Tourism Authority of Thailand says this year’s Thailand Travel Mart’s welcome reception will honour foreign travel-related professionals who have supported Thailand’s tourism.

It was decided to move the awards presentation for the 2013 “Friends of Thailand,” which is normally part of the annual Thailand Tourism Awards to the TTM to add value to the show.

The welcome reception this year will adopt a street food theme to reflect the country’s most popular dining activity.

Many of the Friends of Thailand awardees are from international markets and they usually attend the travel mart. The officials travel awards presentations are made later in the year, July or August, at an industry cocktail hosted by TAT at the close of its annual marketing plan meeting.

Started in 1996, the awards honour foreigners who have supported Thailand’s tourism industry.

At present, 395 sellers have paid for booths at TTM,  309 or 78.23% are repeat sellers, while 86 or 21.77% are new participants to the show.

As the events strives to build business for niche markets, TAT reserved slots for speciallised products health and wellness, golf, ecotourism and weddings/honeymoons.

TAT governor Suraphon Svetasreni said: “We will promote niche-market tourism as we move into a new era of marketing and development. This year, it will be more evident than ever as the entire structure of TTM+ is geared towards this strategy and connecting the right buyer to the right seller.”

At press time there were 22 sellers from the health and wellness segment, nine from wedding and honeymoon, six from ecotourism, and three from golf.

TAT is flagging niche markets as the driver that makes the event different from other trade fairs, but it has not been easy to attract operators from niches as most of them lack promotional funds, or are not convinced of the value of presenting their products to the trade.

They are asking TAT to clarify how many buyers will attend the show that have a track record in their specific markets. In the past, the TTM has followed the identical buyer format adopted by most shows in the region. The buyers are mainly sending groups to the region and are not specialising in any particular segment. This is borne out in the boxes they tick on the buyer registration form. The majority tick  most of the travel segment boxes as part of their business mix rather than just  a few niche markets.

There are 413 registered buyers so far. The first 10 major buyer nationalities are: India (51); UK (38); Thailand (23); Australia (23); Russia (20); US (18); South Korea (17); Israel (11); Italy (10); and New Zealand (10).

Thailand buyers are mainly companies that represent major tour operators overseas, but they also create their own tours to Mekong Region countries. Some of them are online travel agencies such as Agoda. There are also a few large domestic travel firms included.

Nine travel associations will participate; five national tourism offices from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China’s Guangxi; 20 companies from the Greater Mekong Subregion, 266 hotels and resorts, 31 tour operators and travel agents, 12 entertainment/theme park/cultural products, six each representing transportation companies and other travel services.

The 10 official hotels are: Chatrium Hotel Riverside; Holiday Inn Express Bangkok Siam; The Imperial Queen’s Park; Mercure & Ibis Bangkok Silom; Montien Riverside Silom; Novotel Bangkok IMPACT; Novotel Bangkok Fenix Silom; Pathumwan Princess; Swissotel Le Concorde Bangkok; and The Sukosol (Siam City).

The 12th TTM+ 2013 will be held 5 to 7 June at the Exhibition Centre Hall, IMPACT, Muang Thong Thani located in the northern suburbs of Bangkok.

Last year, TTM+2012 welcomed  1,000 participants including 420 sellers and 409 buyers from 61 countries