Thailand discovers Power of Women Travellers
By Kalinga Seneviratne
Thailand has long been a magnet for male travellers from the West, but now the kingdom's tourism authorities are recognizing the power of women travellers especially from Asia – among others from India, China and Japan.
"Sun is rising in the East (for Thailand)," says Srisuda Wanapinyosak, Deputy Governor for International Marketing (Asia and South Pacific) at Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). "Asian economies are good and people travel. This is a good opportunity for Thailand," she tells IDN.
With European economies in the doldrums, Thailand has lost much of its former tourist market, but Asians have compensated for the decline, says Srisuda. There were nearly 8.8 million visitors from China in 2016 and 1.2 million from India visiting Thailand.
The gender ratio was almost equal.
Thailand welcomed a record 32.6 million tourists in 2016 generating THB 1.64 trillion (46.8 billion dollars), a 13 per cent increase in revenue.
"Europeans used to come once a year and have a long vacation (while) Asians come on shorter trips but more often," says Srisuda, adding that there has been a big increase in women travellers coming to Thailand from Asia.
"Women are big spenders when they travel," she argues. "Spas, beauty products, markets and beaches are the main attractions for Asian women."
For long, Thailand's beaches and islands have been an attraction for Western tourists, especially women and families, and Asian women are well known to avoid the sun in order not to get tanned. But "they love to be in a good outfit (swimsuit) and lie in a shady place doing nothing or reading," says Srisuda.
With Asia's middle class rising rapidly, and along with it women's economic empowerment, a recent report by Amadeus Asia Pacific argues that the women's travel market is a huge growing one for the travel industry, but the male-dominated industry has not yet understood the psyche of the woman traveller in Asia. "Younger women are increasingly confident in travelling on their own or in small groups," the report points out.
"In 2011 there were approximately 4.5 million business trips by women in the 7 countries (in Asia) we have studied (and) by 2030 this will have increased by 400 per cent," the report estimates, pointing out that today women account for close to 50 per cent of all graduates across the region.
Thai tourism consultant Pattama Vilaileot says that there are many specific tourism products that are now being developed for this growing women tourist market. "The spa industry has developed special products for women such as facial massage, and for office syndrome such as neck massage. Growth of pedicure and manicure services in the Thai massage industry is driven by women's demand. Hotels offer special services in women's beauty products (and) even yoga and special organic menus," she told IDN.
Economic empowerment of women has been a prerequisite for development in both the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. The increasing clout of women travellers in the travel sector in Asia is indicative of the fact that with growing education and employment opportunities for women across Asia, at least middle class women are being empowered.
Thailand's Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanayrangkul argues that tourism and sports could help to empower women across Asia and she sees a silver lining for Thailand in this. "In general, female travellers spend over 15 per cent more than males do. If we can secure more female tourists it would help drive [our] entire tourism," she said in a recent media interview.
Currently, 30 per cent of Japanese travellers to Thailand and close to 50 per cent of Chinese travellers are women, with Indian women visiting Thailand increasing in numbers as well. How could the tourist industry cater to this growing market?
Gassanee Thaisonthi, a Thai writer and a globetrotter who has recently published a book on her travels in Cuba, says that scenery and culture are important for her. "Women enjoy a cultural experience," she told IDN. "When I went to Bagan (in Myanmar) I liked the markets near the temples and it's like you go back in time (and) in northern Thailand I like to experience the way people live with elephants and culture around beautiful temples."
Naa Taengpasulert, a Thai teledrama writer and traveller in her late 40s, agrees.
"I prefer cold places with natural sceneries such as beautiful mountains in China," she tells IDN. "Also I enjoy local markets because I can see different lifestyles of local people. I can find original local products that are hard to get in supermarkets."
Ling Zhou, a 48-year old Chinese doctor and traveller also likes good scenery, fresh air and comfortable weather when she travels. "Most Chinese solo-women travellers like to go to a country with which China has good relations (and) Thailand's food and beaches are very attractive to me," she said in an email interview.
Thai television executive Yupaporn Saengtong, who is also in her late 40s loves the outdoors and adventure travel "to go from one village to another to experience the uniqueness of culture and tradition". She says, while women like scenery, spas and shopping, men may prefer drinking and nights out more than women. "I have concerns about my safety more than men travellers do," she added.
A survey done by Trip Advisor in 2016 on Asian women travellers found that female travellers feel travel has had a positive impact on their lives, with 68 per cent saying their travels have helped them learn about the world and 33 per cent adding that travel has changed the way they think and the way they live their lives.
Filipino travel blogger Prime Sarmiento, co-founder of Gypsygals travel blog for women, argues that the travel industry needs to change the way it advertises in Asia. "They should reach out to more travel, career and fashion bloggers and invite them for familiarising tours," she argues. "Women are most likely to trust what the (women) bloggers recommend over ads posted in traditional media outlets. Travel and hospitality industries need to be more active in social media, as women – more than men – are in there."
