The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has introduced a new marketing campaign “Open to the New Shades”, a tourist-friendly platform for the TAT to finally come out of the closet and target the so-called ‘pink dollar’, the LGBT travel community.
Indeed, the TAT have virtually burst out of the closet, complete with feathers, sequins and drag shows, as “Presenting Partner of ITB Berlin 2018 LGBT Travel”. ITB Berlin is the world’s leading travel trade show.
The TAT is funded by the Thai Government and sponsors. Thailand’s tourist numbers, ever on the rise, are expected to exceed 35 million this year.
The alphabet soup of the gender diverse universe can be a bit of a political-correctness nightmare. LGBT is Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender. Other letters of the alphabet have been added but we’ll leave all that for expert bloggers to explain.
Whilst Thailand has often been described as ‘gay friendly’, it hides many cultural nuances that, at the same time, tolerate differences whilst remaining very socially conservative.
At best the tolerance is superficial. At worst LGBT children are often still ostracised by their own families and communities.
Certainly, officially, there has never been a campaign that even mentioned Thailand’s possibilities as a LGBT destination. There are always pictures of the ‘overt and flamboyant’ decorating various campaigns but rarely references to the diverse Thai and expat communities that create the venues and festivals that nurture the infrastructure for LGBT tourism.
But times are changing and the ITB Berlin’s news channel says the TAT is now highlighting the country’s LGBT community in promotions.
“Open to the New Shades,” invites travellers to discover their own Thailand, and one of the videos shows a male couple going clubbing and watching a sunrise in northern Thailand together. But it’s also an attractive campaign that invites other non-mainstream tourists to Amazing Thailand as well… single girls, elderly single travellers.
TAT’s governor, Yuthasak Supasorn was more outspoken at the launch of “Open to the New Shades” campaign at ITB Berlin.
“TAT is actually honoured to be part of the LGBT Travel at ITB Berlin 2018 and to have been named ITB Berlin LGBT Presenting Partner. Without a doubt the LGBT market has always been an important travel segment for Thailand and we will continue our efforts to position Thailand as a leading destination for the LGBT community in Southeast Asia”.
The new advertising campaign ‘Open to new shades’ appears to have lifted the blinkers to allow TAT to assume the role of an official LGBT presenting partner, at least in the liberal hallways of ITB Berlin.
Do we have campaign for same-sex weddings, events and festivals from the TAT on the way?
Those that live here know, and the LGBT travellers learn quickly, that there is a fuzzy grey line that Thailand’s gender-diverse community dare not cross. The TAT have taken a step in the right direction, pushing the grey line a little further towards making Thailand a broader, wider and more inclusive travel destination for all.