The #OpenThailandSafely communications campaign by Khiri Travel and partners has won the 2023 WiT Travel Changemakers Award in the Local Community Engagement category.
The campaign was launched in March 2021 to safely reopen Thailand to visitors after its tourism economy had been decimated by the de facto shut down of international travel due to Covid-19.
OpenThailandSafely was launched in early 2021 as the vaccine roll outs were picking up pace and tourism economies such as the Maldives and Greece were reopening. The central idea was to allow vaccinated tourists back into Thailand without subjecting them to quarantine.
The campaign, created by Khiri Travel in Thailand and supported by 60 travel industry companies and organisations such as the Minor Group, Asian Trails, Capella Hotels and SKAL International, received 12,323 supporting online signatories. A petition was sent to the Thai Prime Minister, the Minister for Tourism, and the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand by campaign partner William Heinecke, the CEO and founder of Minor Hotels.
#OpenThailandSafely generated a huge amount of headlines and news stories in the media and social media in Thailand and around the world.
The Thai government announced the reopening of Phuket from 1 July 2021 and other Thai regions from 1 October 2021.
“We don’t necessarily claim that Open Thailand Safely had a direct impact,” said Willem Niemeijer, CEO of Khiri Travel. “But we believe ours was a bold and necessary voice. It spoke for hundreds of thousands of employees who were too shy or scared to speak up. Open Thailand Safely spoke up for an industry and its people who were collateral damage.”
When the campaign launched, Thailand’s inbound tourism Inbound tourism for full year 2020 had fallen to 6.7 million visitors, down from 39.7 million in 2019. An estimated two to four million Thais had been made unemployed in the tourism sector.
Apart from direct economic impacts such as personal debt, the negative impacts affected education, psychological well being and family relationships. Furthermore, charities and foundations such as elephant camps, wildlife rehabilitation centres and those supporting people with special needs went into severe hardship or closed due to the tourism economy collapsing.
William Heinecke, Chairman of Minor International, and a key supporter of the reopening campaign, said: “Open Thailand Safely brought the tourism sector together. It made the case for the reopening of borders to help millions of Thai people. It prepared the country for the successful recovery it is now experiencing.”
Luzi Matzig, Chairman and founder of Asian Trails, added: “Open Thailand Safely was a brave and responsible campaign. It made the case for a proportionate and informed response to an unprecedented challenge.”
Khiri Travel’s Brand Director, Marsha Niemeijer, collected the Changemaker award on stage 3 October at the Web in Travel (WiT) conference in Singapore.
Today, the #OpenThailandSafely social media hashtag still indicates the level of interest, debate and media coverage the campaign created in 2021.
Khiri Travel’s long standing PR and communications partner for the Open Thailand Safely campaign was ScottAsia Communications.