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Truth Be Told (and Televised)

By Chris Boyle

Screen-Shot-2014-03-06-at-8.01.57-PM-462x358If you have ever been on the wrong side of general media news reporting about something you’ve been involved with, there is a decent chance that what you read did not align with what was really going on.

Popular tourist destinations often find themselves battling “perception vs. reality.”  News media will pick up file footage of protests and old pictures or not bother explaining the geographic relationship between the incidents they are reporting and areas travelers visit.  The results can often be devastating for the economy.

News cycle coverage of political unrest in Bangkok has now been usurped by the stampede of camera crews to the Ukraine, but Tourism Authority of Thailand has been successfully battling the negative media.

During the world’s largest travel fair, ITB in Berlin, Juthaporn Rerngronasa, Deputy Governor for International Marketing for Tourism Authority of Thailand, said in terms of visitor counts, “they were only impacted in Bangkok.  In Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and other resort destinations the numbers are actually up, and most of the declines were from China, Taiwan and Japan.   The numbers of arrivals from long haul markets have actually increased.”

One of the promotion board’s successful counters to misleading reports was to set up its own live camera feed with dozens of shots from idyllic beaches to key attractions in Bangkok and some busy main streets.  An aggressive fact based public relations campaign by the tourist board’s nearly 30 overseas offices helped bring “reality TV” to influential travel agents, tour operators and consumers reassuring them it was safe to visit or continue selling travel to Thailand.

“It (the protests) happens only in small areas.  All of Bangkok’s attractions are open.  Tourists are not targets and safety is a priority,” the Deputy Governor told Elite Traveler.  She said a group of about 40 Asian journalists have been taken to Thailand in the past two weeks, touring key destinations for tourists so they can offer first hand reports to their readers.

So far the results of telling its side of the story has meant that she expects visitor numbers overall to be in line with projections before the demonstrations started.

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