THAILAND is hoping to reclaim its title of one of Asia’s top gastronomic destinations, as Michelin launches its where to eat guide next week.
The sale of Thai food currently accounts for around 20 percent of the country’s overall tourism economy; however, the culinary guide agency aims to boost gastronomy business to 25 percent in 2018, according to Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
Thailand’s tourism industry currently generates a healthy 2.7 trillion baht (US$82 billion), however, the country hopes to grow this to 3 trillion baht ($92 billion) by 2018, with the restaurant and street food scene expected to account for 750 billion baht ($23 billion) of that income.
“The TAT will heavily promote gastronomy tourism as well as street food [especially in Bangkok] next year,” Supasorn told Bangkok Post. “Local food will be one of our core tourism products in the coming year. The TAT aims to push the country to become a destination for gastronomy in Asia.”
The Michelin Guide, which is scheduled to launch on December 6, will be given full reign by TAT to try out, review and rate dining establishments across Thailand between 2017 and 2021.
In 2016, 32.6 million international travelers visited Thailand, with British, Russian, Malaysian and Chinese tourists frequenting the region the most – all of them spending a substantial amount on dining.
Chinese tourists reportedly spent 83.3 billion baht (US$2.5 billion) on food in Thailand last year, with Russian visitors feasting on a mighty 20.8 billion baht (US$638 million) worth of Thai delicacies.
In 2016, gastronomy was the fourth-largest segment in the Thai tourism sector, trailing closly behind accommodation, transport and souvenir shopping.
With the arrival of the Michelin Guide, the culinary sector may find itself at the top of the tourism income chart.