Thailand Tourism Embraces AI to Cement Global Status as Premier 'Lifestyle' Travel Haven"
Thailand’s position as the world’s leading “lifestyle” travel destination was the hot topic of discussion at Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF) 2024
Debates at the Thailand Tourism Forum 2024 (TTF), held at the InterContinental Bangkok yesterday, centered around Thailand's global prominence as a leading "lifestyle" travel destination. Within this discourse, Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerged as a crucial catalyst for the future success of the nation's tourism sector.
Initiated by Bill Barnett, TTF stands as Thailand's foremost platform for discussions on travel and tourism. Each January, industry leaders from both governmental and private spheres eagerly converge at this annual forum to glean insights and indicators shaping the future trends of the sector.
Asserting that every tourism entity and hotel operates as an AI company, Barnett, also the managing director of C9 Hotelworks, issued a call to action. He emphasized the imperative for the hospitality industry to re-embrace its foundational service culture, viewing AI as a tool to liberate human resources, allowing the sector to refocus on its core – people.
“With the lightening development of AI, this is a call to action for hospitality to return to its roots of a service culture as technology frees up human resources and allows our industry to focus on what is important – people. AI is not a shadow cast over hospitality, it’s a bright shining light.”
The myth that AI is creating a less personable industry was busted by keynote speaker from Google Thailand, Aditip Panupong (Term), Industry Head of Strategic Partnerships. “With travellers spending more time planning, businesses can leverage AI to simplify their journey and make their experiences more personalized and seamless than ever before," he said.
Thailand’s tourism journey is a 40-year plus story, but its evolution is one that emphasizes experience, reflecting changing tastes and aspirations. This proves that “lifestyle” is the new tourism mantra transcending tiers of hotels and focusing on individual, bite-sized travel encounters. It is one that has taken creativity and innovation which will be key to maintain, delegates heard.
“With its long tourism history, entrepreneurial spirit, design interest and attraction from investors, it makes perfect sense that this segment is growing in Thailand. Naturally we see more hotels coming up primarily in Bangkok and Phuket, but there is also an interest in smaller markets across the country when you look at the hotel pipeline,” said Jesper Palmqvist, Senior Director Asia Pacific – STR, a CoStar Group company.
Of the key lifestyle drivers – localised experiences, design, art, wellbeing and technology – F&B has been a dominant factor. “Gastronomy has been central in creating elevated lifestyle experiences in Thailand,” said Tourism Authority of Thailand Deputy Governor, Nithee Seeprae. “The Michelin Guide has promoted high-quality dining in Thailand around the world and we will continue to build and enlarge this profile moving forward.”
If there was one hotel that has done more to highlight “lifestyle” more than any other it is the pioneering IHG’s Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, the first hotel in Thailand to allow pets.
“For us it is what we call the discovery effect to create engagement. Our guests identify with it whether it is through F&B, grass roots collaborations or personal delivery. We very much focus on people rather than roles in our hiring. This makes a huge difference,” said Patrick Both, Regional General Manager - Luxury and Lifestyle Thailand, IHG Hotels & Resorts.
Individualism, privacy and unique dining experiences are the keys for Iniala Group, with the ultra-chic celebrity hideaway of Iniala Beach House showcasing this on Natai Beach, just north of Phuket.
“Our world revolves around the individual. We create exceptional choices and experiences for our guests,” said Mark Weingard, Founder, Iniala Group who recently opened Aulis, a 15-seat chef’s table experience at Iniala Beach House run by Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan and executive chef Oli Marlow.