On 13 March, the research team made its first visit to Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) on Petchaburi Road, Bangkok, to seek support and explore collaboration opportunities for the Thailand-on-the-Move project. We met Khun Yuvadee Nirattakun, the Director of the Marketing Research Division of TAT, who generously provided us with a wide range of statistical data on Thai tourism and useful contacts for networking and funding opportunities.
Khun Yuvadee acknowledged the fact that although many tourism service providers face language- and communication-related challenges in catering for international tourists in Thailand, there has been little academic research that addresses this issue in any depth. She raised the example of the Japanese market. While Japanese tourists are considered as a ‘good market’ in Thailand, they often expect to be catered for in Japanese, and the shortage of Japanese-speaking Thai tourism-workers has resulted in difficulties in satisfying client needs and desires during their stay. These are, however, anecdotes, and there is a need for further research that will explore a shortage of workers with Japanese language skills and its implications for Thai tourism.
Another challenge Khun Yuvadee raised as a growing issue in Thailand is the rapid growth of the Chinese market. Thanks to the 2012 megahit movie “Lost in Thailand”, Thailand has seen an unprecedented tourism boom among Chinese holiday makers, reaching 2.5 million visitors last year. While the boom is an enviable success, it has also created a number of challenges, particularly to the tourism service providers in smaller tourism destinations such as Chiang Mai, where the movie was filmed. This popular rural destination is struggling to supply accommodation, transportation, professional (and bilingual) workers and language support for millions of Chinese tourists who usually arrive in large groups.
Khun Yuvadee also alerted us to TAT’s latest research that shows that while spa is one of the most popular tourist activities, international tourists find it difficult to communicate with spa technicians. However, how and when these difficulties arise and with whom, and the consequences of them for the tourists, the workers, the enterprises and Thai tourism more broadly remain unexplored. Taking their research as a starting point, we are set to collect data from spa businesses in Bangkok as part of the project.
The research team thanks Khun Yuvadee for her generous support and looks forward to collaborating with TAT on the Thailand-on-the-Move project.