National Legislative Assembly to boost Thailand's image

The National Legislative Assembly is considering attempts to improve the country's image through "quality tourism" strategies and further engaging international agencies to show that Thailand is transitioning to a democratic government.

"We have been through a number of crises including political conflicts, natural disasters - floods and droughts - and the global economic slowdown, but Thailand remains one of world's [most popular] tourist destinations because we have many things to offer," NLA member Pilaipan Sombutsiri said yesterday. "For example, luxury hotels with affordable prices, delicious food and fresh fruit, culture and entertainment activities."

She said the country needed an integrated national public relations campaign to enhance its image in the global community.

She raised this issue at the opening of a seminar organised by the NLA to discuss Thailand's image by providing a brainstorming platform for experts in tourism, social security and international affairs.

Another NLA member, Sakthip Krairiksh, said public relations campaigns must reflect national interests in a constructive way.

Suwat Chirapant, deputy permanent secretary of the Foreign Ministry, acknowledged that the global economic slowdown and Thailand's export slump were affecting the country's economic growth.

"At this stage, tourism is the only key driver boosting the national economy," he said.

He said the country's image was being challenged by three issues - human trafficking, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and irregular migration.

He claimed the military-led regime had urgently tackled these problems and solid progress had been made in reforming laws and regulations and implementing measures to rectify the situation. The Foreign Ministry was taking a comprehensive approach to tackling the issues and was working with other countries to find solutions.

Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, executive director of the advertising and public relations department of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, said luring "quality" travellers was the key focus for the Kingdom. He defined quality travellers as high spenders who stayed longer, and included MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) delegates, medical tourists and other niche markets.

Regarding tourism safety, Lt-Colonel Chanchai Rattanapanich, deputy spokeswoman for the Royal Thai Police, said there were more than 1,000 well-trained Tourist Police officers to assist foreign visitors in case of emergency.

She said tourist courts were now open in key tourism destinations, namely Pattaya, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Phuket, to solve minor disputes before visitors leave the country.