Reeling from the global financial crisis and the political protests that shut down Thailand's airports last year, the Thai government is working on ways to burnish the Kingdom's image and get tourists flocking back.
According to a story in The Nation yesterday, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised an additional 100 million baht to the Tourism Authority of Thailand to finance overseas marketing.
TAT chairman Weerasak Kowsurat says the money will be used in the first quarter.
Among the plans -- a comedy film festival, scheduled to be held in Bangkok in late April. From the story:
The TAT is working with partners to bring in world-famous comedy actors, including Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) and Hong Kong's Stephen Chow. The presence of such stars is expected to attract more visitors.
Sounds like business as usual for the TAT -- the main sponsor of the Bangkok International Film Festival, which has been tainted by a bribery scandal. The criticism of the festival has been that a lot of taxpayers' money was spent to fly in movie stars for red-carpet galas and create the illusion of Bangkok as some sort of Hollywood of Asia. But it did little to really bring in tourists.
The organizers of last year's Bangkok International Film Festival went a long way to dispel the criticisms by making films and programming the primary focus, and making sure there were Thai subtitles on every film. Sure, there was still red-carpet glamor and a few Hollywood stars -- it creates publicity for the festival, after all.
Hopefully the TAT will keep the criticism of the BKKIFF in mind as they organize their comedy film fest.
And actually, bringing in the googly-eyed, rubber-faced Mr. Bean is not such a bad idea -- the videos of his pantomime TV skits are popular entertainment at DVD booths in suburban Bangkok shopping malls. Even better is Stephen Chow, writer, director and star of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, which are also pretty popular. Great choices for the locals -- but because the festival is being proposed as a tourism initiative to attract foreigners, will Thai people be invited to the party?
Update: The World Comedy Film Festival is set for June 10 to 16. Check the website.