It’s one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations thanks to its delicious food, sandy white beaches, and buzzing cities.
But now, Thailand wants to change its reputation.
The South-East Asian country, which is set bring in a record 37.55 million tourists this year, wants to shirk the label as a nation of “sex tourism”.
Making-over this ‘sex’ image of Thailand has been a longtime goal of the country, however, was thrust into the public light again last week when Thai police arrested a group of 10 Russians who, according to Channel NewsAsia, “were running a sex training class”.
As a result of this arrest, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) released this statement:
“The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) ensures that its marketing strategy and policy to move Thailand forward as the ‘Quality Destination’ has stepped in the right direction … and strongly opposes any form of sex tourism.”
As per Channel NewsAsia, parlours offering “soapy massages” as well as “happy ending” massages have amped up Thailand’s reputation as a sex destination.
There are about 123,530 sex workers in Thailand, according to a 2014 UNAIDS report.
In the statement last week, TAT Governer Yuthasak Supasorn said the country places huge importance on its tourism industry as a means of livelihood for many Thai and international people.
“As the Thai government’s official body promoting Thailand to international and local travellers while supporting the development of the country’s tourism industry for nearly 58 years, our mission is to highlight tourism’s importance to national economic development, job creation, income distribution, and the prominent role it plays in enhancing social integration and preserving the environment.
“Over the past few years, TAT has actively focused on promoting Thailand as a ‘Quality Leisure Destination’ that highlights a new era of tourism as measured by visitor expenditure, the average length of stay, and the overall quality of visitor experience,” Supasorn added.
The statement also comments on Gambia as the West African country’s tourism minister recently told tourists to go to Thailand for sex instead of visiting the country.
“Meanwhile, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stepped forward to take an official action against the Gambian tourism minister’s baseless comment on Thailand’s tourism,” the statement said.
“A formal letter of protest has been filed from the Embassy of Thailand to the Republic of Senegal, which is also responsible for neighbouring Gambia, and the Embassy of Thailand to Malaysia where the Gambian High Commission also takes care of Thailand,” it added.
Thailand’s ongoing efforts to move from mass to ‘quality’ tourism is successfully producing positive results with the Kingdom ranked third in global tourism revenue for 2017 by the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Last year, the Thai tourism industry recorded the highest revenue in its history, achieving tourism receipts totalling 1.82 trillion Baht (US$ 53.76 billion), a 11.66 per cent year-on-year increase, from 35.3 million international tourist arrivals (up 8.7 per cent).
Domestic tourism revenue also reached 695.5 billion Baht (US$ 20.5 billion) from 192.2 million trips.