Thailand cashes in on soft power, but still lags in world rankings

    1. Muay Thai

    This kickboxing martial art is not just popular among Thais but has also become famous overseas. Many foreign Muay Thai boxers travel to Thailand to hone their skills, while enthusiasts book packages to learn the art. Many well-known gyms offer weekly and monthly training packages for between 4,000 and 13,000 baht.

    Muay Thai star Buakaw Banchamek said that the Kickboxing Association is pushing for Muay Thai to be included in the Olympic Games after it was recognized as a sport by the International Olympics Committee last year.

    Thailand cashes in on soft power, but still lags in world rankings

    2. Thai cuisine

    Apart from mango sticky rice that went viral last week, many Thai dishes like tom yam kung, somtam and phad Thai are already household names outside Thailand. Up to 17 restaurants serving Thai food were featured in the inaugural Michelin Guide Bangkok in 2018, and by 2022, the list expanded to 32 with six retaining their two Michelin stars.

    According to the Thai embassy in Washington, there are some 20,000 Thai restaurants outside Thailand, though more than half of them are in the US and Canada.

    Thailand cashes in on soft power, but still lags in world rankings

    3. Tourism

    Thailand is probably on everybody’s bucket list. From 2016 to 2019, Thailand welcomed more than 30 million visitors per year, though the number dropped drastically upon the arrival of Covid-19 in early 2020.

    According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, Thailand generated some 1.93 trillion baht from 39.79 million foreign arrivals in 2019 alone. However, the number of arrivals dropped to 6.7 million tourists generating only 332 billion baht in 2020.

    The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), however, expects the situation to improve in 2022, especially since Test & Go and Thailand Pass will be scrapped from May 1. TAT expects at least 10 million foreigners to land in Thailand this year and generate up to 1.5 trillion baht.

    Thailand cashes in on soft power, but still lags in world rankings


    Many Thai films have received global recognition, such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”, which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 2010. Apichatpong also won the Jury Prize in 2021 with his ninth feature film “Memoria ”, and “Tropical Malady” in 2004.

    Many Thai films have also been released in foreign countries such as “The Medium”, which first premiered in South Korea in July last year before being released in Thailand on October 28, 2021.

    According to the Korean Film Council, “The Medium” was the sixth highest-grossing film in 2021 in South Korea, pulling in US$7.32 million.

    Many Thai actors have also played roles in international films, including action star Tony Jaa, who was featured in Hollywood blockbusters “Furious 7” and “Monster Hunter”.

    Thais are even making a name in the K-Pop world, including Blackpink’s Lalisa “Lisa” Manoban, 2PM’s Nichkhun Buck Horvejkul and GOT7’s Kunpimook “BamBam” Bhuwakul.

    Lalisa’s self-titled solo debut album surpassed Justin Beiber and set new world records by scoring more than 76 million views on YouTube in the first 24 hours.

    Thailand cashes in on soft power, but still lags in world rankings

    5. Video Games

    Thailand can also boast of many talented video-game developers, some of whom have worked with international video-game makers like Capcom and Ubisoft. However, Thai developers have come up with very few video games as such.

    The Yggdrazil Group released the third edition of its “Home Sweet Home” game and it was downloaded more than 150,000 times. Since it was free, it generated revenue from in-game purchases, with reports saying the company generated some 100 million baht by the end of last year. Another Thai developer Urnique Studio released “Timeline” in 2020 and sold more than 100,000 copies via the online platform Steam.

    Thailand cashes in on soft power, but still lags in world rankings

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