It is my first visit to Bangkok, and right from the time I land at the Suvarnabhumi Airport to my week long sojourn in the `City that Never Sleeps,’ I am stumped with the number of Indian visitors swarming Bangkok’s shopping centres, tourist hotspots, local hotels, bars and restaurants. The two day high-end fashion and wedding fashion soiree held at The Intercontinental, Bangkok by Masala Magazine tops the cherry on the cake. Seeing a record 3000 visitors in two days of eclectic fashion shopping and connecting with design talent from India — Think Geek Media were co-collaborators with Maharani, Make In India –statistics only proved further that India largely contributes to Thailand’s booming tourism and fashion economy.
THAILAND NO 1 WEDDING DESTINATION
His Excellency The Ambassador of India to Thailand, Mr Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi confirms ground reality. “I have only been here for three months, and this is the first time I have been to the Masala Wedding Fair. Having served Bangkok between 2007-2009, I did notice during that time that the Indian wedding industry was just starting to get going in Thailand. Since then, the market has taken off in a very big way, and not only goes to say a great deal about hospitality and tourism in Thailand, but also speaks a lot about how at ease Indians feel here. Today, Thailand is the No 1 Wedding Destination for Indian weddings abroad. Weddings are very important, personal and intimate family occasions. They must feel very comfortable here,” shares the Ambassador.
INDIANS CONTRIBUTE OVER 7.8% TO THAI ECONOMY
Accounting to more than 1.2 million Indians visiting Thailand per annum vis a vis a mere 10 lac Thai nationals visiting India, the Ambassador recounts India’s contribution to Thailand’s economy rapidly growing at 7.8% per annum, with over 150 flights a week. So, why isn’t the Thai national gung-ho over India? The Ambassador pauses to carefully choose his words. “Well, frankly, India needs to upgrade her infrastructure to attract more Thai tourism. 90% of the Thai population are Buddhists by religion. India is the birthplace of Buddhism, yet little is done to upgrade this holy circuit. For practising Buddhists, once in his/her lifetime calls for a holy pilgrimage. If we upgrade the Buddhist circuit in India with good infrastructure, it will definitely attract more Thai tourists to India, encouraging pilgrimage as well as business tourism.” The Ambassador pauses as if to reconsider his words. “I believe it is an ongoing process. It is necessary,” confides His Excellency.
With the presence of well known Indian industrial business houses setting shop in Thailand – Tata Steel being the largest contributor to employment, along withTata Motors and the Aditya Birla group – small scale entrepreneurship has also made its presence felt in the capital city. “Thailand is user friendly,” says His Excellency, “it is proactive toward making it easy and a pleasurable experience to do business alongside Thai citizens. Similarly, the Delta Group from Thailand is also very active in India,” he adds, while constantly darting hurried looks at his wristwatch to indicate he needs to move on. I can’t help but ask him about India’s fashion influence over Thai gentry. The Ambassador laughs shyly indicating to his Khadi kurta pyjama and simplicity of style. “I am impressed with what I have seen today. Local Thais are discerning consumers of Indian fashion. I hope Indian fashion keeps getting bigger and bigger in the years to come with more events like this.”
The Ambassador then gets up, shakes my hand, thanking me for a lovely interview that made him nostalgic about home and in hind thought hopes he said all the right things. “I trust your judgement,” he smiles broadly and hurries off for his next appointment.