Thailand has successfully followed South Korea's lead in using the entertainment industry including drama series to promote its tourism industry.
Witwisit Hiranyawongkul (right) will take part in a ‘meet and greet’ event organised by the TAT in Guangzhou next month.
The state-run Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently agreed to support two foreign films, both from China, with planned shooting in Thailand.
One of the films, Stranger in Thailand, will use several destinations in Thailand as prime locations.
The Chinese flick Lost in Thailand (2012), which set China's box-office record, has helped to promote Thai tourism and drawn a large number of Chinese tourists, especially teenagers.
China was the biggest market for Thailand in 2012, and 3 million arrivals are projected this year.
"Besides Lost in Thailand, several big-hit drama series have also raised the popularity of Thai tourism spots. And with them come the increasing popularity of Thai actors in China," said Sansern Ngaorungsi, the TAT's deputy governor for marketing in Asia and the South Pacific.
Among the most familiar Thai faces in China today are Nawat "Pong" Kulrattanarak, Mario Maurer, Witwisit Hiranyawongkul from the Thai film The Love of Siam, Sukrit "Bie" Wisetkaew and Sucharat "Aom" Manaying from Yes or No.
Their success has prompted the TAT to carry out celebrity marketing, and one prominent event will be a "meet and greet" for Mr Witwisit and Ms Sucharat to meet their fans in Guangzhou in mid-February.
Sucharat Manaying, who starred in ‘Yes or No’, is helping to draw Chinese tourists.
Besides, Mr Sansern assigned the TAT's offices in China to promote the locations used in Lost in Thailand for Chinese New Year next month.
More than 80% of the film was shot in Chiang Mai with the assistance of the Tourism and Sports Ministry's Tourism Department.
The TAT also gave it 2 million baht for the filming operation in Thailand.
Main locations in the film include Mae Kampong Homestay, Wat Buppharam and Wat San Fran Dhammaram.
Ubolwan Sucharitakul, acting director of the Tourism Department, said normally the number of Chinese filming projects in Thailand is 16-17 a year, but the number significantly increased to 33 last year, with 24 expected in 2013.
Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, said many travel agents started to sell package tours tracing the locations in Lost in Thailand.
"Film and series have an influence on the Chinese. The romantic comedy Go Lala Go! (2010) was one of the successful movies in China to promote Thailand's tourist destinations, especially Pattaya and Koh Lan," Mr Sisdivachr added.
Danaitun Pongpatcharatorntep, a researcher from Chiang Mai University's College of Arts, Media and Technology, said Thai films and TV series have become an exciting phenomenon in the Chinese media, with high ratings now that Korean and Japanese series are no longer as popular.
Chinese TV stations such as CCTV8, Anhui and HNTV (Hunan province TV station) always import the top three series from Thailand's local channels such as Channels 3, 5, and 7.
Those involving family life, personal relationships, dramas, emotion and conflicts are particularly popular in China, said Mr Danaitun.
Based on his study, the number of foreign series in China, are limited to no more than 50 episodes.
They cannot be shown during prime time from 7-10pm, in accordance with State Administration of Radio, Film and Television regulations.
Therefore, social networks such as Weibo (China's Twitter), Youku.com, Tudou.com and Qiyi.com are used to promote Thai series and films in China, Mr Danaitun said.
Ju Jin, 27, from Shanghai, said: "I'm a fan of both TVB series [from Hong Kong] and Thai series, but the new TVB series aren't as good as they used to be. I think the craze for Thai series and films is still hot in China. "
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Writer: Chadamas Chinmaneevong and Yotsawadee Jarungirakiat