'I hate Thailand' tourism campaign: Strangest tourism ad ever?

An advertising campaign featuring an English tourist ranting about how much he hates Thailand aims to lure visitors back to the country.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has gone to unusual lengths to promote tourism.

Unconventionally, it has created a short, rom-com film that runs for more than five minutes where a first-time visitor to Thailand gets his bag snatched.

After the incident the English tourist called James, surprised and upset, rather shamefully declares to one and all how much he "hates Thailand".

In a sorry state he wanders the streets of a village where he's staying, hunting for his bag.

A beautiful blonde Thai girl whizzing past on a scooter takes pity on him and stops to assist.

Together they enlist the help of other villagers and eventually locate the bag, but not before James ruefully looks back on his brattish behaviour around the Thai locals who've helped him, particularly when it's discovered the culprit was a monkey.

It is believed the video has been produced to counteract the storm of bad incidents and crisis the country has been hit with over the last year that have affected tourism. 

May's military coup and the accompanying curfew restricted tourists from leaving their hotel rooms after 10pm was followed by the murder of a British couple on Koh Tao.

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The style of campaign, called "unbranding", has been criticised by Thais, particularly as its Tourism Authority of Thailand funding was initially kept from audiences. The video was posted to YouTube by a new user.

Even though the film does not come close to Singapore Tourism's epic marketing fail this year, the obviously scripted boy-meets-girl tale was too sugary and unrealistic for most tastes.

Others suggested that it encouraged poor and unqualified backpackers to overstay their visas to "live the dream" and remain in Thailand to teach children at idyllic beach schools, as the character central to the story does.

However, social media would suggest otherwise with the campaign being a huge hit with audiences, receiving 1.3 million hits since it was posted last week.

Thawatchai Arunyik, the governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand,  said the style of video was produced based on research that suggested it would be more successful than conventional branding commercials.

Mr Thawatchai said: "This video is intended for both domestic and international tourists. 

"For the domestic market, the intention is to remind and educate the Thai people to always be a good host and not to take advantage of tourists, but to offer help to tourists when they need it. 

"For the international market, we would like to convey that beyond the beauty of the Thai beaches – one of the main tourist attractions – Thai people are very kind and ready to be a good host to all tourists."

Whether or not the story does much to improve tourism to one of the world's premier holiday destinations remains to be seen.

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