping the student and backpacker markets to a campaign launched last year in conjunction with STA Travel Singapore. TAT invested 22,000 pounds (US$34,000) in the Thai for Two campaign, which incentivised student travellers to return to Thailand with a friend.


Run from end-May to mid-June 2011, the campaign achieved a 3,690-pax jump in student arrivals compared to the previous year.


“This was the most successful campaign we’d ever run, and the most successful campaign they (STA Travel) had ever run,” said Lee, who is overseeing a similar promotion this year. 

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