This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International, the two founding pillars of what is now the kingdom’s largest service economy sector and job-creator. This meteoric rise did not happen by chance. It was the result of a broad range of comprehensive policy shifts, marketing strategies, infrastructure and product development, among other drivers against a backdrop of many positive and negative local, regional and global developments.
Sadly, this rich history is neither well-known nor well-understood.
Hence, it is neither appreciated nor respected.
My goal for this landmark year is to change that.
Having covered the Thai travel industry since 1981, I am well aware of the enormous commitment, dedication and hard work of numerous individuals to make Thailand The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY. Their successes and failures comprise a powerful learning experience for global destinations and future generations.
Realizing their historic value, in 2019, I began compiling my unmatched archives of notes, reports, documents and images into a lecture format. Seven landmark lectures, all listed below, were delivered to help the industry reflect on the past and take stock of the present before charting a future direction.
The content does not toe the party-line.
Merely crowing about the successes without recognizing the failures will only lead to a repetition of the same mistakes.
As no academic institution në Tailandë can provide such an independent, objective and up-close perspective, I am indeed proud to be Thailand’s only journalist-cum-historian to plug that vital gap.
These thought-provoking and insightful lectures are deliverable in various formats — as Keynote Speeches, Executive Development Programs, Training Courses, Luncheon Talks, Corporate Management Meetings, etc.
Lecture 1: “Thailand The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”
TTM Talk Session, Thailand Travel Mart Plus 2019, Pattaya, Thailand, 5 June 2019
This talk was the first of the series. Initiated by Mrs. Srisuda Wanapinyosak, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and the Americas), the talk was attended by both buyers and sellers at the Thailand Travel Mart Plus, including some veteran buyers from the U.S. and the U.K. who have been selling Thailand for decades. It was a trip back in time for many of them to the early days when personal relationships were far more important for doing business than technology and bean-counting.
“First Forum on The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”
Arnoma Grand Bangkok Hotel, Bangkok, 14 June 2019
Organized independently by me, this inaugural day-long forum was attended by TAT Governor Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn who stayed for the entire morning session, taking copious notes. Also present was Mr. Siripakorn Chaewsamoot, TAT Deputy Governor for Digitization, Research and Development, and a team of TAT officials brought along by the TAT Governor as part of the planning effort for 60th anniversary events in 2020. The session featured a broad wrap-up of the key success factors driving Thai tourism, its linkage with the National Economic and Social Development Plan and the Greater Mekong Subregion, and a history of the country’s MICE and Aviation sectors.
“The Past, Present and Future of Thailand: The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”
TAT Action Plan 2020 Meeting, Udon Thani, Thailand, 1 July 2019
As a direct result of his attendance at the June 14 Forum, TAT Governor Yuthasak invited me to share the insights at the annual TAT Action Plan (TATAP) meeting. Almost the entire TAT marketing team, including its overseas office chiefs, were at the Forum, headed by the TAT chairman Mr. Tossaporn Sirisamphan who is also Secretary-General of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Thailand’s national planning agency. In this one-hour talk, I described Thailand as a tourism marketing genius but a management dunce. Bridging this gap will be the country’s over-arching tourism challenge as arrivals cross 40 million in 2020 and beyond.
“The Role of MICE in Making Thailand The Greatest Success Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”
TICA Quarterly luncheon, Avani Sukhumvit Bangkok Hotel, Bangkok, 23 July 2019
At the invitation of the Thailand Incentive and Convention Association, this talk focused more specifically on the history of the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) sector, a powerful narrative in its own right. Today, Thailand boasts some of the largest and most modern conventions and exhibitions centers in ASEAN. More are coming up in upcountry destinations. How did it all start? What were the challenges they faced?
“The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY: What Malaysia can learn from the Thai Experience”
Dorsett Hotel Putrajaya, Malaysia, 8 October 2019
The Malaysian tourism industry, then preparing in earnest for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, also felt it could learn from the Thai tourism experience. At the invitation of Tourism Malaysia Director General Datuk Musa bin Yusof, I delivered a day-long talk in the form of a SWOT analysis of Thai tourism. I also highlighted how the two border-sharing countries could cooperate to maximize the impact of their twin 2020 events — the TAT’s 60th anniversary and VMY 2020. That was followed by a one-day training program for the TM communications team on improving the content and quality of their media releases, crisis management, and more. DG Musa later WhatsApped me to say his team was elated by the response.
“The Past, Present and Future of Indian Tourism in Thailand”
Exhibition Hall, Art and Culture Building, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, 16 October 2019
This talk at Thailand’s leading university was at the invitation of Assistant Professor Surat Horachaikul, Head of the Indian Studies Centre. It explored the history of Thai tourism in more depth, including coverage of one of the most famous Indian visitors to Thailand, Rabindranath Tagore, Asia’s first Nobel Prize Winner for Literature. It also highlighted the contribution of prominent Indian families and individuals, past and present, in Thai tourism.
“Thailand: The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”
The Siam Society, Bangkok, 7 November 2019
This lecture at Thailand’s pre-eminent culture and heritage institution was devoted entirely to the history of Visit Thailand Year 1987, a marketing extravaganza that revolutionized the Thai, ASEAN and global tourism industry. Having covered this extraordinary event in copious detail, and fully recognizing its long-term importance for global tourism, I wrote the only two books in existence about it: “The First Report: A Study of the Thai Tourism Revolution” and “The Thai Tourism Industry: Coping with the Challenge of Growth.” Commenting on the talk, Jane Purananda. a member of the Siam Society Lecture Series Committee, said, “Imtiaz Muqbil recently presented an extremely thought-provoking lecture to members of the Siam Society. Focusing on the evolution of tourism since the Visit Thailand Year 1987, he points to how the outstanding success of this campaign, has also resulted in creating ongoing challenges. His talk, filled with surprising statistics and historic details, raises many questions about the future of tourism that need answers.”
“Thailand: The Greatest Story in Global Tourism HiSTORY”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok, 16 December 2019
When the then “Tourism Promotion Board” was first set up in Thailand in 1960, the first chairman was the then Foreign Minister Dr Thanat Khoman, one of the country’s most distinguished diplomats. This was because the primary role of tourism was to promote the good image of Thailand and build friendship and fraternity with the world, not to promote economic growth or job creation. This lecture at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the invitation of Ms. Busadee Santipitaks, Director-General, Department of Information, was an opportunity to remind the Ministry officials and Thailand-based diplomats of that original goal. It was the first such lecture at the MFA.