Tourism in Thailand Gets More Social

The latest Tourism Authority of Thailand Marketing Conference, hosted on Monday in Bangkok, will put more emphasize at promoting second-tier destinations to reduce the wealth gap between provinces and give a change to local people to reap the benefits of tourism. A truly new social dimension in the marketing history of the TAT!

At the peak of the cold war, a speech in Thailand about the benefits of social equality among Thailand classes would have certainly raise an eyebrow from many and even considered as devoted to a ‘communist’ theory.

But not today. Social differences in Thailand and the reduction of the wealth gap between opulent Bangkok and less favoured provinces is turning into a central point of the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha. And everyone seems to agree that tourism has a major role to play.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is consequently reorienting its communication and marketing efforts. During TAT annual conference, TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn made a plea to drive its tourism promotion in a more social-related way.

The new impulse is particularly supported Thailand current Minister of Tourism and Sports, Weerasak Kowsurat who opened the conference. “We must grow tourism these days around three values: spreading the benefits of tourism to all Thais without distinction; sustainability of the tourism product; empathy for all travellers,” indicated the Minister.

Tourism is seen now as an essential factor to help bringing benefits to all social classes of Thailand. “We must be now different in our approach to tourism by spreading benefits of the tourism activity to second-tier destinations, to individuals, small communities. Tourism is not only for big companies. Tourism is indeed the best way to close the gap between Thailand various social classes,” stressed Weerasak Kowsurat.

The Minister wants also to promote a more sustainable approach to tourism development. “We need to understand more the context of the destination, but also its social-economic roots. Not to forget of course environmental issues and be strict to protect destinations from over-commercialisation,” added the Minister.

The third value is about empathy. “It actually drives many aspects of tourism approach. We must help and protect people in tourism business, locals and guests alike. One of the aspects of this caring feeling is to provide travellers with high safety standards and fair rules without compromising,” said Mr. Kowsurat.

TAT Governor Yutasak Supasorn could only agree with the Minister’s vision and bring TAT expertise. “Tourism is not just a matter of an individual feeling happy travelling somewhere. Actually, it is also a mean to raise social consciousness and help people. Tourism is a way for many to be exposed to new experiences, learning from others and exchanging,” he explained.

TAT is consequently looking at ways to turn a Thai holiday into an inclusive travel experience. “Promoting second-tier destinations is to bring money to communities everywhere in the country but we should not lose the focus of doing it in a sustainable respectful way. Environment but also the need to preserve local traditions are essential,” stressed Mr. Supasorn.

TAT has already identified second-tier cities and destinations which can now be promoted to international travellers. “We have some 55 cities and 29 communities being ready to be exposed to foreign markets. We first will associate second-tier cities to internationally better-exposed destinations. For example Lampang or Lamphun can be combined with a trip to Chiang Mai,” described TAT Governor.

Gastronomy which is an essential element of tourism promotion for Thailand has been identified as a perfect driver of this social orientation of tourism. “Gastronomy is appreciated by all, particularly by Gen Y and Millenial travellers. Culinary is also a way to empower local initiatives and protect as well the environment with organic high quality products,” estimated Yuthasak Supasorn.

Thailand is looking at a more moderate growth in arrivals in the year to come although the total number of tourists should not be less than 10% in 2018…