She also thinks that high-end hotels may have to change their focus away from gyms and health (massage) centres to facial and manicure services, and offer alternative health services such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine therapies.
As for Thailand's image as a "sex capital" for male tourists, most of the women travellers who talked to IDN feel it would change over time as the female tourist market expands.
"It's undeniable that sex is one reason for men's choice to visit Thailand, I just hope that they can see the beauty of something else too," says Yupaporn. "Image-wise it (women tourism) may put Thailand in a better position in the long run," argues Pattama.
"When we promote women to travel to Thailand, the main objective is not to change the image of the country. We just want to invite women to come and enjoy the lady products of our country," says Srisuda. "We don't set as objective of this campaign as changing the image. But, when we promote women to come to Thailand this type of (sex) image could gradually dilute." [IDN-InDepthNews – 9 April]
.IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate
- China to provide 90 water bowsers worth Rs 1b 2114
- Wag the Dog 2136
- A brief look at FARC’s origins in Colombia 2078
- ‘Panama Papers’ bags Pulitzer 2091
- SAITM will cooperate with Govt 2105
- dead man was near fashion mall 2135
- Japanese MPs back Lanka’s development 2103
- CB Bond earnings whitewashed – JVP 2112
- Talks to extend Lanka’s Continental Shelf 2105
- Ex-DIG and son re-remanded 2117
- Government can be sent home 2649
- GMOA flogging SAITM for Mahinda– Rajitha 2115
- Ranil invites Japan to invest in S. Asia 2098
- Somali Pirates’ Captives Back Home 2102
- Customs in Rs 8 M bust 2106
- Redefining Rape 2146
- The march of folly Our mad Cabinet system 1738
- First adventures in Europe 1824
- Inspiration for writers 1821
- Sri Lanka’s sustainable development dream 1896
- Sinhala and Tamil New Year with Easter 1967
- Filipino Oconer wins overall title 1739
- Unsporty conduct by Joes 1775
- Bertie Wijesinghe, pre-Test era Sri Lankan cricketer, dies aged 96 1759
- CEAT revs up for 2017 1743
- Palace shock Arsenal 1734
- Argentina fire coach Bauza 1748
- BCCI postpones SGM to 18 April 1736
- Murray returns from injury 1734
- New mum Azarenka to return to WTA 1727
- Galle win by 188 runs 1722
- Keeping Cool 1746
- Do the right thing and do it now! 1745
- Ravi Jayewardene Pious son of a political giant 2325
- In the heart of the old country 2164
- Sarath Weerasekera’s Geneva adventure 1964
- No moral right to play with public funds 1900
- No need for fine if route permits are issued in fair, just manner 1776
- UDA incurs Rs 330M Loss 1733
- DOUSING A MEGA SHIP FIRE 1565
- Health authorities in denial? 2032
- Minorities’ frustration a powder keg – VIDURA 2087
- Administrative powers a must for the Plantation Tamils –Radhakrishnan 1341
- Rajapaksa sought advice from McGuinness– Indika Perera 2443
- I will lead SLFP to victory in future elections – President 1861
- Hang the ‘traitors’– RTD. REAR ADMIRAL WEERASEKARA 2158
- We oppose Nationalism and Federalism – Samarasinghe 2956
- SilkAir launches direct flights to Colombo 1779
- Rupee falls on thin volumes 1740
- SriLankan, Japan Airlines add new routes 1764
- Colombo Port box volume up 5.6-pct in Jan 1738
- Private sector to transform into main domestic growth engine 1763
- Oil eases from 5-week top, rising US production weighs 1734
- Tight fiscal and monetary policies constrain SL’s growth 1754
- Shell admits dealing with money launderer 1752
- Toshiba may sell chip business to Foxconn for $27bn 1735
- Asian shares pressured by geopolitical risks; Nikkei down 0.25% 1739
- SLIM launches Certificate in Digital Marketing 1744
- Microsoft Hosts Second ‘Device Day’ in Sri Lanka 1735
- Emirates named Best Airline in the World 1739
- Turkish Airlines and social media assist Somalia 1739
- Brain cell therapy ‘promising’ for Parkinson’s disease 1744
- Trump pushed into bombing Syria 1782
- Thailand discovers Power of Women Travellers 1751
- Economics of gambling 1621
- Trans National Aural Identity 3315
- Queen Anula The Shadow of Cleopatra 3341
- Poetry and its possibilities Part 2 3363
- The Enigma of Labyrinths 3467
- From Couture to Kutir 3340
- Hybrid Sources 4739
- Offering Riddles & Enigmas 4812
- Poetry and its possibilities 4823
- With a festive bang! 968
- Easter Fun 963
- Arrogance and crowing is the way of the doomed 983
- Avurudu on the streets 1004
- Tick control 975
- Sunny Sunday on the beach 982
- It’s time to save the world 1046
- From viewer to YouTuber! 1040
- Expert skincare and makeup 1053
- Avurudu at Induruwa 1018
- Exo 1046
- Remembering our fallen heroes 2127