How world leaders turned super-influencers for Thai tourism at Apec


World leaders in Bangkok last week for the Apec summit probably did more for Thailand’s tourism industry than all the world’s travel bloggers combined.

France’s Emmanuel Macron, Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong, and America’s Kamala Harris are super-influencers with tens of millions of social media followers – all of whom were introduced to what Thailand has to offer.

Singapore’s No 1 influencer, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, posted photos of the Thai specialities served to leaders at Thursday’s Apec gala dinner. The star of the show was the starter dubbed “Welcome to Thailand” – dishes from all four regions presented on a map of the Kingdom.

“A beautifully presented appetiser that creatively incorporated the Apec 2022 Thailand logo and the host country!” enthused Lee, as his army of followers salivated over photos of Lanna crispy khao rice noodles, Ayutthaya tom yum river prawn croquettes, Isaan charcoal-grilled Wagyu with spicy dipping sauce, and Betong-style marinated grilled chicken.

Lee also snapped pics of the evening’s gala performances for his followers, remarking “the cultural show was an interesting blend of traditional and modern Thai song, music and dance”.

Meanwhile, US Vice President Kamala Harris made time in her busy schedule to showcase Thailand’s spiritual side with a visit to meet the Supreme Patriarch at Wat Ratchabophit on Saturday.

Having done the temple, she went shopping on Sunday at Or Tor Kor Market in Chatuchak, where her 17.1 million Instagram followers watched her snapping up red and green curry pastes, dried kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, tamarind sauce and galangal before she jetted back to the US with the ingredients.

French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to take his responsibilities as an Apec travel blogger even more seriously, visiting Chinatown on Yaowarat Road, Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium, the Jim Thompson House Museum and Wat Phra Chettuphon.

His 8.9 million Twitter followers followed him every step of the way, as Macron offered a guided tour through Bangkok’s cultural highlights.

Elsewhere, the traditional Thai massage offered at the Labour Ministry booth in the Apec venue was a big hit with delegations from Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea and China.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha hailed the Apec leaders' Thailand showcase as a boost for Thai tourism just in time for the high season. The country has welcomed 7.6 million foreign visitors so far this year, with the Tourism Authority of Thailand expecting that figure to rise to 10 million by year-end.

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