Brenda’s Blog

What Is Happening to “Brand Thailand?”

May 26, 2010

The front cover of this Monday’s Nation newspaper – an English-language publication in Thailand – showed a photo of Thais and foreigners rolling up their sleeves and digging in to help with the massive clean-up process required as a result of the events of the past few weeks. Armed with large plastic bags and rubber gloves, thousands of people who call this place “home” – whether for a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime – were out in droves to do their part in restoring the magnificent capitol to its normal state.

But, what about “Brand Thailand?” Can the country’s brand – defined as the way people perceive, think, and feel about Thailand – be equally restored? It’s probably fair to say that the brand has taken a hit… but, do you think it will fully recover? If so, how much time will it take? If you’ve never visited Thailand before, how has your impression of the country changed as a result of recent events? If you have been to Thailand before, would you return again – why or why not? Or, if you are like me and you spend a large part of the year in Thailand, what impact have recent months’ events had on your overall experience of living in the Land of Smiles?

I’ve love to hear what you think. Post your comment and to share your point of view.

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  1. pascal

    Dear Brenda

    It was sad to read and watch what happened in BKK the past weeks but we survived many things such as bird flu, tsunami, pork flu, etc… and the list is long I am sure in couple of month if “nothing” happen again the world will forget about it as usual somewhere else in the world will be the highlight

  2. daavid jones

    holidays are very special time -you want to be able to chill with no worries.Mai mee panah. The trouble these days is that there are more and more risks. Volcanic ash ,British airways strike are new ones for us Brits on top of the ongoing terrorism concerns. Now thailand is clearly a riskier place as the fundemental political problem is not resolved. I would not want to add a destination risk to the pure travel risk I have . I just got out of thailand in time before the airport closed a few years ago , and i am very sensitive to further downsides …so i would not go back to Thailand for a holiday for the forceable future ,love the place as i do. Sri Lanka looks a better bet -or india.

  3. Chris Murchison

    I had always felt uncomfortable with the “in your face” sexual slease in Bangkok, such as men approaching you on the streets even during the day, pimping and it was therefore not my favourite city in Asia to start with. Add in regular riots and violence and it truly comes off my list of desired places to visit.

  4. phil corse

    “Brand Thailand” has taken a major hit.

    I have been to Bangkok for a week + every year for the last 13 yeaers with groups of 25-35 EMBAs for a program at Chula. Thailand is (or at least was) one of my favorite places to visit in Asia.

    We are wondering if we should return in 2011 or stay in China where we visit before Thailand.

    Phil Corse

  5. Darwin G


    It was disheartening seeing and hearing what was taking place in Bangkok. I have visited Bangkok and Thailand the country, what a wonderful experience. Brand Thailand has taken a hit, but I believe it will recover and in time perhaps even recover stronger. The “people” are a large part of what makes Thailand. When adversity strikes, it can either irreparably damage or topple a brand, or it can strengthen it. While the world watches “Brand Thailand” recover its perceptions will be based on how the “Land of Smiles” handles adversity and then moves forward from there; that will be the defining moments of “Brand Thailand”, and yes I would love to return.

    Darwin G

  6. Jana Stanfield

    Unfortunately, I was bringing 15-30 people to Thailand in the fall, and Bangkok was taken out of the trip because of what has been happening there in the last month.

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I just don’t time to use thousands of words to overcome the image left in people’s minds from the pictures they saw of what looked like violence and fear.

    I love Bangkok, and Thailand, and Thai people, and I have no worries about traveling there myself. I just know I can’t “sell” the idea at this time to others who have never been. I have concerns for Bangkok’s brand and don’t know how they can recover without the help of an expert like Brenda Bence, who actually lives there part-time and truly cares about the place.

