Somkid asks Jack Ma to revive tourism
Alibaba may promote nation on 'Single's Day'
SHANGHAI: Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has asked Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma to help promote tourism in Thailand through the Chinese e-commerce firm's online channel, as the kingdom has experienced a marked drop in Chinese travellers in recent months.
Mr Somkid, who is in charge of economic affairs, held talks with Mr Ma in Shanghai Tuesday, during which they touched on various areas of economic cooperation.
The talks covered the declining number of Chinese arrivals that is hurting Thailand's service sector and low-income earners, the deputy premier said.
Mr Ma agreed to help by requesting that Thailand make a 20-second promotional video showing what tourists can enjoy in the country, so it can be broadcast online through the company's various channels, Mr Somkid said.
Alibaba is gearing up for its biggest one-day sales event of the year on Nov 11, when 800 million Chinese are expected to surf the shopping website or other online channels operated by the company. Mr Somkid said this was a golden opportunity to show the video.
Dubbed China's Single's Day as the equivalent to the West's 'Black Friday' sale in late November, last year's event clocked sales in excess of 860 billion baht.
The campaign, plus the government's new measure to waive fees for visas on arrival for the next two months for visitors from 21 countries including China and Taiwan, should boost tourist arrivals by at least 30%, Mr Somkid said.
"Alibaba is happy to support Thai tourism," he said.
"The Tourism Authority of Thailand [TAT] will be ordered to produce the video urgently and I may act as a presenter to reassure Chinese tourists of their safety and convenience when travelling here," he added.
Alibaba also reportedly confirmed it would invest more in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme spanning the three provinces of Rayong, Chachoengsao and Chon Buri.
The Chinese company is interested in setting up a regional logistics hub there, Mr Somkid said.
He said the company has asked the government to help it scout a suitable location for this.
The Industry Ministry and other agencies will be asked to assist with this given the size of the Chinese investment, he added.
Thai officials will be dispatched to China to learn more about Alibaba's practices soon so they can develop better ways of cooperating to boost the income of Thai farmers and low-income earners, Mr Somkid said.
The deputy premier said Mr Ma told him China's demand for Thai fruit continues to grow.
Apart from durians, mangosteen and mangoes are getting popular, he said.
Mr Ma said Alibaba wants more volume to sell in China as soon as possible and Mr Somkid directed him to deal with Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong on this.
Their talks also touched on how Alibaba can source high-quality Thai products for sale in China in the food, industrial and lifestyle sectors.
During his China trip, Mr Somkid also met vice-premier Han Zheng in Beijing.
Mr Somkid highlighted the latest measures to boost tourism in the kingdom including promotional travel packages exclusive to China as well as other efforts by the TAT, Thai Airways International and Airports of Thailand.
Mr Somkid also reportedly recorded a clip to promote tourism, for use on Chinese apps, websites and social media.