ITB Berlin 2018 which took place ten days ago could be considered a historical one for the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which, for the first time in its history, acknowledged officially the existence of LGBT market in its tourism strategy. It is a huge revolution in the perception of the gay and lesbian travel market which officials do not perceive anymore as ‘sex-motivated’.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has been present at ITB Berlin for many decades, its participation to Europe’s largest travel show being a familiar feature in the exhibition halls dedicated to Asia. However, the 2018 edition will be remember as a historical one. For the first time, Thailand became the ‘Presenting Partner’ for the LGBT Travel Pavilion, which is the world’s largest display of products and services dedicated to the growing segment of gay and lesbian travel.
Catering for LGBT is to look to a segment which is assumed to represent 3% to 7% of the world’s population. If applying the same ratio to the total world travelling population, it would translate into a number fluctuating between 40 and 93 million travellers!
“LBGT travel is now booming in many countries. This has opened up new markets and created new travel experiences such as honeymoon tourism or rainbow family cruises”, stated Rika Jean-François, CSR Officer ITB Berlin.
That Thailand officially acknowledged the LGBT market and endorsed it at ITB Berlin as “Presenting Partner of ITB Berlin 2018 LGBT Travel” is a true milestone in the marketing history of TAT. Thailand has always been opened to gay and lesbian travellers, the Kingdom having an important LGBT community which is very visible. Thailand has been consequently for a long time a favourite destination for LGBT travellers. However, this segment had never been endorsed officially by the Kingdom’s tourism marketing agency. Until recently, authorities were reluctant as they perceived gay and lesbian travel as ‘sex-motivated’.
Only few at TAT were in public recognising the necessity to look after the LGBT market as any other niche segments. The first one has been Mrs. Srisuda Wanapinyosak, today Deputy Governor International Marketing for Europe, North America and the Middle-East. As head of TAT office in New York, she unveiled a couple of years ago a local campaign towards LGBT communities in New York and its surroundings. ” I am glad we moved forward and finally made the LGBT part of our marketing strategy”, she said at ITB Berlin.
“Times have definitely changed and we, at TAT, had to move forwards. To recognise the important contribution of the LGBT market is a natural step. First because we are intrinsically an open country with a tolerant society accepting all ways of life. It is actually part of our culture”, told TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn, prior to his official speech in front of LGBT travel exhibitors and journalists.
The launching of the new campaign ‘Open to the New Shades”, showing all the various aspects of Thai tourism and promoting the individual discovery of Thailand was certainly the perfect opportunity to integrate the rainbow flag to its ‘New Shades’
“TAT is actually honoured to be part of the LGBT Travel at ITB Berlin 2018 and to have been named ‘ITB Berlin LGBT Presenting Partner’. Without a doubt the LGBT market has always been important and we will continue our efforts to position Thailand as a leading destination to the LGBT community in Southeast Asia,” stressed TAT Governor . “Our Kingdom is open to every possible shade under the rainbow. Moreover, equality is the cornerstone of Thainess”, he added.
TAT will go gradually into that market, all in subtle nuances as they are still some conservative views over the LGBT market in some circles. In its recent worldwide advertising campaign around the “Open to the New Shades”, a few shots showed a male couple going together clubbing and watching a sunrise over a Northern Thailand mountain. A dedicated LGBT video “Open to the New Shades” and a brochure “Go Thai… Be Free” (also the name of a special LGBT blog) have been presented in Berlin. They are just a beginning…