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Bloggers to the rescue to change global perceptions of traveling to Thailand.
Sunday, 1st June 2014
Source : Digital Innovation Asia
While the world is watching the media reports of the military coup in Thailand and governments are warning against non-essential travel to Thailand, the Thai tourism industry is experiencing another punch to the gut.

Let’s face it: Times are tough right now in Thailand. Tourist numbers have dropped in Bangkok since the political unrest started back in November, and now due to martial law, military coup, and curfews, the entire country has experienced empty streets after 10pm.

However, there is reason for optimism. In many other countries, a coup would be result in bloodshed, alarm, mass fights, and refugee camps. But in Thailand, the coup is generally greeted by its citizens with a sense of relief. Martin Craigs, CEO of Bangkok-based Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) comments, “the day-time tourism experience in Thailand, despite the imposition of martial law and the curfew hasn't substantially changed. Many I have spoken to since returning to Bangkok at the weekend believe the country is safer due to the military coup, and believe in the short term it will bring order and in the medium term hopefully political reconciliation.”

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is going forward with Thailand Travel Mart (TTM+), their annual travel trade show on June 4-6, hosting travel agents and media from all over the world. It remains to be seen how many will show up this year.

But one innovative initiative may actually change perceptions. In cooperation with TAT and endorsed by industry associations from ASEAN, PATA, SKAL, and the American Chamber of Commerce, over 20 influential travel bloggers have been recruited by Digital Innovation Asia to be matched up at the 2nd Blogger Matchup Speed Dating event in Bangkok at the Marriott Sukhumvit Thonglor on June 2, 2014.

Gerrit Graef, General Manager of the hotel remarks, “We are very excited to be the host venue for such an important and critical event during these challenging times. Leveraging the power of social media, and authentic self-publishing by influential bloggers, instagrammers, and travel storytellers might just convince tourists that Thailand is still a safe and wonderful tourism destination. Now more than ever, innovative solutions are needed to help secure the livelihood of so many that depend on tourism.”

Thapanee Kiatphaibool of the Tourism Authority of Thailand summarizes the attitude of the Thai people and reaches out on social media: "For all tourists in Thailand, please don't worry at all. No matter what happens in Thailand, you will be treated in the very best way with full warm hearts and hospitality from the Thai people."

The first Blogger Matchup event, held in 2013 in Bangkok, sponsored by TAT, the lebua Hotel, Pullman Hotel G, Khiri Travel, and TripShow.com tested this globally unique concept. Before the high-energy speed-dating event, sessions educated the industry on how to work with bloggers, engage in effective blogger outreach, and get the highest return from blogger engagement. This year, like last year, bloggers are hosted by various hotels in Bangkok, and also go on blogger tours to experience the destination.

While the first Blogger Matchup had rave ‎reviews, the upcoming Blogger Matchup might be even more critical and important to support the Thai tourism industry today. One testimonial reads: "Digital Innovation Asia and Blogger Matchup is without a doubt one of the most outstanding and relevant events in Asia to connect travel writers, bloggers, and social media professionals with the tourism industry. Unlike other similar international events, a rigorous selection process is in place via the BloggerMatchup.com search-engine."

Research has shown that consumers trust content from bloggers and social media when making their purchase decisions due to its authentic and storytelling nature. ‎The Technorati Digital Influence Report (2013) revealed that while blogs and influencers don’t get a large portion of brands’ digital expenditure, they rank high with consumers for trust, popularity and influence. With regard to overall sources for information on the internet, blogs rank among the top five “most trustworthy” sources.  As an example, according to consumers, blogs are more influential in shaping opinion than Twitter, and when it comes to affecting purchase decisions, more important than Facebook.

According to Jens Thraenhart, Founder of Digital Innovation Asia, the creator of Blogger Matchup‎, "we have been working for over six months to recruit some of the most influential, passionate, and relevant travel bloggers from Europe, North America, Australia, Asia, as well as China, and develop the BloggerMatchup.com system where bloggers register for free to be considered for Blogger Matchup events. We welcome the tourism industry from hotels, tour operators, golf courses, spas, restaurants, retail, river cruises, and attractions to get engaged with these digital influencers to help tell the story to the world that Thailand is a safe and exciting tourism destination."

He continues, “It’s become a common joke that you can’t trust what you read on the internet, but research shows that more and more, consumers are looking to bloggers before they buy.“

The most popular online publishers tend to be honest and transparent when they talk about products and services, which drives their credibility. By repeatedly connecting with their audience and establishing their areas of expertise, bloggers become trusted sources of information. More and more blog readers agree that bloggers offer an authentic voice, which can be a deciding factor in tourism-related choices. Well-trusted and well-read travel blogs have thousands of subscribers, Facebook fans, Twitter, Instagram followers and search engine traffic. In summary, getting featured in local and international travel blogs can shape opinions, as well as promote destinations and brands, especially for new and complex niche and source markets.

Valen Dawson, of influential travel blog ThisWayToParadise.com and participant at the upcoming Blogger Matchup ‎has arrived a week early in Bangkok to check out the situation. She has already written a post that has been shared on social media many times. She mentioned that she already received messages from travelers from all over the world, as well as travel companies in Thailand, praising her for the article.

Dusit International, probably the most traditional Thai hotel company with properties in all of the major Thai tourism destinations ‎except Koh Samui, has noticed demand for Thailand naturally be affected by the constant images of the military over the past few days. David Shackleton, COO of Dusit International praises Blogger Matchup as an innovative mechanism to change global traveler’s perception in the age of digital influence and the social traveler.

He says, "In times like these, we cannot rely on traditional methods but need to be creative and think out of the box. Bringing influential travel bloggers to Thailand, welcoming and engaging with them, so they portrait their real authentic experiences in passionate storytelling is what we need now more than ever. After all, this may need to be the new way forward when it comes to effective guerilla marketing."

William Haandrikman, General Manager of the Sofitel Hotel Bangkok mentioned on a panel at the recent International Hotel Investment Forum Asia Pacific in Bangkok organized by Questex: “For the majority of the Accor brands, the hotel group sees the growing opportunity with bloggers as they write about their own experiences and have a dedicated group of followers.”

Digital Innovation Asia COO Olivier Dombey urges travel companies to get involved in Blogger Matchup to support Thailand tourism and become a partner to make the initiative as impactful it can be. He explains "we made a tough decision to postpone the DIA Awards and the E-Tourism Asia Boot Camp to September 1 in order to fully focus on the successful execution of Blogger Matchup on June 2. Due to our strong relationships and endorsement with the public and private tourism sector, we are actively working on bringing the Blogger Matchup event and the E-Tourism Asia Boot Camps to other destinations in the Asia Pacific region to help with digital capacity building and innovative destination promotion via storytelling."

More information can be found at www.diASIAevents.com and limited spots are available to connect with bloggers during Blogger Matchup on June 2 at the Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit Thonglor. DIA is supported by media partners including 4Hoteliers, eGlobal Travel Media, TravelDailyNews.asia, TTR Weekly, Travel Mole, and Bangkok 101.

About Digital Innovation Asia:  (DIA), an affiliate member of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is committed to being a catalyst for digital capacity development in Asia Pacific travel and tourism. The rise of Internet technologies, mobile, and social media can enable small and medium travel and tourism enterprises to compete globally. DIA hosts unique and innovative events where Blogger Matchup allows travel and tourism brands to get connected to top influential bloggers from all over the world, while the E-Tourism Asia and E-Tourism China Boot-Camps offers hands-on practical knowledge in the areas of social, mobile, and China digital marketing.
For more information, please visit 
www.DigitalinnoationAsia.com.

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