Amazing Thailand is the slogan for the lands of the smile travel and tourism promotions. Tourism is booming in Thailand’s but this boom is causing serious problems and the bureaucracy is ill-equipped to fix them.
This interview with Weerasak Kowsurat sheds light on the current state of Thailands tourism industry.
Hon.Weerasak Kowsurat, Minister of Tourism Kingdom of Thailand: “The problems have been swept under the rug for 30 years now. At this time, it’s being lifted up a little,” the 52-year-old Harvard law school graduate said in an interview. “I don’t have enough time to change the rug. What I will do is pull the corners. You can show what’s under the rug if you grab the right corner.”
Unlike the predecessor he replaced in November, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, a media-savvy figure known for her always-rosy take on Thai tourism – Weerasak is a policy pedant with a gloomier take on it’s mismanagement.
He does not shy from the critics either.
“We share the same wishes,” Weerasak said of the commentators who criticize his agency, switching to English. “But we don’t seem to have the right tools [to fix the problems]. What we have are paper regulations.”
This isn’t Weerasak’s first time on the job. The technocrat held the post twice in 2008, a turbulent year marked by months-long street protests that brought down two governments and briefly occupied Bangkok’s international airports.
Weerasak, who in high school spent a year in the United States as an exchange student, also remembered it as his own turbulent time. He was only given three days notice he would head the ministry. Prior to the job, he had never worked in tourism.
“I got the job right in the peak of sport day,” Weerasak said, using a reference to the color-coded political crisis pitting Redshirts against Yellowshirts.