Chiang Mai to position itself as a world festival city

 | Wed 19 Oct 2022 17:33 ICT

Governor of Chiang Mai Nirat Pongsitthavorn has announced the launch of Chiang Mai’s new tourism strategy as a Festival City. This follows the announcement in late September that Chiang Mai had been selected as one of five ‘World Festival and Event Cities’ for 2022 by the International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA) at the 65th Annual IFEA Convention, Expo & Retreat which took place in McAllen, Texas, United States. Chiang Mai joins Jinju in South Korea, Penghu County in Taiwan, McAllen in Texas, United States and Philadelphia in the United States for this year’s chosen recipients to the title.

This idea for a festival city was originally proposed by Citylife Magazine in 1997, but was revived last year when Honorary British Council Ben Svasti invited Citylife to join a meeting at the provincial hall to present the governor, along with the mayor, provincial administrative organization, TAT and Ministry of Tourism and Sports with a proposal to turn Chiang Mai into a city of festivals.

“We have already been in talks with the organisers of Edinburgh Fringe Festival,” said Alex Soulsby, Creative Director of Artist Residency Programme at Prem Tinsulanonda International School during the meeting last year. “They have said that they are happy to come out to Chiang Mai and work with us. The feasibility and advisory team who will visit Chiang Mai consists of leading experts from the UK/international arts and cultural sector. Every member of the team has worked at the most senior levels in, with and for the Edinburgh fringe, including Kath Mainland CBE who, for many years, was the senior Artistic Director for the festival itself”.

“It will be a festival with natural selection of and equal access for artists and performers,” continued Svasti who said that the one month Edinburgh Festival had 300 locations host 3,000 shows totaling 50,000 performances from 62 countries each year.

The proposal is to hold the event only in the old moated city.

Svasti said that this event could put Chiang Mai on the world map, and if it follows the Edinburgh success model, could bring in over 4 million tourists and generate up to 22 billion baht annually.

“We are a creative and cultural city,” continued Svasti. “This is a natural fit.”

Following numerous meetings, the Idea has not only been adopted, but expanded upon, with Chiang Mai not only aspiring to host the Edinburgh Festival of Asia, but also to turn our city into a year-round festival city.

A representative of the IFEA said, of the award; “An economic hub of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai boasts beautiful culture and abundant natural resources. The city offers international-quality tourism services, and priceless arts and cultural experiences have greatly impressed visitors. With a long history and the unique Lanna culture, Chiang Mai is packed with traditional festivals that deeply reflect the residents’ beliefs and ways of life. On the other hand, their creativity has led to the creation of many contemporary festivals and events that invigorate the city and engage visitors in year-round activities with the locals. The city of Chiang Mai is committed to becoming a city of festivals and events with a keen eye on sustainable development on the grounds of balanced coexistence between humans and nature. Such an ideology lies at the heart of Chiang Mai’s local culture.

Stakeholders in the city, including the government, private, public and education sectors, have collaborated in organising festivals and events to welcome and immerse visitors in an experience of this delicate culture, while they bask in the exquisite landscape of Chiang Mai among the lush forests and mountains of Northern Thailand.”

Governor Nirat announced today that Chiang Mai will turn its cultural capital, historical wealth and unique Lanna culture, or ‘soft power’ as he referred to it, into a strategy to propel Chiang Mai onto the world stage. The aim is to use creativity in drawing upon all the strengths of Chiang Mai so that we can compete internationally and become one of the top destinations in Asia.

The Governor of Chiang Mai and Chiruit Isarangul Na Ayuthaya, President, Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau made the joint announcement today, stating that Creative Lanna will become the main strategy and policy for Chiang Mai’s future tourism growth, with the aim to have Chiang Mai honored with the title of World Heritage City by UNESCO. An events calendar, with a monthly festival, will be designed in order to attract people to the northern city throughout the year.

To that end, the government will work with various embassies as well as all relevant local organizations to propel Chiang Mai into the ultimate MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conference, Events) city.

“TCEB fully supports the festival economy as we believe that all sectors of society can participate and benefit from such a direction,” said Chiruit of the Thailand

Convention and Exhibition Bureau. “This strategy will energise the city and build a strong and sustainable economy.”

Learn more about the Festival City idea from Alex Soulsby who spearheading the Edinburgh connection: