Gambia Minister Remarks over Sex Tourism Generate Explanation in Thailand

Sex tourism in Thailand is a recurrent topic for many decades. If it does still exist, it represents an extremely tiny portion of the motivation to travel to the Kingdom. But stereotypes are hard to die…

A few days ago, Gambia Minister of Tourism told visitors that if they wanted to go for sex, they should rather chose Thailand instead of its country. “We are not a sex destination. If you want a sex destination, you go to Thailand. The Gambia is not a sex destination. We are not, we are not and please every Gambian must sing that song,” Minister Hamat Bah said in an interview in January, which was republished a few days ago on an online website.

This sparked a dipomatic row with Thai authorities but also forced them to provide explanation and rectify the Minister comment.

It first started with Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. According to the Bangkok Post, the Prime Minister declared that Thailand has to change its image of being a sex tourism destination. “We have to accept that some people make a living from this kind of occupation. Therefore, we have to help solve the problems both in the careers and income of these people. More importantly, we have to look into whether these people are happy to change their occupation or not,” the prime minister said. He added that some people decide on their own will to work in the sex business.

“Everything must improve. We have for example to make Pattaya and other tourism areas quality tourist attractions and free them of sex tourism”, he was quoted by the Bangkok Post.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Weerasak Kowsurat said the ministry will continue to work on promoting the country as a preferred destination for international visitors as well as improving tourism products and services and ensuring that secondary provinces become new destinations for visitors from around the world. Over the last decade, Thailand did actually a remarkable job to diversify its tourism image by offering tailor-made tourism products. This is even the heart of the current campaign of TAT “Open to the New Shades” which highlight individual experience in the Kingdom.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) stepped in to also defend the changes which occurred in the Thai travel industry.

TAT ensures that its marketing strategy and policy to move Thailand forward as the ‘Quality Destination’ has stepped in the right direction since it was paid off by last year’s success, and strongly opposes any form of sex tourism.

Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor, said: “As the Thai government’s official body promoting Thailand to international and local travellers while supporting the development of the country’s tourism industry for nearly 58 years, our mission is to highlight tourism’s importance to national economic development, job creation, income distribution, and the prominent role it plays in enhancing social integration and preserving the environment. 

Mr. Yuthasak also added that “Over the past few years, TAT has actively focused on promoting Thailand as a ‘Quality Leisure Destination’ that highlights a new era of tourism as measured by visitor expenditure, average length of stay, and the overall quality of visitor experience.” 

TAT has stepped up efforts to coordinate with all concerned authorities and organisations in the public and private sectors to create a better understanding on Thailand’s tourism and the country’s well-established positioning as a ‘quality tourism destination’.