Campus: CSU Hayward -- March 5, 2004

Thailand Wants Americans to Visit Longer, Cal State Hayward Team Shows Them How

More Americans would come to Thailand for extended visits if misconceptions about the country could be dispelled in the United States, according to a report delivered to Thai officials by a team from California State University, Hayward.

Participants in the Transnational Executive MBA program, known as TEMBA, presented a six-month study showing that while Americans recognize Thailand as a friendly country with a fascinating culture, good food, and low-cost, high-value accommodations, they have concerns about the country’s traffic congestion, environmental issues and infrastructure.

To develop its findings and recommendations, the five-member TEMBA team of San Francisco Bay Area executives conducted a nationwide survey of Americans, interviewed travel industry experts, and conducted focus groups with international travelers. The team was particularly interested in how to increase the number of Americans who visit Thailand for up to 30 days, known in the tourism industry as a “long stay.”

The study was commissioned last summer by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The agency’s directors heard the final report of the Cal State Hayward TEMBA team in Bangkok on Feb. 17. The report concludes that the economic impact of long stay American visitors on Thailand could range from $56 to $140 million a year.

“This information gives us an excellent look at how Americans see Thailand and points us in the direction we need to go to build the number of long stay visitors from the US,” said Tourism Authority Deputy Governor Santichai Eauchongprasit.

“We think Thailand could easily position itself as a world-class luxury destination that is friendly and affordable for long stays,” the Tourism Authority directors were told by TEMBA team member Viola Chung, a director and network designer for Repeater Technologies in Sunnyvale, Calif. “It certainly has competitive advantages over similar destinations, such as Hawaii and Fiji.”

The Tourism Authority had also asked the TEMBA team to look at other destinations for American tourists, including Australia, China, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

“The rivalry is high in the long stay market,” said B.H. Teh, business solutions manager for Computerland, “but there are no dominant competitors. That means Thailand has an opportunity in this market, especially if it emphasizes its culture, climate and heritage.”

The cited his team’s national survey that showed Americans’ top priorities in choosing a long stay destination are safety, cleanliness, sanitary facilities that meet western standards, a friendly environment and the ability to get around easily. The survey was conducted on random Americans with technical assistance from Dun & Bradstreet.

“One of our challenges was that there is so little information available on long stays,” said TEMBA team member Christopher Mark, manager of security for C&H Sugar in Crockett, Calif. “Our surveys, interviews with the travel industry, and the focus groups gave us information on a category of tourist that hadn’t been looked at before.”

Mark said the team discovered that the profile of American long stay tourists is more male than female, not necessarily retired, mostly unmarried, and includes a large number of people who travel alone.

“We found that relaxation and exploration were the most important attractions to long stay tourists, and that concerns about medical services or business access were not,” Mark told the TAT directors. “These travelers are not looking for a home away from home.”

Safety is the major issue Thailand needs to address to develop a long stay market to augment the 555,000 Americans who visit Thailand every year, according to TEMBA team member Charles Jang, a Hewlett Packard project manager based in Palo Alto, Calif.

“Safety is clearly the most important factor to potential American long stay tourists,” Jang told the Tourism Authority directors. “Thailand needs to position itself to show that its reputation for friendliness is a dimension of the safety here in a stable democracy with an ancient, peaceful culture.”

“One of the key messages is to dispel misconceptions about safety in Thailand, which is important to Americans these days,” said TEMBA team member Kim Smith, business development manager for Hertz Corp. “Thailand has what the western traveler is looking for in a long stay and they need to know they can visit here in luxury, at a great value, and safely.”

Smith gave the Tourism Authority directors a series of recommendations developed by the TEMBA team designed to get the word out about long stays in Thailand. They included travel agent training, contact with retirement communities, and advertising strategies. The key target markets were identified as travelers over 55 years old and “Baby Boomers.”

“Since so little attention has been paid anywhere to this category of tourism,” Smith said, “the opportunity here is for Thailand to design approaches specifically designed to reach the long stay client.”

The TEMBA team left the Tourism Authority with binders and CDs of its extensive research, along with a videocassette of its focus group work with international travelers living in the large California Contra Costa County retirement communities of Brentwood and Rossmoor. The team also provided the Tourism Authority with a financial model it developed that includes cost calculation worksheets projecting how many long stay tourists will respond to recommended marketing strategies.

“The financial model alone gives the Tourism Authority a tremendous resource for projecting results based on its budget,” said Shyam Kamath, international trade economist and director of the TEMBA program.

The Thailand long stay project team was directed by Kamath and fellow Cal State Hayward business professors Jagdish Agrawal and Zinovy Radovilsky.

Kamath said tourism authority directors were so impressed with the final report that they have asked about future projects they can do with the Cal State Hayward program.

The TEMBA team’s report came during a week when the Tourism Authority reported that the affect of news about bird flu outbreaks in Asia were responsible for a 10 percent drop in tourism from other Asian countries to Thailand. Tourism from the United States was unaffected, which led to hopes by Tourism Authority directors that they could still reach their goal of a 24 percent increase in tourism this year, to 12 million guests.

Cal State Hayward’s College of Business and Economics has extensive experience with projects for the Thai government and corporations. Through its TEMBA and Asian International Marketing programs, the university has conducted 22 studies in the last 10 years. One day before the TEMBA presentation to the Tourism Authority, another team gave a report in Bangkok on a study it completed for Plan Creations, a major Thai toy company.

Media Contact: Kim Huggett, (510) 885-2032

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