‘Go Thai, Be Free.’
Today, the Tourism Authority of Thailand revealed their new progressive LGBT+ travelers campaign in an effort to display Thailand as a diverse and welcoming destination for LGBT+ explorers.
TAT launched a website for #GoThaiBeFree, Thailand’s LGBT+ travel marketing outreach, and posted a Facebook video—the first in a series of five—that shows real LGBT+ couples exploring the beauty that Thailand has to offer—think elephant bathing, classy rooftop swimming pools, spiritual temples and unique Thai cuisine.
“The goal is to showcase the diversity and inclusive culture that is distinctly Thai—love is love. Thailand stands with the LGBT community and overall inclusiveness,” says Steve Johnson-Stevenson, marketing manager for the Thailand Tourist Office in New York. “We wanted to ensure we launched with enough lead time to create some buzz and momentum before world pride coverage takes center stage. We are proud to be celebrating in the lead up to the 50th anniversary of Stonewall [violent riots that broke out following a police raid of a New York gay club in 1969] in 2019.”
Promotion of the campaign was executed by Out There magazine and was the “brainchild” of TAT governor Srisuda Wanapinyosak, according to Johnson-Stevenson.
Though voices of Thailand’s LGBT+ community have reacted positively to TAT’s progressive approach, some are skeptical of the campaign's motives.
“I think the video is great and for once incredibly diverse—different types of people, people of color. I love that they showed the wedding thing,” says Shane Bhatla, Transgender Program Manager at OUT BKK, an LGBT non-profit community based in Bangkok. “But I think they need to look internally: what are their own citizens struggling with? It feels like they’re allying for the pink dollar, profit and benefits but how much are they doing to better it internally for LGBT+ folks in terms of discrimination in the workplace and things like that? If it’s just about the video, I think it’s a great initiative but they have to prove themselves.”
Kreangsak "Ken" Leing, founder of G-Spot Entertainment—the group behind Sunday Gay Night at Maggie Choo’s—acknowledges chasing after “pink dollars” isn’t such a bad thing and it's not unique to Thailand, either—it’s happening globally.
“To be gay in Thailand is a blessing. I think the video is cute,” says Ken. “Everyone in the world is running after this market but fortunately all the gays in the world want to come to Thailand because we don’t discriminate against gay people, especially tourists. Everyone can be who they want to be. This is why I think Thailand is ready for its own pride.”
Chitsanupong "Best" Nithiwana, a young LGBT activist and member of iSpot TV’s LGBT innovation team, agrees that businesses may play a powerful role in promoting civil rights in Thailand.
“TAT’s campaign could create an ecosystem for businesses in Thailand involving the LGBT community. This could mean LGBT-friendly locations or private sectors which provide safe spaces; pro-LGBT businesses could benefit economically from LGBT travelers—once you support us, we support you too."
She continues, “in terms of social impact, this could lead more people to engage with the LGBT community, and one day they might be more open-minded towards us. I personally believe that the diversity is the key to economic prosperity.”
Though she believes Thailand is safe for the LGBT+ community, she also thinks there’s room for improvement:
“Yes, Thailand is safe but there’s more to be done for it to become an LGBT destination. I travel abroad to destinations such as New York and Boston, which are more genuinely inclusive, more “jingjai;” they earn money from our community, but they also support us with advocacy, like celebrating LGBT holidays or providing all gender restrooms and fitting rooms. Thailand still has a long way to go.”
The second installment of the video series is yet to be announced but here's to a more progressive future for Thailand's tourism industry and the country as a whole. Bring on Bangkok Pride!