The political emergency that prompted the postponement of the annual Thailand Travel Mart to September is over, and even though tourism officials are optimistic that the temporary crisis will not have long-term consequences, the Royal Thai Government is working hard to rebuild confidence in the country’s reputation as a welcoming host. Internally, that means quickly addressing the damage sustained to Bangkok’s infrastructure and externally, rebuilding confidence in the country’s tourism product—both in time for the upcoming peak travel season. It’s important to know that 99% of the country, “especially the destinations where international travelers prefer to go, were not involved in the political protests,” said Srisuda Wanapinyosak, director of the Tourist Authority of Thailand office for the Eastern U.S. and Canada. “Perhaps the most difficult element for us was the interruption in what the people of Thailand love to do, which is to welcome visitors with grace and warmth,” she added. “It was hard for that culture to be placed temporarily on hold.”
Teaching English, building roads, revitalizing schools, and protecting wildlife are not usually the first things that come to mind when most people think of romantic getaways. However, couples, families and even co-workers are rejuvenating their relationships or bonding as a corporate team as they work together on service projects overseas.
It was a packed auditorium at the official opening of INDABA 2010 at the International Convention Center in Durban. The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, took to the stage and after formalities, it was down to business. “Investment leaves us poised to grow as a nation and destination into the future,” said Zuma, referring to the billions of dollars spent on developing the country’s infrastructure, which underwent a major overhaul for the World Cup 2010. He continued that after the World Cup, South Africa would have more skilled people working in tourism and a better tourism infrastructure in place to help grow the economy. The World Cup alone is currently delivering about 350,000 more foreign visitors this year that would, in the medium to long-term, result in greater repeat visits and word of mouth recommendations for the destination. Upon his closing remarks, the applause was deafening and the crowd energized as the beat of drums gave way to traditional African dance and a performance by one of South Africa’s top the music groups, TKZEE. From the energy fueled by this opening ceremony, to the almost 13,000 people in attendance, one of the largest travel shows in the world got underway with a theme carried throughout the next few days…South Africa is ready!
“Yalla Yalla,” my tour guide, Ibrahim, shouts over to me. It’s a term I have become familiar with during my trip to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. “Yalla Yalla” in Arabic translates to “Let’s move it,” or “Hurry up,” a phrase I came to ignore, as I wanted to soak in every bit of beauty Jordan was offering up to me. The Jordan Tourism Board North America, with Malia Asfour at its helm as director, has made huge strides in positioning this peaceful Middle Eastern country as a viable mainstream destination for Americans, and with Petra recently named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, they may have finally been rewarded with a well-deserved prize. So, how to effectively sell this destination? If you look at the facts, it’s pretty simple. For clients who are a bit skeptical about visiting the Middle East, Jordan may be the perfect introduction. The country is a U.S. ally with western attitudes and Middle Eastern tradition. And, with English as their second language, maneuvering one’s way around the country is no sweat. Its biggest selling point, besides housing one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, is its place in biblical history.