CityNews – Two prominent travel industry personalities who reside in the Thai capital have hailed the city’s creativity, diversity and state of “organised chaos,” all of which were part of what they said had contributed to elevating its status as the World’s Best City for Tourism.
The comments by Mr. Sumate Sudasna, President, Thailand Incentive and Convention Association and Managing Director of Creative Destination Management (CDM), and Mr. Andrew Biggs, an author and TV personality, came at an industry forum on the opening day of the Thailand Travel Mart Plus, the country’s most important business to business travel trade show.
Organised in cooperation with the PATA Thailand Chapter, led by its Chairman Mr. Bert van Walbeek, the discussion was framed within the context of the topic: “Bangkok Needs Repositioning through Creative Tourism Techniques and Implementation.” It was the first time that such an interactive discussion had been held at the annual forum.
The relevance and importance of the topic was heightened by the recent announcement that Bangkok has been named the world’s best city for tourism, based on the MasterCard Worldwide Global Destination Cities Index 2013 survey.
The panellists spoke after an opening keynote by Prof. Greg Richards who lectures at both the University of Tilburg and the University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
Prof. Richards, discussed how Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, had transformed itself from a boring, industrial wasteland into a city of vibrant culture and creativity through a series of innovative strategies implemented after hosting the 1992 Olympic Games.
He said that the keys to success for cities are their quality of life, long-term vision, identity as well as image, collaboration with stakeholders, design values, availability of public space for creative activities, and the organisation of creative events.
Prof. Richards hailed the many creative activities that currently exist and are rapidly emerging in Bangkok; such as, the widely-known availability of Thai cooking schools, the charm of the entire riverside area, and increased popularity of biking.
He cited the results of a World Youth Student and Educational Travel Confederation survey which had shown Bangkok to be a very popular destination for young people.
Commenting on the discussion topic, Mr. Sumate said he was happy with the status of Bangkok, especially as its appeal had been recognised in the Mastercard survey.
“We must be doing something right,” Mr. Sumate said. “Bangkok has its own charm and attractions. But it is also chaotic and that is what makes Bangkok different from other cities. People come here for creativity as well as the chaos.”
As an example, he cited the number of ways that people can get around the city, everything from tuk-tuks to motorcycle taxis to the skytrain and canal boats. “If you take away these weird and exciting things of Bangkok, people will come and say this is not the Bangkok I know.”
Mr. Biggs described the city as being one of “organised chaos”. He said cities in Australia, where he originally comes from, are exactly the opposite, very well organised, which is why people from Australia want to come to Thailand, and vice versa.
Prof. Richards said it was the people who made the difference in any city. “Most people after returning home from their visit will remember their contact with the local people. Going to the same hotel and shopping mall is not going to be a memorable experience. But those who have had some contact with the local people; such as, learning how to cook local food or navigate through the local transport system, this is what people remember.”
Mr. Biggs agreed, noting that whenever he sees off friends and relatives returning home, he makes it a point to ask them what they most enjoyed about their experience in Thailand. Nearly always, the reply is that the people of Thailand are the “biggest attraction” more than the beaches of South Thailand and the highlands of North Thailand.
Mr. Sumate also noted that Bangkok has everything for everyone. “You just have to know what you want and where you can find it. Where else can you step out of your hotel and have some pretty good delicious food at the roadside stalls?”
However, Mr. Biggs stressed it was important for visitors to Thailand never to take leave of their common sense and maintain the same level of safety and security vigilance as they would in their own countries.
“The more close you get to the tourist areas, the closer the sharks are circling you,” he said. “This is something the authorities will have to pay attention to. Let’s try and stop the tourists being ripped off.” Mr. Sumate agreed: “Common sense is what you need to have everywhere.”
Nearly 300 TTM participants listening to the discussion were asked to vote on their view. The majority of the delegates Bangkok disagreed with the claim that Bangkok needed any repositioning.
TTM Plus will end on 8 June. It is being held at the Impact Muang Thong Thani Convention and Exhibition Centre.