Lisa's hit boosts Yaowarat, soft power
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Lisa's hit boosts Yaowarat, soft power

Pop star's music video highlights the potential of celebrity influence

City on the map: Lisa from Blackpink takes centre stage in a music video teaser released to promote her new single 'Rockstar'. (Photo: Lalisa_M Instagram)
City on the map: Lisa from Blackpink takes centre stage in a music video teaser released to promote her new single 'Rockstar'. (Photo: Lalisa_M Instagram)

The release of the Rockstar music video by Lalisa "Lisa" Manobal on June 28 has boosted the popularity of Bangkok's Yaowarat (Chinatown) area.

Her first solo single in three years surpassed 32.4 million views within 24 hours after the MV was posted on YouTube. Chinatown, where most parts of the video were filmed, has become the location for a check-in craze.

It was not the first time devotees followed in the footsteps of Lisa, who took advantage of her global fame to promote the cultural assets of her homeland.

In September 2021, when her solo debut album Lalisa was released, the MV of the first single featured the pop star, who's a Buri Ram native, wearing a traditional Thai headdress and Thai-designed outfits.

Prasat Hin Phanom Rung, an archaeological site in the province, was featured as a backdrop in the video.

And when Lisa has been captured with any Thai product, its sales skyrocket.

These have included common meatballs from local street vendors near Buri Ram railway station as well as a style of herbal inhaler popular with the elderly.

The Yaowarat phenomenon stirred by the young idol has sparked calls for the government to broaden its efforts beyond Yaowarat and consider leveraging celebrity influence in its promotional strategies.

Power of opinion leaders

Sisdivachr Cheewarattanaporn, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), said Lisa, who has more than 100 million followers on Instagram, generates high engagement on social media.

She also represents Thai soft power, showcasing aspects of Thai culture to the world, he said. The pop icon's popularity and influence are undeniable, citing how she created the rush on meatballs in Buri Ram.

It is time for the government to name Lisa as a cultural ambassador and tap into her global audience, he said.

"I think that in terms of the country's image, the impact is evident. She has generated the biggest buzz that no other celebrities can.

"Her role as the country's ambassador will be a big boost. It's a good investment and it also fosters pride," he said.

Mr Sisdivachr said the government must intervene because the private sector does not have the resources to sign Thai talent as a tourism or cultural ambassador.

Sisdivachr: Lisa is 'Thai soft power'

Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), spoke in favour of partnering with key opinion leaders or influencers to promote tourism.

However, he said the use of cele­- brities should be carried out subtly without appearing heavily commercialised or forced; otherwise, the approach would lose its appeal.

Lisa's use of influence to promote Thai cultural assets feels natural and impactful, he added.

Extending beyond Yaowarat

Mr Sanan said the Rockstar music video will help drive tourism activity in every segment, and Yaowarat, which is already a prime tourist spot, will see a surge in visitors.

The government should take this opportunity to broaden promotional efforts beyond Yaowarat to include nearby neighbourhoods such as Song Wat Road, Sampheng market, and Talat Noi, which are renowned for their multiculturalism, he said.

According to the TCC chairman, the use of influencers as tourism ambassadors can also be extended to other parts of the country and upgrade tourist towns with economic potential into trade, investment, and liveable cities.

TCC is working with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Tourism Ministry to promote high-quality tourism under a campaign called the "Happy Model" in every province, including Bangkok.

The model consists of eating healthy and organic foods; staying in places that provide wellness facilities; promoting an active lifestyle through activities such as running and boxing; and learning local knowledge and sharing it with others.

"Yaowarat can be used in the pilot scheme with participation from the locals. Partnership with the local community is crucial to bring sustainability," he said.

The present campaign aimed at promoting 10 second-tier provinces as first-tier tourist destinations can also be leveraged to support the "Happy Model" initiative, he said.

Ten provinces selected from all five regions are Phrae, Lampang, Nakhon Sawan, Nakhon Phanom, Sisaket, Chanthaburi, Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Trang.

These provinces are being encouraged to use local festivals to showcase their cultural, historical, and natural attractions, and economic potential to attract visitors and investors, ultimately leading to growth and development.

Sanan: In favour of opinion leaders

Mr Sisdivachr said the government should take the opportunity to capitalise on the interest generated by Lisa's music video and promote other tourist attractions in other parts of the country.

He also urged the government to establish clear objectives, evaluate the preparedness of each targeted province, and formulate a plan before implementation.

"Preparedness is important before putting the plan in motion. More measures must be in place to enhance the safety of visitors. They should feel safe when travelling," he said.

On the bandwagon

Enhancing the strength and identity of communities has been a cornerstone of Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt's policy, according to Aekvaranyoo Amrapala, spokesman of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).

The BMA has not only improved infrastructure to make tourist spots across 50 districts in Bangkok easily accessible but also rolled out a scheme to promote the distinct characteristics of each of 30 neighbourhoods to boost economic activity, he said.

Communities like Kadi Chin in Thon Buri district, Nang Loeng in Pom Prap Sattru Phai district, Talad Noi in Samphanthawong district, and Saphan Pla in Sathon district have their strengths and identities that deserve attention and recognition.

The BMA's collaboration with local communities in organising events to promote economic activity like cultural fairs and walking streets has also raised awareness that sustainable tourism needs cooperation from all stakeholders, he said.

Song Wat, an old town area filled with traditional shops, has become vibrant and attracted young entrepreneurs due to the BMA's effort to revitalise the area, he said, adding the areas under development include Bang Lamphu-Klong Ong Ang, Thewet-Talat Thewarat, Pakkhlong Talat, and Yaowarat-Sampheng.

"We've been working on it, but we also thank Lisa for helping draw attention to Thai tourist attractions. She is a global sensation, and [the music video] gives it an additional boost," he said.

TAT governor Thapanee Kiatphaibool said the agency will take this opportunity to develop tourism activities such as a walking route around Yaowarat-Songwat-Talad Noi to attract tourists and increase economic value.

"We believe the music video will revitalise tourism in Bangkok.

"TAT will promote Yaowarat to catch up with the emerging trends... such as promoting Thailand's other old town areas in long-distance markets using Yaowarat, which is a well-known destination," she said.

Thapanee: Walking routes a good idea

Flaws to be fixed

Sanga Ruangwattanakul, president of the Khao San Business Association, called on the government to streamline work and revise regulations that impede tourism development.

Without revamping such rules, low-level officials would not support the business operators' tourism promotion campaigns out of concerns about complaints and legal actions, he said.

Mr Sanga said the government announced a plan to promote a month-long Songkran festival but did not allocate any budget to fund the activities.

When the business operators wanted to secure sponsorship from the alcoholic beverage industry, they were warned against alcohol advertisement by authorities.

He said the government should implement policies to support the business operators because the fever generated by the music video is short-lived and will fade quickly.

"What we're dealing with here is a situation where the regulations are not aligned with government policy. Outdated laws need to be updated.

"We want to be a tourist city, yet tourists can't order a beer due to limited hours for alcohol sales," he said.

Sanga: Urges govt to streamline work

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