Tourism Authority of Thailand: Past and Present

The Royal Thai Government established the Tourist Organisation on March 18, 1960 to be specifically responsible for the promotion and marketing of Thailand’s tourism and the tourism industry. It was renamed the Tourist Organization of Thailand (TOT) in 1963. Thailand’s first international tourist office under the TOT banner opened in New York in 1965 and first domestic office in Chiang Mai in 1968.

As Thailand’s tourism continued to grow and increasingly played pivotal role as one of the country’s top export earners, the government saw the need to place greater emphasis on promoting and marketing the kingdom as a tourism destination among global travellers. In 1979, the government passed a bill that brought the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) into existence.

Since then, the TAT has grown into a sophisticated tourism marketing organisation. Now in its 55th year with headquarters in Bangkok, 35 offices in Thailand and 27 offices overseas, the TAT has helped to make Thailand one of the world’s favourite destinations for global travellers. Visitor arrivals grew from 81,000 tourists in 1960 to 24.77 million in 2014.

Major events in Thailand’s tourism

Visit Thailand Year 1980 and 1987: Thailand launched its first ever tourism campaign, Visit Thailand Year, in 1980. That year, the country attracted two million visitor arrivals, generating huge revenue that it turned tourism into the country’s top export earner.

The Visit Thailand Year campaign was re-launched in 1987 to mark the fifth cycle 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. The success of this was shown in the number of visitor arrivals, which grew 24% from 2.8 million to 3.4 million in 1987.

Amazing Thailand 1998-1999: The Amazing Thailand campaign marked the sixth cycle 72nd birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. It also marked the end of the last millennium and the start of a new one. In addition, it presented the chance for Thailand to highlight the importance of tourism as part of recovery efforts as the region recover from the 1997 Asian Crisis.

The TAT partnered with the public and private organisations to launch the campaign which featured sales and unique Thai tourism products including accommodation, entertainment, souvenirs and new destinations. This resulted in a 7.53% growth in visitor arrivals to 7.76 million in 1998 and a further 10% increase to 8.58 million in 1999.

Unseen Thailand 2003: The tourism industry faced the SARS epidemic in early-2003. The TAT joined hands with several tourism-related associations including the Association of Thai Travel Agents, the Thai Hotels Association as well as Thai Airways International in setting up a Crisis Management Committee to help mitigate the impact on the tourism industry.

The united public and private sector force resulted in the launch of the Unseen Thailand campaign, offering special promotions to attract international visitors and boost domestic travel. Although Thailand suffered a 10% drop in visitor arrivals, the number remained above 10 million for the third consecutive year.

Thailand Grand Invitation 2006: Millions of people worldwide had the chance to witness Thailand’s many spectacular royal events including the magnificent Royal Barge Procession as the country commemorated the 60th anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej’s accession to the throne in 2006.

The TAT launched a TV commercial entitled Thailand Grand Invitation 2006 to invite visitors from around the world to visit Thailand and experience the all year long celebrations. This resulted in a 20% growth in visitor arrivals to 13.8 million.

Thailand Talk to the World 2007: Thailand celebrated His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej’s 80th birthday in 2007. The TAT launched a TV commercial entitled Thailand Talk to the World to encourage foreigners to visit Thailand. Visitor arrivals grew 4.85% to 14.46 million.

TAT’s 50th Anniversary in 2010: Thailand’s tourism industry celebrated the Golden Jubilee as both the TAT and Thai Airways International turned 50. In commemorating the pivotal role the TAT plays in making Thailand one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, a TV commercial titled Remember was launched along with the introduction of the Amazing Thailand Always Amazes You tagline to encourage visitor to return to Thailand, as part of its plans to increase the number of repeat visitors.

Thai Tourism Arrivals Cross 22 Million Mark in 2012: Thailand has achieved record-breaking visitor arrivals, crossing the 22 million mark for the first time in 2012, the year the people of Thailand commemorated the 85th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibhol Adulyadej. During the year, TAT continued to promote the country under the Amazing Thailand Always Amazes You campaign, and among a series of promotional activities was a TV commercial titled ‘Warm Welcome is all Around You.’

2013-2014 Amazing Thailand It Begins with the People: Thailand has welcomed a total of 26,735,583 visitor arrivals in 2013, exceeding the year’s original target of 26.1 million and representing a 19.6 per cent increase over 22,353,903 international tourists in 2012. Thailand ended the year 2014 with total arrivals of 24.77 million.

Under the Amazing Thailand It Begins with the People, TAT continued to work closely with the public and private organisations to promote the country. In addition, several pro-tourism policies were launched by related government agencies, including the three-month tourist visa fee waiver for holders of Chinese and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) passports, the Thailand Travel Shield insurance coverage policy for visitors and the 30-day extension of stay for visitors from 48 countries, and a raft of measures aimed at improving the experience of travellers visiting the country, such as, zoning and regulations at key beach destinations and the newly-installed automatic queue-card taxi kiosks at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

2015 Discover Thainess Campaign: TAT launched the “2015 Discover Thainess” campaign to showcase the hospitable character of the Thai people and the many cultural assets of the country that make it a unique tourist destination. The spirit of “Thainess” is the blend of traditions and beliefs. Everything is interconnected. For example, Thai boxing incorporates: the Thai way of life in the wai kru dance as a way of paying respect to the trainer; the Thai fun in the enjoyment of the crowd; the Thai wisdom in the techniques and training handed down over centuries; and the Thai wellness in the many techniques used to treat wounds or bruises. The everyday life of the Thai people can boast a similar mix of culture and traditions that epitomises “Thainess” and makes the country stand out as offering unique experiences to all visitors who visit Thailand.

2016 Quality Leisure Destination through Thainess: TAT’s primary focus will be to promote Thailand as a “Quality Leisure Destination through Thainess” strategy that aims at enhancing the image of the country as a quality leisure destination for the quality tourist markets by offering ‘Thainess’ as a unique selling proposition. The wording of the new strategy indicates the focus of “quality” as measured by visitor expenditure, average length of stay, and the overall quality of the visitor experience. TAT has placed more emphasis on creating the overall quality of the visitor experience, or in other words, Thailand intends to maximise the overall tourist satisfaction.

2017 Unique Thai Local Experiences: TAT will continue to focus on enhancing the image of Thailand as a Quality Leisure Destination by offering “Unique Thai Local Experiences.” This will mean greater emphasis on promoting Creative Tourism through Thai culture, experiences and way of life in order to create valuable and memorable experiences to quality tourists by creating value tourism products and upgrading product standards. The Amazing Thailand brand will remain in place supported by powerful narratives called “Discover Amazing Stories in Amazing Thailand”.