Post-event Recap: PDMF 2019

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Well known for its beach vibes, lively nightlife, and modern facilities, Thailand’s eastern coastal city of Pattaya revealed new shades of its attractions to travel professionals across the world through the PATA Destination Marketing Forum 2019, held last week on November 27-29, 2019 at the Renaissance Hotel Pattaya Resort and Spa.

Comprising a one-day technical tour and a one-day conference, the event offered delegates the opportunity to experience first-hand the authentic lifestyle of local communities, natural resource management, and community-based tourism attractions through three different routes of the technical tour. 

 Route 1: Royal Pathway to Sustainable Development
Route 2: Learning the Coconut Life, the Hidden Gem of Pattaya 
Route 3: Local Way of Pattaya Rice Farmer

On the following day, delegates took part in the conference which focused on the theme ‘Redefining a Destination: Reviving the Past to Reimagine the Future’ led by both local and international tourism professionals. 

In case you missed it, here are five key take-aways from the sessions.

1.Change is inevitable. Embrace the change. 

Mike Shea, Chief Logistics Officer of South by Southwest (SXSW) kicked off the conference with the story of how SXSW changed the convention of events and consequently transformed a destination completely. 

“Change is inevitable. Our goal as travel and hospitality professionals should be to concentrate the best horizon we can imagine, and then build the road and the bridges that will take us there.”

Mike Shea, Chief Logistics Officer, SXSW

SXSW utilised technology, music, and film to create experiential and immersive events. At times held in non-conventional venues  – from garages to rooftops – attendees found the event more memorable than conventional ones.

The impact of SXSW was explosive, re-inventing the “small town” image of Austin, Texas to now being perceived as cutting edge in the arts and sciences – a leading cultural and event destination for GenNext and Baby Boomers alike.  From 1987 to 2019, the city saw the growth of 283% in population, 337% in air passengers, 733% prime hotel rooms, and 988% exhibition space. In 2019 alone, SXSW has made $355.9 million economic benefit to the city of Austin.

2. Targeting the right market segment can help address overtourism

While tourism boards and destinations across the globe attempt to cope with negative effects of overtourism, the panel discussion on ‘Targeting the Right Market Segments’ presented an alternative side to the terminology by asking this thought-provoking question: “have you ever heard of any company complaining that they have too many clients?”

One approach to addressing overtourism is by defining the right audience – attracting the right visitor at the right time to the right destination. For example, Rwanda realised that their key tourist attraction was the gorilla, but at the same time mass tourism could endanger the habitats of these wild animals. The solution? Targeting high-income, educated Europeans while limiting the number of visitors per day, raising the price, and offering more affordable tour packages to alternative, lesser-known destinations instead.

3. Community-based tourism is the foundation for sustainability.

“Tourism should begin with people. If people are strong, prosperity will come. Prosperity will be of no importance if there’s no people.”

Dr Jutamas (Jan) Wisansing,
Managing, Director, Perfect Link Consulting Group
Founder, Community Innovation Agency

Community-based tourism (CBT) is one of the most important travel approaches of the future with its core idea being the equal distribution of economic benefits. The discussion touched upon the local community of Takientia in Pattaya, which adopted community-based tourism strategy to drive their own economic development. They started with identifying the key tourism product then developing a marketing strategy around it. The CBT project further benefited the community by strengthening the bonds between the local villagers.

4. Universal accessibility is not about specialised design for special-needs people. It is about design that is usable by all. 

“Leave no one behind, this is what the inclusive tourism is all about.” 

Joseph Kwan, Architect and Access Consultant

in Universal Design and Accessibility, Hong Kong SAR

With an estimated 15% of the world’s population with a disability and more than one billion people with special needs worldwide, the market for accessible travel is no longer the niche that it is typically perceived to be. Accessible travel is perhaps the travel industry’s greatest untapped opportunity with millions of people worldwide looking for accessible travel options and growing demand due to aging demographics. To tap into this market, destinations and service providers need to consider design factors in their infrastructure, facilities as well as intangibles such as staff training and marketing campaigns.

5. Consumers increasingly look to social proof for travel inspiration and validation.

With a whopping 2.5 billion pieces of user-generated content (UGC) created everyday, studies have found that UGC play an increasingly influential role in impacting consumer’s purchasing decisions as well as their choice and perceptions of destinations. UGC is found to be 1.8 times more likely to make people interested in travelling to a specific destination than ‘influencer’ photos. Norway, for example, leveraged UGC with a campaign that encouraged travelers to discover the countryside by taking photos of a sheep and post on social media with the hashtag #sheepwithaview. In just two month, in the UK alone, the hashtag reached up to 6 million users, with approximately 800,000 video views, and 98.8 positive overall campaign sentiment.

The conference concluded with a powerful closing speech delivered by Al Merschen, Managing Partner, MMGY/Myriad, USA, emphasising the identity of a destination as key to its marketing and branding efforts:

“As soon as you say you have something for everyone, that means you have nothing. It all comes down to how you introduce yourself, how you define your personality. Only if travellers come to this place on this earth, will they have this specific experience… It is your personality that attracts the audience. Define your personality because other personalities have already been taken.” 

Speaker presentations can be downloaded at

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PDMF 2019: Conference