Gay event to be Phuket’s TAT chief’s final hurrah

Posted on October 8, 2013

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As opening up Phuket to more profitable ‘niche’ markets was always a high priority for the Director of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket office, Chanchai Duangjit, the upcoming Glow Phuket festival (October 18-20) will, rather ironically, prove to be his final, rather flamboyant and flawless swan song. – See more at: http://www.thephuketnews.com/gay-event-to-be-phuket%E2%80%99s-tat-chief%E2%80%99s-final-hurrah-42257.php#sthash.KC2SkJBM.dpuf

However Bangkok-born Mr Chanchai will not be on the island to enjoy it, as he will be moving to Bangkok to work as the director of the HR department of the TAT headquarters. He had been the director in Phuket for 13 months.

“I’m sad to leave. I like Phuket, but I’m happy that the TAT and Phuket Governor Maitree Intusut were so receptive of one of my main ideas [which was] to introduce new markets.”

Mr Chanchai told The Phuket News earlier this week that so called “high yield” markets, such as the the wedding, yachting and marina, medical tourism and, of course, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) markets were what Phuket will now be focusing on.

The latter was one that was already gathering momentum.

“Although Phuket already has a festival and parade for the LGBT community – Phuket Pride – Glow Phuket want to do something bigger, something different.”

Mr Chanchai believes that there is no reason why Phuket could not one day host a LGBT event that could rival the spectacular gay pride festivals held in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Sao Paulo.

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The Glow Phuket festival, on October 18-20, is only the start of the TAT’s plans to really start targeting the LGBT community.

“The LGBT is a high yield market. We [TAT] have been talking about targeting the LGBT for a long time, but we’re ready to do it now.”

Mr Chanchai did admit, however, that the decision to focus on the particular market was not taken lightly.

“Many Thai people might be asking why are we supporting and targeting the LGBT community, but it’s good for tourists and tourism.

“Perhaps it wasn’t so much in the past, but Thai culture is now much more accepting of the LGBT community. In fact, we are quite an accepting culture.”

Part of TAT’s plans to target the LGBT community includes the setting up of gothaibefree.com – designed by an American company – a website designed to provide the LGBT community with gay-friendly restaurants, hotels and activities.

“We sent an invitation to high-end resorts in Phuket asking if they wanted to be involved. Many agreed, some didn’t. I think some of the hotels that have high Chinese occupancy might be afraid of this as they might not like it.”

Phuket will form part of a four-pronged attack, alongside Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Bangkok, to target the ‘pink dollar’ market and it is Mr Chanchai’s hope that as a result other provinces in Thailand – and perhaps those with less accepting views of the LGBT community – will follow suit.

Mr Chanchai added that as Phuket and the three other Thai cities were already so popular and marketable, it is now the TAT’s plan to shift focus.

“We’re trying to emphasise new areas so we will hold off mass marketing Phuket for a few years now in favour of promoting Phang Nga, Krabi and Chiang Rai for example. We’re trying to promote the areas that do not benefit so much from tourism.”

Mr Chanchai added that he hoped the few years of not promoting the island, at least aside from the Glow Phuket event, may give it a chance to rectify some of its problems.

“Phuket has changed a lot, even in the short time I have been here. It certainly has had success in numbers, with an almost 20 per cent increase every year for a few years now, but we still have a lot of problems; traffic, too much construction, lack of security for tourists and an airport that’s jammed,” says Mr Chanchai.

Phuket International Airport is currently being renovated, with an estimated reopening set for 2015. Mr Chanchai tells The Phuket News, however, when the airport does open he fears that the new capacity (12.5 million) may not be large enough to accommodate visitor numbers, which already stands at 12 million annual visitors.

“There’s problems with extending any further though because of issues with access areas and ownership of land,” he explains.

It is the TAT’s objective however to manage visitor numbers, especially the low-yield markets, he says.

“Zero-baht tourism is something we’re trying to stop, but it something that will happen on the Chinese side. From October 1, it is policy for the Chinese government and Chinese authorities to monitor where companies are taking the tourists and make sure they stick to the travel programme and not deviate to take them to particular shops to get commission.”

Deputy director of the Phuket office, Wannaprapa Suksomboon, will take up the position of director until a new appointment is made.

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Posted in: Phuket