“Thailand is working hard to revive our tourism industry back to the same level as before the COVID-19 pandemic by using its “5F” soft power promotion method – which are Food, Film, Fashion, Festival, and Fight (Thai boxing),” said Amb. Witchu Vejjajiva of Thailand in Seoul.
In an exclusive interview with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985, Amb. Witchu Vejjajiva said, “The Ministry of Tourism of Thailand aims to boost tourism by creating a meaningful experience for tourists, while simultaneously advancing towards tourism that is more sustainable, more digital, and more inclusive, by leveraging on Thailand’s “5F” soft power promotion method.”
He stressed that the Thailand government’s best-scenario goal is to generate 2.38 trillion THB in tourism revenue this year.
The followings are key excerpts from an interview with Amb. Witchu Vejjajiva of Thailand in Seoul.
Question: Please let us know the details of the MoU signed for the “2023-2024 Mutual Visit Years” between Korea and Thailand.
Answer: From October this year, Thailand and the Republic of Korea will enter into the 65th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. On this occasion, the tourism authorities of both countries decided to jointly launch a tourism promotion campaign, entitled the “2023-2024 Mutual Visit Years”, which began from the beginning of this year and will run until the end of 2024. The Ministers of Tourism of Thailand and the Republic of Korea signed an MoU to officially lay out their vision for cooperation under this campaign.
The MoU was conceived based on mutual recognition of the importance of tourism as an engine for economic growth, and as an important foundation for promoting regional economic development by creating jobs and generating stable income. On the whole, the MoU aims to increase tourism exchanges between both sides, as well as the development of each country’s tourism sector. The scope of cooperation under the MoU includes, but is not limited to:
a) Organizing cultural, artistic and sporting events throughout 2023-2024, such as Thai Festival in the ROK and Korea Festival in Thailand;
b) Promoting the exchange of experiences and human resources in the field of tourism;
c) Encouraging the development of initiatives to increase tourism flows and cultural exchanges, with an emphasis on gastronomic, festival, sports, historical heritage, meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), and sustainable tourism;
d) Promoting regional tourism in Thailand and Korea and cooperation
between regional and local governments of Thailand and the ROK in the field of tourism;
e) Supporting mutual capacity-building through educational programs like tourism seminars and training sessions.
Moreover, the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Bangkok have jointly launched a logo competition to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Thailand and the ROK’s diplomatic relations. The logo will be used in various activities and events to celebrate the 65th anniversary. The competition is now open for Thai and ROK nationals aged 15-30 years old to submit their designs from the 20th of January to the 20th of February. The winner will receive two round-trip tickets from Bangkok to Seoul or vice versa, and a 3-night stay at a 4-star hotel in Bangkok or in Seoul. Full details are available on the websites and Facebook pages of the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul and the Embassy of Republic of Korea in Bangkok.
Q: Please introduce major tourism events scheduled for the 2023-2024 Mutual Visit Years
A: The Tourism Authority of Thailand, Seoul Office – or TAT – will carry out a number of activities for the Visit Years, as follows:
a) Arranging what is called “Agent Familiarization Trips” for TAT’s partner agents to have a chance to go to Thailand. Participants on the trip will include large Korean tourism associations such as the Korea Association of Travel Agents, or KATA. On this trip, we plan for Korean travel agents to have business meetings with Thai travel associations such as the Association of Thai Travel Agents, or ATTA, so they can discuss inbound and outbound marketing strategies.
b) Organizing TAT’s annual Amazing Thailand Roadshow, with an aim of boosting the amount of business exchanges between Thai and Korean entrepreneurs in the tourism industry.
c) Cultural events to raise awareness of each country’s history and traditions, such as organizing Songkran Festival in the ROK, and the ROK’s Boryeong Mud Festival in Thailand. In fact, the tourism authorities of both sides are currently discussing plans to replicate the Boryeong Mud Festival in Bangkok during Songkran of this year. Other festivals that have been introduced in the past include Jinju’s Lantern Festival and Loy Krathong Festival.
d) Launching a forum or seminar in both Thailand and the ROK to promote the soft power of both countries, with specialists from various fields as speakers/presenters.
e) Creating “Food Tour” video content in both Thailand and the ROK, featuring Thai and Korean “influencers”, as food is one of the most popular and effective means of tourism promotion.
Q: What sectors in tourism industry would be most attractive to potential Korean investors to invest in Thailand?
