The book charts the rise of the industry since the 1950s and examines the people, places, institutions, hotels and agencies which have transformed Bangkok from the Venice of the East to a dynamic gateway to all the attractions the country now has to offer.
The book is published by Dusit International, in partnership with Bangkok Bank, Boon Rawd Brewery, Central Group, Chiva-Som International Health Resort, Jim Thompson, Siam Piwat, Thai Airways and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
“The book proposed to honour the early pioneers of tourism-development, before they and their memories are gone,” Van Beek recently told the Bangkok Post.
The book examines in rich detail the challenges faced by these early pioneers and, through profiles, anecdotes and quotes, underscores the need to preserve their stories. Among the key figures profiled in the full-colour gloss book are His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani, President of the Royal Project Foundation; General Prem Tinsulanonda, former Prime Minister of Thailand; Lt Gen Chalermchai Charuvastra, founder of the Tourist Organisation of Thailand.
Other key figures whose testimonials and recollections are included are Niels Lumholdt, former Executive Vice President of Thai Airways International; Dr Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, founder of Bangkok Airways; Kusa Panyarachun, founder of Thailand’s first travel agency; Chin Sophonpanich, founder of Bangkok Bank; Samrit Chirathivat, founder of Central Group; and Thanpuying Chanut Piyaoui, founder of Dusit International.
A special section dedicated to Thailand’s royal family highlights how projects initiated by His Majesty the late King, Bhumibol Adulyadej, have had a positive effect on tourism.
Chanin Donavanik, Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Dusit International, hopes the book will not only help to preserve the stories of the early pioneers, but also inspire a new generation of hospitality workers to follow in their footsteps.
“The travel industry is one of the most important industries in Thailand and today employs almost 15% of the population and contributes 17% GDP to the Thai economy,” said Mr Chanin.
“I think it’s vitally important that the new generation understands what happened in the past, and how the risks and opportunities taken by the early pioneers ultimately shaped the industry as we know it today.
“In producing the book, we hoped to preserve the inspiring stories and wisdom of our forebears by featuring as many influencers from 60 years ago as possible. While we could not include everyone we originally planned to, either due to time or budgetary constraints, or lack of information available in cases where people have either moved or passed away, we still managed to include most of the key players, resulting in a comprehensive, well-balanced overview which we hope will inspire readers and encourage hospitality students to discover more inspiring stories from the past.”
Author Van Beek told the Bangkok Post that increasing the focus on quantity over quality in the tourism industry is unsustainable and could have dire effects for its future.
“The challenge is to create a sustainable balance. The commodification of culture has been beneficial in preserving areas which might have otherwise have disappeared. The emphasis on sheer headcounts, however, has had a deleterious effect that shows no signs of abating, and threatens the future viability of tourism,” he said.
In keeping with Dusit’s aim to help boost hospitality education in Thailand, copies of the book will be distributed for free to schools, colleges and universities offering tourism, hotel management and culinary programs in Thailand.
In remembrance of His Majesty the late King, all proceeds from sales of the book will be donated to the Royal Project Foundation, which helps to improve the living conditions of Thailand’s rural communities.
From this month onwards, the book will also be available at Asia Books and all Dusit hotels in Thailand, priced at B1,500. A free e-book, available in English and Thai, is also available at: thailandtourismtheearlydaysbook.com