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 June 21, 1999

 The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) penetrated another of its major niche markets recently with a highly successful food conference that will effectively turn the thousands of Thai restaurants abroad into promoters of travel to the country.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn graciously officiated at the opening of the conference on June 1 which brought together dozens of food critics, Thai restaurateurs, TV talk-show hosts and academics of Thai cuisine.
The two-day event at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre allowed all sides to engage in a healthy and productive discussion on how to capitalise on the global popularity of Thai food to benefit the Thai tourism industry, the agricultural production and ultimately the national economy.
It was the first time that TAT had organised such an event. As it was juxtaposed with the Thailand International Food Exhibition and the Thailand International Muslim Food Exhibition being held concurrently at the QSNCC, participants at the Food Conference also had a chance to meet product suppliers and do business at the same time.
Promotion of Thai cuisine is one of TAT's topmost priorities because it builds bridges between travel and tourism, the country's largest service industry, with agriculture, the largest overall industry. It also promotes exports of Thai food products.
The organisation of the food conference received major support from the Department of Export Promotion, and the Ministries of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Health, and Industry, as well as THAI Airways International and numerous private sector trade and agricultural associations. Several universities and institutes also participated in the conference at which delegates discussed how best to improve the quality of Thai food without sacrificing its exotic tastes, health benefits and aesthetic appeal.
Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines worldwide. There are thousands of Thai restaurants all over Europe, North America, Oceania and Southeast Asia ranging from elegant upmarket outlets to fast-food takeaways. Many are set up by Thai entrepreneurs, Thai wives of expatriates, former students and other Thai expatriates living abroad.
TAT Governor Seree Wangpaichitr said, "This conference was long overdue. The promotion of Thai cuisine is one of our major niche-market targets. Our figures show that visitors spent 38.8 billion baht on eating and drinking last year, up 16% over 1997."
The Governor said he was most pleased to see that all participants had a major opportunity to meet and exchange views. "Bringing people together for an event like this is always a good thing. They are all professionals in their own right, dedicated towards raising the standards of Thai cuisine, learning from each other and helping each other solve problems.
"I am pleased that TAT provided them with the first such opportunity to do so. I was also pleased to see the emphasis on Thai Muslim food, which has considerable export potential to the lucrative Middle East market."
TAT is now working at producing travel promotional videos that can be shown at Thai restaurants abroad, whetting the appetites of patrons not only for Thai food, but also their desire to visit Thailand in future.
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