Crowe's soft power gift
The tweeted pictures and messages about Thailand from Hollywood star Russell Crowe come at the right place and time.
For the government, this is like dry place welcoming rain since it coincides with the government's ambitious plan to reopen the country to international tourists from Nov 1.
The 57-year-old Oscar winning actor has arrived in Thailand to make a movie. He shared complimentary pictures and messages about his experience during his stay in quarantine in Phuket ahead of filming a Vietnam War-era movie called The Greatest Beer Run Ever.
With more than 2.7 million followers, Crowe's few tweeted messages and photos about Thais as well as touristy magnets Phuket and Bangkok, may be much more effective than the promotional campaigns worth hundreds of millions of baht that the government and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) have invested in for years.
The effect of this "soft power" is similar to the impact of the first solo music video of Thai-born K-pop singer Lalisa "Lisa" Manoban.
Lisa's referred to some iconic Thai features, such as her wearing a traditional gold headdress and Thai-designed outfits, and using the Phanom Rung stone shrine, a well-known historical site in her hometown of Buri Ram, as a backdrop in her MV.
This "soft power" form of promotion should be used as a strategic model to promote the country's tourism which was hit hard by the pandemic shock.
Thailand's tourism revenue accounts for about 12% of GDP and the amount adds up to 20% if revenue from tourism-related businesses and services is included.
In 2019, before the pandemic hit, up to 40 million international tourists visited Thailand, bringing two trillion baht in income to the country. Compare that with this year, when the TAT forecasts there will be only 100,000 foreign tourists arriving in the country.
Bringing international stars to Thailand via film productions in Thailand is a potential tool to promote the country through such soft power.
Thailand has a strong infrastructure and potential to compete as an international film destination. With its locations, crew, talent and equipment, as well as post-production services, it can attract filmmakers from all over the world.
At present, the government offers incentives to international crews who shoot various types of films. The offers include a 15% tax rebate if a crew spends more than 50 million baht while filming in the country. Another 3% incentive is provided to foreign productions that hire locals as crew and a further 2% can be provided to productions that reflect a positive image of Thai culture and locations.
While such incentives have attracted many foreign film productions to the country, the Thai incentives still fall behind those of our competitors in the Asia Pacific.
For example, Malaysia offers a 30% cash rebate with a requirement that at least 30% of the production crew must be locals, while New Zealand provides a 20% cash rebate and additional 5% if significant economic benefits to the country are demonstrated. South Korea offers up to a 25% cash rebate, the Philippines a 20% cash rebate and Japan a rebate of up to 20% in its pilot programme.
Although Thailand's locations, facilities and crews show promise, the government should think about offering more competitive benefits.
The "soft power" of film productions in showcasing the country's tourism image far outweigh the potential cost of such incentives.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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