A: Thailand is working hard to revive our tourism industry back to the same level as before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Tourism aims to boost tourism by creating a meaningful experience for tourists, while simultaneously advancing towards tourism that is more sustainable, more digital, and more inclusive, by leveraging on Thailand’s “5F” soft power promotion method – which are Food, Film, Fashion, Festival, and Fight (Thai boxing). The government’s best-scenario goal is to generate 2.38 trillion THB in tourism revenue this year. The Thailand Board of Investment, or BOI, offers many investment incentives in the tourism industry for foreign investors. One of the most attractive incentives is exemption of corporate income tax for up to 5 years for investment in facilities such as convention halls, tour boat/ferry services, amusement parks, open zoo, museums, race tracks, and cable car. As for hotels – if the investment plan meets the conditions set by the government, then investors are eligible for exemption of import duty on machinery or raw materials used in manufacturing for 1 year, which can be extended. These are just a few examples of the incentives. The BOI Seoul Office would be happy to provide interested investors with further details. Moreover, the Thai government also offers a “Flexible Plus Program” for foreigners who are interested in investing in Thailand, and wish to receive special privileges to work in Thailand. Flexible Plus Program is supervised by Thailand Privilege Card – a company under the TAT. The Thailand Privilege Card company is responsible for taking care of foreigners with a special membership card, including the Flexible Plus Program, that includes a variety of services and benefits to facilitate members who are traveling and living in Thailand. Such benefits include 5-year renewable multiple-entry visas, airport assistance, priority queue at immigration, 24/7 telephone concierge, and many other services such as limousine, spa, and golf, depending on the type of membership.
Q: Please introduce tourist’s attractions in Thailand for Korean tourists abroad.
A: In 2022, a total of 543,337 Korean tourists visited Thailand, which is the 6th highest among all countries. We expect this number to grow and by the end of 2023, we expect the number of Korean tourists visiting Thailand to reach 1.3 million people – which is 70% of the amount in pre-COVID days. Just during the first two weeks of this year alone, the number of Korean tourists to Thailand has already reached 76,057 people, which is the 3rd highest among all countries.
Throughout this year, TAT will focus on attracting Korean tourists from the following groups:
(1) millennials (2) couples, and (3) lady (solo travel) – due to their ability to travel year-round in all seasons. In addition, TAT will also target other incentive groups that have the potential to fill the market from June – August, which are: (1) family groups that travel on chartered flights during the summer, and (2) golfers who enjoy playing golf in Thailand from October – February.
Moreover, right now there is an emerging trend among Korean tourists to increasingly travel to Thailand with emphasis on premium services, privacy and exclusivity. So, TAT will focus on targeting Korean tourists with penchant for quality, such as honeymooners, long-stayers, and golfers. In this regard, Thailand is working to launch more attractive facilities and destinations catered to their tastes, such as luxury hotels, quality café and bars, and supercar rental services, jet plane or helicopter services, and yachting in coastal areas, such as Phuket, Krabi, Samui and Pattaya. As you may know, Thailand also has many high-quality golf courses and spas that are popular among Korean tourists.
Looking ahead to next year, in addition to popular destinations, such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Pattaya, TAT will bring to attention new destinations, such as Hua Hin, Samui, Krabi, and Chiang Rai. In cooperation with Korean Air, we will increase the number of flights from Korea to every existing route in Thailand to facilitate the increasing number of tourists. We stand ready to discuss the possibility of expanding routes to new destinations aside from the current schedule.
Q: Please let us know your point of view how to strengthen further the close economic and cultural ties between the two countries in the years to come.
A: Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Thailand and the ROK in 1958, our two countries have enjoyed a long-standing and deeply-rooted friendship, as Thailand is one of the countries that dispatched troops to join UN forces during the Korean War. This year is special because we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of our diplomatic relations, and the beginning of the implementation of the Joint Action Plan Towards Strengthening Strategic Partnership Between Thailand and the Republic of Korea (2022 – 2027), which aims to elevate the strategic partnership between Thailand and the ROK into a comprehensive strategic partnership in the future.
Economic cooperation in particular has become a vital pillar that brings forth mutual prosperity and benefits to our peoples. In the last 2 years, trade and investment between Thailand and the ROK showed impressive potential despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Our trade volume reached 15 billion USD in both years, and on the investment front, the ROK stepped up to be Thailand’s 8th largest FDI source in 2021 and 7th largest FDI source in 2022.
While the pandemic ushered in a challenging environment, we also witnessed the emergence of new opportunities for economic cooperation. As such, the Royal Thai Embassy plans to organize a series of activities to further promote awareness of the strengths of Thailand’s economy and businesses. In November 2022, the Embassy organized an economic roadshow with SCG, Thailand’s 2nd largest company, where they were able to introduce their company and products to the Korean business community, and have business meetings with targeted partners here in the ROK. Later this year, we will organize the second roadshow with PTT, another leading Thai company. On the cultural front, the Embassy took part in introducing popular Thai cuisine to Korean visitors at the Seoul Friendship Festival at Chonggyecheon on 22 – 23 October 2022. We will organize the Thai Festival this April to promote Thai culture, food, and tourism. We will keep you updated with the details of all these events.
As people-to-people ties is undeniably a crucial foundation in the strengthening of our bilateral cooperation into the future, the Royal Thai Embassy will redouble our efforts in strengthening cooperation with all Korean partner institutions to enhance cross-cultural understanding and mutual appreciation among people from our two countries, especially among the youth through a variety of activities, such as Thai language learning, Thai culture promotion, Thai entertainment and popular cultures, to name a few.