The whole world watched agape at the TV footage as hundreds of people tried desperately to contain the rising flood waters in Bangkok and other parts of Thailand in November. Pictures of the young and old taking shelter in trees or on makeshift structures built well above the ground to stay dry from the extremely heavy rainfall, made headlines for weeks across the globe.
These images scared away many foreign travelers, obliterating Thailand’s tourism industry. But with flood waters receding fast over the past few weeks, the Southeast Asian country is back on track to reclaim its reputation as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
Thailand has launched an aggressive marketing campaign all over the world to bring visitors back to the country and revive its sagging tourism sector that accounts for 6 percent of its gross domestic product and employs more than two million people.
“Flood waters have receded in most of the affected areas of Thailand’s central region and cleanup operations have taken place. Everything has returned to normal. It is safe now for foreign tourists to come and enjoy what the country has to offer,” said Walailak Noypayak, director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Seoul office.
At a press conference held at the Lotte Hotel, Friday, Noypayak said almost all key tourist destinations and attractions throughout Thailand, including Phuket and Pattaya, were unaffected by the flooding. “Korea is a very important market for Thailand’s tourism industry. We are ready to welcome Korean visitors. We assure you that it is safe and sanitary to come and stay with us.”
To let the world know that the Southeast Asian country is open for business, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has kicked off a new marketing campaign called “Beautiful Thailand.”
“To restore confidence in foreign travelers and support our tourism businesses, we decided to launch this new campaign. First, we will invite representatives of 350 media outlets from all over the world on Dec. 13 to show that Thailand is back in business,” the director said. Participants are scheduled to visit Bangkok and various places within the city, as well as major tourist spots throughout the country.
Noypayak said through the upcoming media tour, travelers around the world will know Thailand has returned to normal. “We will also organize a number of other international events, including the hosting of a golf tournament. TAT’s 25 overseas officers have been working with tour operators in their local markets to restore confidence in Thailand and boost tourist arrivals.”
TAT estimated the number of foreign visitors declined by up to 600,000, due to the country’s worst flood in five decades. Its tourism industry lost about $800 million. Despite the natural disaster, about 18.6 million foreigners are projected to have visited Thailand throughout 2011, up 15 percent from last year’s 15.9 million.
By Lee Hyo-sik