  7. Stan Bailey

    I have now lived in Thailand for 2 years, with the first 8 months spent in Bangkok. I did not like Bangkok then and like it even less now since I feel that it is a city on steroids and totally out of control, not only the riots but also traffic, pollution, noise, crowds, etc. I now live for over one year in Phuket, which is peaceful, but has been terribly affected by what has been going on in and limited mostly to Bangkok. Some of us here wish that Phuket would become it’s own country not to be so affected by the global warnings of so many countries to not come “to Thailand” while Phuket is as quiet, safe and beautiful as ever. Therefore, the new “branding” of Thailand as a place of riots and demonstrations has been a negative to all of us. The local Puket office of TAT is atttempting to brand Phuket as a safe and comfortable place to travel to both now and in the future. The current hotel bookings are apparently holding for those who have been here before, but future bookings are misable. It is like having a problem with hurricanes in Texas and the tourism for California is negatively affected. If people have not been to Thailand before, they will not understand the difference between Bangkok and Phuket while experienced Thailand travelers do know the differences and will be returning to Phuket. With all of this said, Phuket has survived the Tsunami, bird flu and other disasters over the past years and always rebounded, thank goodness.

  8. Jean-Christophe

    Thailand’s image changed for many ordinary people worldwide during the recent weeks as what they saw on TV is hardly matching with the Land of smiles. However, as the situation is now under control (not meaning solved), a few weeks will provide those ordinary people with oblivion and they will very soon consider Thailand again as a turism destination. Six months from now they will be back.

    For potential investors and long term decisions, this may definitely take more time and investments may be frozen as main problems are not solved and tough times may come in a near future for Thailand.

  9. Gareth


    I think it’s fair to say that the brand has taken quite a hit, but if we see Thailand as a brand it surely has to rank as one of the more resilient brands around. As stated by other readers the country has had a whole catalogue of PR disasters to contend with yet the BoI posted higher than expected figures for investment last year, exports continue to grow, and the early part of the year saw strong tourist arrivals.

    However, the scenes shown recently on international news won’t be easily erased from people’s memories. I feel that those that know Thailand and have a history with the country will continue to come, whether they are investors or tourists. What will be difficult is finding how to attract new visitors. This is where both the TAT and BoI and various government and independent agencies will have their work cut out. The idea of ‘Land of Smiles’ is unlikely to sell well as safety, security and peace of mind will become the standard for most. How to go about that? Well, that’s not so easy to answer. I only hope that those who matter realise that Thailand does indeed have a branding issue.

  10. Lionel

    Hi Brenda,

    Like you I have lived in many different places around the world which have had the “pleasure” to make the front page of CNN many times. For sure Thailand as a Brand was hit by those violences but there are no places on earth safe those days and life goes on , time washes everything and what remains is the fundamental – the people of Thailand. They have the future in their hands and will make you forget very fast the violence and political turmoil.

    I remember when i lived in Algeria for one year in 2001 … there was daily violence there but I still believe Algeria as a country is a wonderful and unknown treasure because of its warm people and wonderful landscapes .

    Thailand will survive this “small” crisis . It has a long history of crisis and soon nobody will remember this one . For sure I would love to come back to Thailand on vacations or for business … it’s just a matter of time .

  11. Ian Paul


    I lived in Thailand for 10 years but left at the end of 2008. I left at that time to pursue post-grad study in London. I fully intended to return but the airport closures and general lack of safety coupled with me falling in love with England again made me stay away.
    I have now remembered why I left the UK the first time and was considering returning to Thailand and opening an educational agency in Bangkok. The low exchange rate pound/baht and continuing prestige placed on foreign degrees makes this a good business to be in at the moment. However, I will not be returning, my wife, who is Thai, does not want our kids to be exposed to the dangers of so precarious a city.
    I have seen my cinema, bookshop and favourite Japanese restaurant razed to the ground. So, despite still owning a family home in Nonthaburi I will remain in York, England and holiday in South Africa or South America.
    Thailand you have shot yourself in both feet with a Mac 10 on full discharge. When will the boys learn that in the game of monopoly there cannot be two winners?


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