Skift Take

Quality tourism is a term that has been bandied about by Southeast Asian destinations. It’s high time they stop and give real thought to it.

The problem with destinations that profess wanting quality tourism is they don’t actually know what it is that they want.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Laos are among the countries that have at one time or another said they wanted quality tourism. 

But what is quality tourism? To some, a low spender who appreciates and cares for the environment is worth his weight in gold compared to a rich traveler who cares less. Others really just want high spenders but dare not say so outright, as this may come across as crass and upset the lesser-spending lot — whom they also want.

Ideally, quality tourism should be inclusive, welcoming both rich and poor guests who respect a country’s people, their culture and heritage, their tourism jewels. It should have healthy, responsible businesses that can grow and enrich the travel industry ecosystem and contribute to the economy by creating jobs, training people, and broadening the minds of locals through contact with foreigners. 

If you think about it, that’s what tourism should be. Which means all tourism should be quality; there shouldn’t be a category of “quality tourism” at all.

But tourism is such an easy — and lazy — way to increase a country’s coffers, when actually countries should have their brainiest people working on a tourism plan: not only setting up a seamless infrastructure and encouraging developments that support the vision but also setting rules and ensuring they’re enforced to rid tourism of scourges such as corruption and the like.

Alas, a tourism plan is usually done by what we in Asia call the NTO (national tourism organization), despite tourism enveloping a gamut of economic sectors. 

An NTO alone does not have the power to produce an effective plan. That’s why an NTO’s vision of how to increase revenues is almost always done from a marketing perspective. Want more higher-paying customers? Go market to the upper-income groups in quality markets (re: wealthy). Avoid overtourism? Go market more during low seasons.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is a good example, as our story shows. This NTO has done a marvelous job promoting Thailand. As it turns 60 years old, it makes a vow to go after quality tourism. It’s a sweet promise, well meant.

But misplaced.

— Raini Hamdi, Skift Asia Editor, [email protected], @RainiHamdi

Skift Stories and More Expert Insights

Thailand Tourism Body Needs More Than Marketing Prowess as It Turns 60: It’s one of the most astute destination marketers around, but the Tourism Authority of Thailand is facing a different test of skills as it turns 60 years old next year. Will it be as artful in developing “responsible tourism” for the kingdom?

Harbor views from Marco Polo Hotel Hong Kong. Will calm return to the city? Photo: Wharf Hotels Management

Hong Kong Tourism Starts to Feel Impact as Pro-Democracy Protests Rage On: Major Hong Kong hotels expect to report lower earnings for the year but believe that the city will retain its global standing as one of the world’s biggest tourism hubs in the long term.

Trump Hotels’ Indonesian Partner Invests in Budget Hotel Startup RedDoorz: RedDoorz’ latest funding round includes two interesting new investors, Qiming and MNC Group. It says a lot about the potential of budget accommodation in Southeast Asia, a region that is also being pursued by Oyo.

Marriott’s Alibaba Joint Venture in China Is Part of Its Direct-Booking Strategy: Marriott could do a lot worse than tying its fortunes in China to the e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba. Rest assured that this won’t be the last big partnership for Marriott in the country. These are, after all, early days.

Might Travelzoo Find a Company Buyer in China? Travelzoo’s founder Ralph Bartel has seen the value of his investment in the public company go from north of a billion to less than $100 million over two decades. Could the chairman of the company be seeking an exit with a sale to a buyer in Asia?

Genting’s Dream Cruises Leadership Change Won’t Rock the Boat: Thatcher Brown has done a lot for Dream Cruises, and the last thing Genting wants to do at this time is appoint a successor who will make waves. Michael Goh is a perfect fit.

Asia Editor Raini Hamdi [[email protected]] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.

Subscribe to Skift’s Free Asia Weekly Newsletter


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: alibaba, genting, hong kong, marriott, reddoorz, skift asia weekly, thailand, Travelzoo

Photo credit: Trisara, a beach resort in Phuket, Thailand. Tourism Authority of Thailand marks 60 years in operation with a push toward responsible tourism. Can it deliver on this promise? Trisara

Up Next

Loading next stories