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You've never seen this guy in your life, right?
Me neither (until I Googled him five minutes ago). That's the difference between us and millions of Asian teenagers.
Meet Nichkul Horvejkul. He's California-raised, speaks English, Thai, and Korean and currently performs with a very popular boy band based in Korea.
He's also the new face of a state-run Thai tourism campaign that specifically targets young travelers.
That's necessary because tourism in Thailand is plodding through a 49-year low, with 22 percent fewer tourists arriving in Thailand compared to last year.
I hear of a lot of sky-is-falling rants about how Thailand is withering as a tourist destination, well-publicized stories of scammed foreigners are scaring tourists away, political unrest is stigmatizing the country, etc.
My contention? Thailand is as paradisical as ever and most of the tourist slump is tied to the damaged global economy. As it heals, so will tourism in Thailand. And Thai tourism gurus, I think, are wise to showcase Thailand's allure to 20/30-somethings in an effort to reverse the current tourism doldrums.
Whether you're a tourist from Shanghai, Seattle or Seoul, Thailand remains an affordable place to drink, sunbathe and generally go nuts. You get Southeast Asian prices with a certain pizaazz that you can't find anywhere else in the region.
Sterile Singapore? Conservative Malaysia and Indonesia? I'm guessing most 80's babies would much rather stumble into Bangkok's colorful hipster spots. Thailand is lovably kooky and irrepressably fun. It's messy, chaotic... and awesome.That may not impress the tour package crowds, but it means a lot to young travelers -- whether they're from California or Korea.
Attracting young spenders isn't the solution to Thailand's tourism problem -- but it's a decent puzzle piece.
Who better to lead the charge than a smooth, English/Korean-speaking, hair-gelled cool kid like Nichkul?
P.S. Thanks to Absolutely Bangkok for the heads up on this one.