WEDNESDAY, April 17, 2024

Thailand pushes to elevate festivals as main driver for global tourist appeal

Thailand pushes to elevate festivals as main driver for global tourist appeal

Thailand can use its unique festivals as another attraction to lure foreign tourists, the National Soft Power Strategy Committee’s secretary said recently.

Surapong Suebwonglee said festivals add to Thailand’s overall appeal, adding to its world-famous cuisine, diverse culture and tourist attractions.

Admitting that previous efforts to promote Thailand’s soft powers had failed due to inadequate planning, “we now revise the management, so it generates more income”, he said.

To achieve this goal, Surapong said his committee is collaborating with relevant agencies to promote traditional festivals and cultural events nationwide. This, he said, will not just showcase Thai culture, but will also bolster the country’s creative economy.

The plan is to encourage both public and private sectors to actively engage in the efforts, he said, adding that the setting up of provincial soft power committees is also being considered.

“We want Thailand to become the country of festivals,” he said. “We want our celebrations to beckon people to visit Thailand, while also ensuring that local people are actively engaged in soft power management.”

While Surapong admitted that delays in budget allocation posed challenges to organising festivals, especially Songkran this year, his committee will study the subject to ensure events meet international standards.

Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya

Promotion strategies

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) is collaborating with four associations to take Thai festivals to the global stage and transform them into platforms for business opportunities.

TCEB president Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya explained that the aim is to turn Thai festivals into a key driver of economic growth and make Thailand a top festival destination.

“Previously, festivals served to support the local economy. But this new approach signifies a shift towards using festivals as a platform to expand business opportunities, catering to high-spending individuals seeking unique experiences,” he said.

Chiruit outlined the three key pillars that will be implemented to support this initiative, namely:

• Securing world-class events that will generate revenue like the 2029 International Horticultural Expo to be held in Nakhon Ratchasima, the Formula E race in Chiang Mai next year and World Pride events.

• Supporting business festivals that can open doors for the new generation, introduce innovative ideas, elevate personnel standards and simultaneously build an ecosystem within the industry.

• Developing the Festival Academy, launched three years ago, to empower industry stakeholders.

“These three pillars are essential to reshaping the landscape and establishing a festival ecosystem in Thailand that aligns with global standards,” he said.

Chiruit added that TCEB is planning to support more than 30 festivals this year, which will attract up to 2.3 million local and foreign tourists and generate at least 3.6 billion baht in revenue.

Thailand pushes to elevate festivals as main driver for global tourist appeal

Opportunities ahead

Several TCEB partners agree that Thai festivals have a great potential to draw foreign visitors and stimulate the economy.

“Business festivals are a growing trend, generating income through a ripple effect across the economy,” said Boonperm Inthanapasat, chair of the Thailand International Events and Festivals Trade Association.

He said these events would foster connections among stakeholders, especially the younger generation, and advised the government to support locals in promoting festivals in their cities.

One of the post-pandemic global trends is marathon running, which is fast becoming a cornerstone of sports tourism, said Rut Jiroajvanichakorn, president of the Thai Mass Participation Sports Trade Association.

He suggested that hosting marathons in Thailand could attract affluent runners and their families, but stressed that all events held should meet international standards.

Moreover, he said, organisers could use marathons as an opportunity to showcase Thailand’s soft power, such as street food.

“This trend presents a golden opportunity for Thailand to become a hub for hosting marathons in the region,” he said.

Thailand pushes to elevate festivals as main driver for global tourist appeal

“Festivals go beyond just entertainment platforms. They are essential tools for supporting and strengthening the growth and sustainability of the entertainment industry,” said Attaphol Jayadat, president of the Thailand Entertainment Creators Network Association.

He explained that festivals will also allow content creators to exhibit their talents, foster networking opportunities and skill development within the industry.

To make this possible, he said, the government should invest in upskilling and reskilling personnel in the entertainment sector.

Varinda Thienachariya, president of the Contemporary Art and Culture Industry Promotion Trade Association, said Thailand’s art festivals have garnered global attention, resulting in the building of networks with other world-class festivals.

She noted that the Covid-19 pandemic gave Thai artists a chance to showcase their work through digital media, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), leading to international acclaim.

“Arts festivals continue attracting travellers who wish to appreciate the evolving creativity of Thai artists,” she said.