Anoma Vongyai, 44, a Phuket native, has been the Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) office in Phuket (which also has jurisdiction over Phang Nga province) since March 2014. She has a Master’s degree in Tourism from the James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.
Here, Ms Anoma tells her story: “The TAT is not a business that takes advantage or gets benefits from anyone – we purely support tourism. My role as a Thai government officer gave me more pleasure than a job in the private sector would, so I knew TAT would be the perfect choice for me.
“After I graduated, I was offered the position of marketing officer for TAT in Phuket. The government offered their staff a bursary to study in Australia, so I was still able to work for TAT in Thailand while I studied abroad. I was then promoted to Assistant Director.
“I have been unfortunate enough to come face-to-face with two tsunamis in my life so far.
“After the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, I spent three to four years promoting Thailand’s tourism by creating regional and international events for the Andaman travel trade as well as promoting a positive image of Thailand. For example, how to prepare for another natural disaster in the future.
“The challenge of building Thailand’s economy has been such an enriching experience as we all lost hope after the first year, but we have come so far.
“In 2009, I moved to be TAT Tokyo Assistant Director in Japan. And in 2011, once again I was faced with another tsunami. We had to work from home and our jobs kind of came to a halt as money had to be spent on re-building the economy and helping citizens.
“Then I went back to Thailand to work for the European and Middle Eastern markets. It was then that I decided to return to TAT in March this year, to take on the role of Director for the Phuket office.
“There is a big question whether tourism can be maintained. The businesses exist because of tourism, so if tourism takes a turn for the worse, then all businesses will be affected.
“At this stage we decided to focus more on quality rather than the quantity of tourists. If a small number of tourists come in, but spend a lot of money, then it is better than tourists who come in and hardly spend anything.
“We cannot deny that our main tourists are from China and it is our responsibility to learn how to communicate with them and teach them the Thai culture and information on Thailand. TAT office in China is currently helping us to promote and communicate better with them.
“In Phuket, I would like to promote our agricultural community, because the locals still work in this field. If we can improve agricultural tourism, I think we can keep our tourists here for a long time.
“In 2015, we will introduce and promote the unique selling points in each community by providing information booklets and hosting more events.
“Baan Bang Rong’s draw-card is its popular local fisheries and farmers; Phuket Town for its local culture and heritage city; Yao Island for its Muslim community and Koh Sireh for the unique sea gypsy culture. Luckily for Phuket, we have lots of different selling points. Our multicultural mixes of both Thai and Chinese food would leave any food fanatic spoilt for choice. For example, Loba (pork with spicy ingredients), O-Eaw (white jelly), and fresh homemade local desserts are popular in Kathu.
“Food festivals could be improved by presenting an array of foods representative of different areas in Phuket, which would be great for tourists.
“TAT is not responsible for the complaints received from tourists. Our job is to promote tourism only. I have received a lot of complaints from tourists, but we have to pass them on to the Ministry of Tourism and Sport office in Phuket. Nevertheless, the letters educate us on anything negative that we could possibly improve on.”
For any tourist information or events that you would like to see in Phuket, please contact us directly at our office near Queen’s park in Phuket Town.