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Thai tourism has a new face

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By Luc Citrinot, eTN Staff Writer | Aug 02, 2009

Thai tourism has a new face
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BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) - Confronted by a sharp slump in tourist arrivals, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is stepping up its communication efforts to regain its position as a leading tourist destination in Southeast Asia—by putting a new face on Thai tourism.

His cute face turns the head of youngsters in Thailand but also in Korea. Singer Nichkhun Horvejkul, 21 years old, is one of the most popular pop-star singers these days in Southeast Asia. “He is handsome, charming, had lot of talent and speaks perfectly Thai, English, Korean and starts to learn Mandarin,” commented Mrs. Jutthaporn Rerngronasa, deputy-governor for Marketing Communication at the TAT.

Young Nichkhun is indeed becoming the new idol of Thailand tourism authorities for the promotion of the kingdom. A comedic-style video that shows Nichkhun playing golf, eating a lobster, practicing Thai traditional boxing or splashing water for the Songkran Festival, will be display in the Korean market. The tagline of the campaign is “Come to Thailand; Lets take a break!” and it will be promoted via a specific website, www.nichkhunbreak.com.

According to Mrs. Jutthaporn, TAT especially looks at the youth market that is more flexible and is very keen to come for a short fun break. “Nichkhun is the first celebrity to helps us to promote tourism in Asian markets, which have been severely battered by internal and external factors such as the recession, political instability as well as the H1N1 virus”.

According to the deputy-governor, more campaigns are planned for neighboring and Northeast Asia markets such as Japan, China or Singapore. “In the longer term, we would also like to use celebrities in overseas markets such as in Europe. It is an effective way to promote the attractions of our kingdom,” added Mrs. Jutthaporn.

Strengthening its communication tools to the public as well as the trade seems to be the core of TAT action for the time being. In parallel to the “Let’s take a break” campaign, TAT has appointed the agency Aziam Burson-Marsteller to look to create a new web portal dedicated exclusively for international media.

Consultations are ongoing with Thai professionals as well as media to define the future content of the portal. “It would act as a one-shop portal where media will find all kind of information, from thematic press kits to releases, statistics or opportunities to contact TAT staff to organize interviews. It would be open to media 24 hours a day with the guarantee to offer answers,” explained the head of the team involved into the future web portal.

The portal seems an excellent idea to promote tourism or give Thailand’s position in case of problems affecting tourism. However, it will request a complete retraining of staff. And more important, TAT will have to explain in depth to other partners the importance of efficient communication.

The negative advertising that Thailand received recently is also due in fact to the inability of many companies to react immediately and communicate. In Asia, negative events are considered as a loss of face and are mostly ignored. This cultural behavior will have to change if Thailand wants to have its voice heard. The future website should be launched over the next few months with TAT highlighting the fact that it will exclusively deal with requests attached to tourism topics.

“Thaksin, violence in the Southern part of the country will for example not be part of the website. We would however advised media to ask the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in such cases,” explained one of TAT officials involved into the project.



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