Ladies at the Centre of Thai Tourism: H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Minister of Sports and Tourism, Royal Government of Thailand, remains forever passionate and compassionate
Back in 2014, the new military government led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, appointed for the first time in Thai history a woman—with no real connection to tourism—to the position of Minister. Mrs. Wattanavrangkul, as she was then known, worked as part of the interior design team of Mah Boon Krong Shopping Mall, and as advertising manager and then chairperson for Toshiba Thailand. In her youth she studied in America, at first fine arts at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts, and later architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. Little did she know prior to 2014 that her CV title would one day read Her Excellency Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, the Minister of Sports and Tourism, Royal Government of Thailand.
Since taking over this top-ranked governmental position, the minister has been relentlessly present everywhere. She is certainly one of the most popular—if not the most popular—faces of the government these days.
Her popularity has a lot to do with her vision and personal involvement in tourism. As a minister she brings to the position an unfortunately not-so-common dimension in politics—a passion for the job, and a passion for people.
“Tourism makes us close to each other, makes us embrace the cultures of others and can turn first time relations into long-lasting friends,” she once stated in her opening remarks to Thai private and public tourism stakeholders. “I consider tourists more like friends, and this is essential in our travel industry.”
To further her goals, she calls regularly on the entire industry to work on the principles of what she describes as the “3Rs”—standing for “Restructure, Rebalance, and Reposition”. As minister she has also been a relentless advocate for quality in tourism, supporting initiatives in the field of not only luxury travel, but also all the elements which are seen as the quintessence of Thailand’s cultural DNA.
“By turning Thailand into a premium quality destination, we not only want to help the entire Thai tourism industry to follow suit by developing quality products and services, but also to think beyond the trade. I believe that tourism ultimately benefits to all the components of Thai society. Crafts for example are part of our Thai way of life. Most of the exquisite pieces created these days by our farmers are made under the guidance of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit,” she points out.
“Promoting our wonderful textile heritage then provides work and pride for female weavers in remote villages and assures them to get an income,” the minister stresses. “Buying a crafted scarf from a Thai village is not just a simple act of buying something but is a responsible contribution for a better living to our rural communities. This is an important act to encourage villages to nurture century-old handicraft.”
HE Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is also keen to promote secondary destinations aside of traditional holiday spots. “Here too, it is a way for our foreign guests to enjoy an authentic Thailand experience—to plunge into the roots of our Kingdom. And as such, to then leave our country with the hope of having made new long-lasting friends,” she adds.