Tradition Boosts Thai New Year Tourism
Thailand’s Songkran festival is well known around the world for its revelry and boisterous street parties, during which everyone is doused in buckets of icy water to celebrate the lunar new year. However, this year marked a return to tradition as more local people, and also visitors, welcomed in the new year with a combination of merit-making, sightseeing and shopping trips.
Throughout Thailand, Songkran is traditionally thought of as a time for cleansing the body, soul and even the home. The festival marks the end of the Kingdom’s dry season, and Thai people will often see this as a good time to spring clean their houses and discard any unwanted items that may bring them bad luck in the year ahead.
As part of the cleansing process, many people also do a number of good deeds, such as giving money to the poor or administering bathing rituals on local monks. Everyday rituals in the home are followed by a visit to the temple to make offerings and food is prepared over the course of the three-day festival to offer to monks, in addition to new clothes and other practical donations.
Thanks to the above rites, Songkran retains an enduring cultural appeal for tourists, and this year was no different with visitors arriving from around the world to experience the country’s most important festival.
Special events and promotions were organised on popular islands like Phuket and Koh Samui, while restaurants and even street food vendors creating special menus for the celebrations so that visitors were able to enjoy seasonal culinary treats.
On the domestic front, spending hit a three-year peak as a result of the long holiday and various stimulus measures implemented by the government. Policy-makers offered a tax deduction of up to THB15,000 (US$427) for dining expenses incurred from April 9-17 in order to boost spending during the festivities. Taxes on domestic tour packages and hotel accommodation were also significantly reduced, prompting many Thai people to travel to the country’s favourite beaches and beauty spots.
updates by Wayne Hue