The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has invited 292 overseas travel agents and media to join in with the country’s Songkran (Buddhist New Year) celebrations, which run from 13-15 April. The Songkran Grand Invitation 2011 is aimed at boosting the reputation of Thai people as being fun-loving and easy-going, following the violent demonstrations that rocked Bangkok last year, and the protests that closed Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport the year before. “We selected Songkran for this mega fam trip because there is no better time for visitors to see Thailand at its happiest. No matter what else is going on, everything gets set aside for these few days as everyone takes a five-day time-out to cool off and have fun,” said Suraphon Svetasreni, TAT governor. “The festivities involve all Thais nationwide, including foreign residents. And we know from experience that visitors have a lot of fun too, especially young people.” A key element of Songkran is water, which in the traditional Buddhist ceremony is poured gently on one’s elders as a mark of respect. This has largely evolved however, into a mass water fight with people freely soaking each other on the streets of cities up and down the country.