TUI Nordic, a leading Scandinavian tour operator, is urging Thai hotels to diversify their client base, saying too large a share for any one particular group could make some guests from other countries uncomfortable.
Chief executive Christian Clemens said a nascent problem has been perceived in terms of one group of guests dominating the hotel scene in Pattaya and Phuket.
Some European tourists who prefer a peaceful atmosphere and taking the time to learn the local culture have expressed discomfort with the dominance of this group.
“To avoid such a problem, we’ve selected 160 hotels, with 90% of them offer exclusive services and deals to Nordic guests [Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland]. We know that customer satisfaction is key to increasing the number of repeat customers, and that’s why we are so selective and concerned about this issue,” said Mr Clemens.
During the first five months of this year, Nordic or Scandinavian tourist arrivals increased by 21% year-on-year to 535,776.
TUI Nordic is interested in Thailand, but challenges include rising fuel costs, the strong baht and a trend towards last-minute bookings by customers.
Mr Clemens said Scandinavian tourists would like to see a greater focus on both the environment and corporate social responsibility on the part of Thai hotels.
For the coming Northern Hemisphere winter, TUI Nordic plans to bring 150,000 travellers to Thailand in the November-March period, up from 135,000 last season.
Nordic tourists on average spend 6,500 baht per day per head during stays of 14 days, more other European tourists, who average 3,735 baht per day per night over 14.5 days.
TUI Nordic operates its own direct flights from Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and commands a 53% share of the Scandinavian market in Thailand, followed by Thomas Cook (30%), Aurinkomatkat (9%), Kuoni Travel (6%) and others (2%).
“Our success in Thailand is due to an excellent hotel programme with many of the best hotels, whose deals are exclusive to us. We’ve managed to keep our prices at reasonable levels, and our hotel partners have contributed with early booking discounts and maintaining price levels,” said Mr Clemens.
TUI Nordic features a Blue Village Exotic family programme, with the recent addition of the Anantara Si Kao Resort & Spa in Trang province bringing the total to five participating hotels in Thailand.
The move is expected to increase passenger traffic through nearby Krabi airport.
“The summer season in general is difficult, with customers requesting heavy discounts and non-profit sales. Our only reason for having this operation is to support our partners in Thailand. We hope the government or the Tourism Authority of Thailand will help to promote Thailand as a summer destination,” said Mr Clemens.
He said it will take a massive effort to persuade customers used to travelling to the Mediterranean during the summer to choose Phuket instead.
TUI Nordic is therefore dependent on continued close tourism cooperation with local authorities to succeed in establishing the island province as a year-round destination.
Thailand’s biggest competition in the future will be the Caribbean, particularly Mexico, said Mr Clemens.