PHUKET: Immigration officers at Phuket International Airport are not required to undergo the “smile and wai” training that their counterparts at Suvarnbhumi Airport have been ordered to complete, because they have been doing it for a year already, says Pol Col Surasak Atthapanyawanich, Superintendent at Phuket Airport Immigration Office.
Thailand Immigration Bureau Commander Pol Lt Gen Suwat Tumrongsiskul ordered the 1,200 Immigration officers at Suvarnbhumi Airport to add a little warmth by smiling when welcoming visitors after officials became concerned that tourists may be discouraged by immigration officers’ hard-nosed behavior.
The training, called the “Sawasdee Project”, was developed by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University to help officers balance their dual roles of human lie detectors and national greeters, said Lt Gen Suwat.
The course focuses on officers greeting visitors by saying Sawasdee, meaning “Welcome”, and saying thank you with a wai once formalities are completed.
Described by Lt Gen Suwat as a “personality modification program”, the course also aims to develop officers’ vetting skills for suspicious characters.
Col Surasak at Phuket Airport Immigration, however, told the Gazette that his officers have been conducting similar service training at monthly meetings for more than a year.
“This project is good because we work in the service sector. It helps the officers in being service-minded. We started this training when I moved here. Once a month, every month, I train my officers about ethics, being service-minded and how to speak good, polite English,” he said.
“We have had good feedback about us smiling and being friendly, which is very satisfying for us and for all the organizations we deal with,” he added.
Pol Col Ittipon Atchariyapradit, who was promoted to Superintendent of Phuket Immigration Office on November 1, said, “We already have similar training, and we have had good responses from people who have come to our office.
“[Part of] Phuket Immigration Office’s performance is assessed by feedback from questionnaires completed by people we have served. Comments have shown that they are happy with our work,” he said.
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