CSU Hayward -- September 24, 2003

Rejuvenating Tourism to Thailand is Cal State Hayward Team Project

While Thailand has escaped the political instability, terrorism and SARS crises experienced by other countries in Southeast Asia, these problems have seriously hurt the Thai tourism industry.

Thailand had 3.02 million tourists in the first six months of this year, a decrease of 19.3 percent from the first half of 2002, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. The Tourism Authority has turned to participants in the Transnational Executive MBA program, known as TEMBA, at California State University, Hayward to help get those visitors back and to build a new category of guests.

“We want to bring back visitors from all nations and demographic groups, but we also think there is great potential for bringing Americans here for stays of 30 days or more,” Tourism Authority Deputy Governor for Tourism Products Santichai Eauchongprasit told a Cal State Hayward TEMBA study team in August. “If we emphasize to Americans over the age of 50 some of our core tourism products, such as the food, excellent medical services, the ease of traveling about the country and our hospitality, we could develop this new market.”

Eauchongprasit’s comments came at a meeting in Bangkok that included the five-member TEMBA team, their professors, and 20 executives from the Tourism Authority. Each member of the TEMBA team is already an accomplished executive in America, and the group was in Bangkok to deliver an interim report to the Tourism Authority. They will return in February with the final results of their research.

Cal State Hayward’s College of Business and Economics has extensive experience in this type of effort with the Thai government and corporations. Through its TEMBA and Asian International Marketing programs, the university has conducted 22 such studies in the last 10 years. Another team recently presented a report in Bangkok on a product study it completed in the United States for Plan Creations, a major Thai toy company.

“Many Americans 50 and older are looking for cost-effective alternatives for a ‘longstay’ vacation experience and a lot of them choose places such as Florida and Hawaii,” the Tourism Authority executive group was told by TEMBA team member Kim Smith, a business development manager for Hertz Corp. in Burlingame, Calif. “The potential market is huge, especially when considering the great difference in the cost of living in Thailand compared with the United States.”

The exchange rate for the Thai baht has been running at about 43 to the U.S. dollar this year, a strong selling point for older tourists on a budget, Smith told the Tourism Authority executives.

TEMBA team members explained that their research will move into phases that include interviews with experts in the tourism industry, focus groups with experienced travelers and potential visitors, and consumer surveys. Perceptions of issues such as personal safety and Thailand’s distance also will be sought.

“Of the top 40 countries visited by U.S. residents for overnight travel in 2000, Thailand ranked No. 28,” the Tourism Authority was told by TEMBA team member Charles Jang, a project manager at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, Calif. “It’s a market share of about 4.7 percent, but there is a lot of potential for growth.”

As they described their six research objectives, TEMBA team members B.H. Teh and Viola Chung reported to the Tourism Authority executives that much of the data they need has not previously been collected. Teh is senior finance manager for LSI Logic in Milpitas, Calif., and Chung was most recently director of network design services at Repeater Technologies in Sunnyvale, Calif.

“It is true that we are considering a whole new market with this study,” said a representative of the Tourism Authority’s Intelligence Department. “We can help by setting up focus groups here in Thailand, too, with those who have experience with longstay guests in the areas of Chang Mai and the Mekong River.”

He added that a significant attraction to those considering long visits in Thailand might be the opportunity for tourists to study Thai techniques of meditation. He suggested that assistance in collecting data on Thaliand could come from Bangkok’s Thammasat University. Professor Buarat Srinil, head of the Marketing Department at Thammasat,, arranged the TEMBA team visit to the Tourism Authority.
“I expect that we’ll find people who will want to visit here for quite a length of time in order to have a complete cultural experience,” said Deputy Governor Eauchongprasit, who assumed his post in July. “Currently, American tourists with a passport can stay in Thailand for up to 60 days without a visa, and they can get a 30-day extension. Maybe this research will show us that we need a special visa for those who want to visit for up to a year.”

Eauchongprasit said Thailand set up one of its first international tourist offices in New York City 25 years ago and has recently added one in Los Angeles.

“We’ve been working with the Los Angeles office for the Tourism Authority, but we need to extend that cooperation so we can understand all of the unique characteristics of Thailand,” said Christopher Mark, TEMBA team member and manager of security for the western region of Federal Express in Oakland, Calif. “One area where our work will be of particular help to them is looking closely is who their competitors are in the longstay market. That could mean a state like Hawaii or a country like Mexico.”

“Basically, our group is going to work as a public relations firm for the country of Thailand,” Mark said. “TEMBA is a real challenge, but at what other university could I be an advisor for a whole country? This is the greatest experience of my life.”

The TEMBA team was in Bangkok at the same time that a summit of 13 Asian nations was held in Beijing to discuss how to revive the region’s sagging tourism market, which is reeling from the effects of the SARS outbreak, the war in Iraq, an armed forces mutiny in the Philippines in July, and five bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia this year. Travel advisories from western nations have cautioned their citizens about travel to the region.

“Thailand has so much going for it as a tourist destination that it is bound to bounce back,” said professor Shyam Kamath, director of the Cal State Hayward TEMBA program. “But the strength of that bounce will depend on getting out key messages and developing new markets. Our TEMBA team will show just how that can be done with the longstay tourism market.”

Media Contact: Kim Huggett, Director of Public Affairs, (510) 885-2032


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