Small and medium sized entrepreneurs dominated the Thailand Travel Mart Plus Greater Mekong Subregion travel show, according to a Tourism Authority of Thailand assessment posted on its news site Monday.

TAT which organises the annual travel fair said the show attracted 397 buyers from 56 countries and 432 sellers from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR. and Myanmar and Yunnan Province of Southern China.

The hallmark features were SME services ranging from boutique hotels to health and wellness centres. They benefited from attending Thailand’s largest business to business travel trade saving the substantial costs of travelling overseas to network with international buyers.

The top five country buyers were from the UK (33), India (27), Russia (15), Korea (12) and China (11). There were also new buyers from Argentina (3), Brazil (3), Mexico (2) from the Americas, as well as from Algeria (2), Belarus (5), and Latvia (1).

China supplied 1.5 million visits to Thailand during the first four months of this year but it was only represented by 11 buyers, while the UK had three times the representation.

Yunnan Province exhibited, not for the first time as reported by TAT, but after an absence of around 10 years. It made a presentation at a media briefing on how it intended to tap the international buyer market to attract business through the Bangkok gateway.

Myanmar sellers saw the most positive response of all Mekong Region counrtries attending TTM. That was mainly due to the news that most sanctions imposed by the USA and Europe had now been lifted opening the door for international buyers to promote the country on a much larger scale.

Most of the SME exhibitors were boutique hotels and resorts, which have proliferated across Thailand. Although many of them are located on islands and the Andaman Sea coast as well as the Gulf of Thailand, several new ones have emerged in the north and central regions of the country.

Other new products were biking tours, cooking schools, Thai boxing stadiums, health and wellness centres and Thai massage schools. They fit within the TAT’s marketing strategy of promoting “Thainess”.

Organised annually by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the TTM+ is mainly designed to benefit SME travel products and services, especially those who cannot afford the high cost of undertaking marketing trips abroad.

Running concurrently alongside the TTM+ was the Thailand Tourism Festival, a huge consumer-oriented event with an even larger turnout of travel products and services, although directed mostly at the domestic travel market. A number of buyers took the opportunity to visit the festival to get a more “local” flavour of the products available.

In 2013, TAT is projecting that if the global, regional and local situation remains stable, Thailand will receive 24.14 million arrivals, up from 22.5 million last year and generating a projected tourism income of Bt1.1 trillion.