Addressing an audience of over 500 industry stakeholders at the annual Thailand Tourism Forum, CEO of leading hospitality branding agency QUO David Keen expressed concern that regional destinations in Thailand were suffering from a lack of focused, well-defined identities. He has called for Thailand's private sector to create distinct regional brands.
The national ‘Amazing Thailand’ campaign conveyed a positive message to the global market, he said, but did not accurately represent all the diverse cultures, landscapes and assets found in the different parts of the country.
“Our friends at TAT are doing a great job, but why are we relying on one brand to tell our story?” Keen asked. By marketing an independent local brand, private operators across the country could take ownership of their image. Failure to do so, Keen said, resulted in misunderstood identities and put regional destinations at the mercy of market forces.
Keen offered New Zealand as an example. Destinations within the archipelago have created their own distinct identities; their own brand to distinguish them within the New Zealand market. Cities such as Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland have successfully differentiated their offerings from those of other regions.
The same could be done for regional Thai markets, Keen said, providing Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Pattaya as examples. Right now, these places suffer from a public perception that falls short of reality. It is up to the private sector to change this perception. With a single, unified voice, destinations could address local issues with the media in a positive, authoritative manner.
“A destination without a brand has no substance,” said Keen. “We have to differentiate. We need to understand our customers, their motivations and desires, and create a brand with true vision that communicates who we are and what makes us unique. We can’t leave our destiny to chance.”
The Thailand Tourism Forum 2015 is an initiative of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand. Presided over by Bill Barnett of C9 Hotelworks, the forum is Thailand’s biggest hotel event, and "the country's report card on the state of the tourism industry".