Thailand tourism takes the Halal route

By Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Gulf Today

DUBAI: Bangkok is moving in the direction of having its world-renowned spa establishments and treatments, “conform to halal regulations,” in a move to lure more tourists from the Middle East.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)-International Marketing deputy governor and in-charge of the European, African, Middle East and American markets Juthaporn Rerngronasa, during her recent visit to Dubai, said this is one of the novel ideas the government is undertaking.

“We are developing the Thai spa to conform to halal regulations, with the organic products and the men and women having their own private rooms,” she said.

In an interview with The Gulf Today, Rerngronasa said a few thousand of the spas in her country already have their unique herbal treatments in halal form.

She repeated that similar to the genuine Thai spa boutiques in the UAE, primarily in Dubai, these already have separate rooms for men and women with male masseurs attending to the former and  masseuses attending to the latter.

“All they have to do is check on the list which spas are already offering halal services,” Rerngronasa said.

“The Middle East is a very potential market for us,” Rerngronasa also said.

TAT regional office figures showed that for 2011, out of the 19.23 million tourists from all over the world, 651,912 tourists from Iran and the six Gulf countries visited various parts of Thailand, spending an average of 10 days with tourism receipts of between 4,000 and 5,000 Bahts a day or $153 a day.

The 19.23 million tourists spent $25 billion while the 651,912 spent $1.093 million.

Though there has been a decrease of 3.38 per cent in the first three months of 2012, the slump coming mostly from Iran, which according to the TAT regional office was the number one source of tourists in 2011, the visiting tourism official still expressed a positive outlook.

This is brought about by the continuous development of family-inspired tourism destinations and packages, including the expansion and modernisation of the Phuket International Airport, eyed to be the second international gateway of the country, which would service 12.5 million visitors in 2014.

Delta Ban Travel and Tours tour manager Mophammad Valimirza, whose clients are basically from Iran, mentioned of the astute marketing and advertising schemes employed by Bangkok.

“They work in very close co-ordination with people like us on the ground to know what our clients really want and work on these,” he added.

Discovery Holidays-Asian, Middle East and Gulf marketing director Eric Anthony Culaton shared the view that Bangkok has been very keen on promoting the country throughout the year, holding roadshows in the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and India, besides Japan and South Korea.

Thailand’s crime rate is very low and security is a priority, he added.