#Thailand plans afoot to woo Hollywood

Hollywood 12-8

The Thai Cabinet has approved in principle the Tourism and Sports Ministry idea of attracting the producers of Hollywood movies to use Thailand as the setting for their next blockbusters.

“We are talking about famous blockbuster movies with high budgets such as ‘Star Wars’, for which, at one point, Thailand was considered as a location, but [the producers] opted to use the United Kingdom instead because it offered incentives and Thailand did not,” Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul said after the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

“If we had incentives with some boundaries, such as using places that have tourist attractions as part of the movie sets, than we could promote our country’s image. Many countries in the region are also considering the same measures right now,” she said.

She claimed that when a “James Bond” or “Mission: Impossible” movie was set in a particular country, tourist activities there increased by around 20-30 per cent in the year the movie came out.

She said the Cabinet had approved the idea in principle. Her ministry will discuss the matter with the Budget Bureau and other agencies before recommending to the Cabinet within a couple of months what kind of incentives should be offered, along with what regulations for the measures would be employed.

Insufficiently comprehensive

Meanwhile, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the 2008 Tourism and Tourist Guide Business Act as proposed by the ministry, as the law was seen to be outdated and insufficiently comprehensive.

The amendments reduce the term of tour-guide licences from five years to two. The size of tour groups will be limited and the number of tour guides per group specified. Foreign-language requirements for tour guides have also been added.

Still under consideration is some sort of regulation to ensure adequate accident insurance from tourists.

Meanwhile, Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), expressed concerns over the destruction of the natural environment if the government were unable to control filmmakers’ activities.

He said the country’s image and tourist attractions might be promoted in the movies, but the environment and attractions could also be damaged, as has happened in the past.

“I don’t mind if the government wants to attract more filmmaking by subsidising it, but the bigger concern is how to protect our environment from filming,” he said.

The TCT urged the government to learn from the failures of the past. For instance, Maya Bay in Krabi, which was used as the location of “The Beach”, has still not recovered from the damage caused by the filmmakers.

The council also suggested that the Film Board, the official body that regulates and monitors filmmaking, be more concerned about long-term environmental impacts than about making money.

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