Tourism is one of the most important industries in Thailand, with targets for international visitors in 2012 set at 19.5 million by the Thailand Tourism Authority (TAT) which which would generate revenue of approximately 760 billion Baht (US$24.85 billion USD).
Somporn Phosanthia (‘Noi’) one of Bangkok’s liveliest tourist guides told BTN about her experiences as a tour guide in Bangkok, the vibant and fascinating cultural capital of Thailand.
BTN: Why did you decide to become a tour guide?
SP: I started my career in the leisure industry working on cruise ships in North America and, after a number of years, returned to Bangkok to run a bar/restaurant in a 5 star hotel. After a while, I felt being in the same location every day in the same surroundings a bit claustrophobic. Having two young kids meant I couldn’t really go back to America, so I decided to study to be a guide.
BTN: How did you prepare for the role of a tour guide?
I have been so lucky as I was trained by Professor Dr ML Suriyawut Suksawat and Mr Surachat Suansub (Charlie) at Ratchamongala Institute of Technology. They taught me the real importance and highlights of Thai history and culture.
BTN: What is the best part of being a tour guide?
SP: Every day is different – from the places I take visitors to, to the visitors themselves. I meet an incredible range of people, mostly nice and some not so, old folk, young folk, rich folk, poor folk, happy folk, miserable folk.
My job is to educate and entertain the customers. Many have come a long way for a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it is my duty to give them the best vacation possible.
BTN: What makes Noi stand out from competition?
I think it is important that you never stop learning and keep your knowledge fresh. Many customers have read guide books and it is good to always give them a surprise; even small things new to the customer can be important to them.
As we can be with a customer all day, or for many days, a sense of humour is key – no-one wants to be bored and they want to feel happy and fulfilled with their experience. You have to be ready for any situation and have a quick answer to everything.
A good guide should present all the aspects about Thailand, especially the culture. I always love to answer people’s questions about His Majesty the King and tell them about the wonderful things he has done for our country.
It is also important to be flexible and give customers what they want.
BTN: Tell me about some of the highlights in Bangkok?
The Klong trip, Royal Grand Palace, Gems Gallery and the newly opened Kuppa Spa are all popular attractions.
Travellers can take a long-tailed boat at the Shangri-La Pier and spend half an hour in the side canals. It is a fascinating part of Bangkok and always well worth a visit. The Royal Grand Palace next door is the best attraction in Thailand.
World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia Gala Ceremony
Tonight, Thailand will be playing host to the World Travel Awards, which will be hosting its Asia and Australasia Ceremony in Bangkok. The event is expected to attract the who’s who of travel and tourism.