Thailand needs single voice to ease flood crisis

Thailand needs single voice to ease flood crisis

Thailand needs a single voice to communicate with the outside world about the flooding and other crises in the country. This is the view of a high-level panel discussion held today in Bangkok as part of PATA’s quarterly lunch meeting.

The three-man panel of TAT Governor Suraphon Sevtasreni, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism & Sport Seksan Narkwong, and PATA CEO Martin Craigs, faced an audience of industry stakeholders from both the private and public sectors, as well as representative from the World Bank, to discuss the response to the recent flooding crisis in Bangkok.

While international media has been criticised for what many in Thailand believe to be sensationalist reporting of the floods, Suraphon said that the country needed to communicate better with the press, in order to get the right message out to the public.

“The media are only doing their job, but it’s important for us to be familiar with communication. We need to give the right information, and speak with a single voice,” the governor said.

PATA’s Craigs agreed. Referring to the damaging pictures of floodwaters engulfing Bangkok’s second airport, Don Meuang, he told the audience how a news anchor he had met in Hong Kong asked him when Bangkok airport was reopening. “If the news people don’t know, how are the general public supposed to know?” Craigs asked.

While all parties agreed that Thailand needed to convey its message with a single voice, there appeared to be some doubt about whose voice it should be. Seksan said he believed that the TAT, which operates as a unit of the Ministry of Tourism & Sports, should be that voice, as the tourism board “has the experience and global network”. Governor Suraphon however, suggested that the government needed to take charge, and convey its message to all necessary bodies.

“We can work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Tourism & Sports to deliver the message,” Suraphon said. “But usually you only have one spokesperson; Thailand is different – we have a different culture involving hierarchy and structure,” he added, suggesting that the message needs to come from the very top of government.

Craigs added that Thailand could also alleviate a lot of the negative perceptions generated by the mainstream media by delivering its message via other channels, such as social media.

While the exact nature of ‘single voice’ policy remained somewhat unresolved, all parties agreed that the most important thing for Thailand is to restore confidence in the travelling public.

“This week I am confident enough to say that the worst [of the flood crisis] is over,” Suraphon said. “But a collaborative effort is now needed to restore traveller confidence.”

Mark Elliott
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Mark Elliott
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