Why is Thailand a big market for travel search engine Wego, other than the fact it is often voted top tourist destination? e27 finds out…
“Thailand has a huge inbound international market,” said Allen Miller, Market Development Manager, Wego Thailand, in an exclusive interview with e27. There were a total of 21.7 million visitors into Thailand from January 2013 to October 2013, which made up a surge of 22.3 percent when compared to the previous year, he further shared.
Founded in Singapore nine years ago, Wego, a travel search site, first secured its localised Thai site in 2011. Last year, it stepped up its game with new hire Miller, who was tasked to develop partnerships with airlines, online travel agencies and hotels, and drive traffic from organic, search engine marketing and display channels to the Thai site.
According to the Department of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the top five nationalities of inbound travellers were Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Russian and South Korean.
In the year ahead, Miller expects more Russian and Chinese travellers to come to Thailand. He said, “Chinese are increasing their visits and with more airline route development between the two countries, we can see this trend continuing.”
Domestic travellers are also looking to satisfy their wanderlust. According to Miller, the top five domestic flight searches on Wego Thailand are Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Rai and Krabi. Internationally, Thai travellers are eyeing Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Luang Prabang.
In terms of hotel searches, Thai travellers are scouring for properties in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya and Hua Hin, while they look at Goa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Batam and London for accommodation outside the Southeast Asian country.
Strategy into Thailand
Miller shared with e27 that several trends in the online travel scene made Wego’s entry into Thailand “particularly opportune”.
Firstly, Thais were becoming increasingly comfortable with credit card payments online. According to Miller, locals have been “somewhat hesitant” over the past two to three years, due to concerns about security or over-charges. This was significantly reduced when online travel agencies and airlines started providing a customer service representative who could assist customers making bookings on the web.
Secondly, the Thai travel e-commerce scene has seen an “explosive growth” in smartphone, app and social media usage. With consumers having greater ability to make ‘checks and balances’ on social media, the general sentiment on the ground is that the service provider will have to do its best to accommodate the customer. Miller said, “Making a travel booking online today is safe, convenient, and also saves time and money.”
Lastly, Thai consumers love bagging deals, especially if it’s the best deal out there. Miller added, “It’s a personal accomplishment for a Thai to tell friends that he/she found a bargain rate at a five-star hotel or how great a deal he/she got for a round trip to Phuket.”
With Wego’s metasearch price comparison tool, Thai travellers are able to shop around and plan their getaway bouncing from one hotel and airline to another. “Thailand is already a great source of organic traffic for Wego and the country is fast becoming a large market for hotels and flights,” said Miler.
Talking about the political unrest in Bangkok, Miller said, “From what we’ve seen from Wego users, we don’t believe the protests in Bangkok have impacted visitation greatly.”
With Singapore Airlines withdrawing 19 of its flights to Bangkok until end of February, a drop in numbers of Singaporean visitors can be expected. “In fact, Thai searches for the capital have been consistently increasing since early December. International flight searches decreased slightly through December but increased yet again from early January,” concluded Miller.