Buri Ram banks on K-pop star's appeal

Buri Ram banks on K-pop star's appeal

Phanom Rung Historical Park, a key tourist draw in Buri Ram province.
Phanom Rung Historical Park, a key tourist draw in Buri Ram province.

Buri Ram tourism officials are expecting to gain a windfall from K-pop star Lalisa "Lisa" Manoban, a member of Blackpink, spurring domestic tourism demand in the fourth quarter.

Ratpacha Teerapattharakit, president of the Buri Ram Tourism Association, said tourism in the province has directly benefitted from Lisa's first solo music video, which features the Phanom Rung Historical Park in her hometown.

In addition to Thai traditional headgear, which has already gone viral, the "standing meatballs" shops where customers have to stand to eat at Buri Ram railway station have proven popular with locals after Lisa mentioned she wanted to eat this street food when she returns home.

Ms Ratpacha said there have been many inquiries about Lisa-inspired tour packages, so the association plans to introduce a three-day, two-night programme next month to Phanom Rung, visiting standing meatball shops and her hometown in Satuek district, which has community-based tourism to attract visitors.

"We expect Phanom Rung will be crowded with locals dressed like Lisa as happened a few years ago with a Thai period drama set in Ayutthaya that spiked tourism receipts there," she said.

After the relaxation of Covid measures on Sept 1, the occupancy rate at the 800 hotels with 4,000 rooms in the province started to pick up, reaching 60% on weekends and 40% on weekdays from single digits the past few months, said Ms Ratpacha.

She said football tournaments, which are allowed again this month with limited audiences and football players in quarantine, can help fill hotel bookings during workdays. The province usually hosts a MotoGP race, its biggest tourism draw of the year, in October.

According to the Tourism and Sports Ministry, Buri Ram welcomed 2.33 million travellers in 2019 -- 2.25 million locals and 77,874 from abroad. The number of tourists last year stood at 960,463, of which 951,939 were Thais and 8,524 foreigners.

Ms Ratpacha said apart from international sporting events like MotoGP, it's difficult to promote tourism in Buri Ram. The positive impact from Lisa's music video will help the province become a choice for the local market, she said. Two tourism stimulus programmes could start in October, including the "We Travel Together" hotel subsidy scheme, which could drive hotel occupancy in the fourth quarter to 70%, said Ms Ratpacha.

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