When is a Tourist Office not a Tourist Office?

When is a Tourist Office not a Tourist Office?

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When it comes to the public image of the tourism industry in Thailand, you would think that anyone working in that sector would do their best to leave a good impression with tourists. After all, it is their future. No tourists coming to Thailand means no more work for them. So, imagine the surprise of Kevin Parratt when he was treated like this at a “Tourist Information” office at Hua Lamphong train station. According to a post on his Facebook page (see here), he was in Bangkok recently to meet some friends and wanted to to get a map for the BTS and MRT mass transit system in the city.

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From the concourse of the station he could see a sign on the 2nd floor that clearly said “Tourist Information”. So far so good. When he arrived at the information center he could see that everyone was busy on their mobiles phones or playing on Facebook. He apparently tried to ask for a map but they weren’t interested in helping him. They suggested he buy one from next door. He said he had that one already and that it wasn’t that good. He asked if they had a free map. That is when the owner of the shop started getting angry with him. She swore at him for wasting her time and told him to leave. So much for the famous Thai Smile and their kind hospitality.

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This is a picture that he took of the front of the shop. As you can see, the name of the shop looks like it is “Tourist Information”. The red signs on either side are advertisements for some medicine. However, if you look closely at the window you can just make out the letters “SK”. This is most likely the actual name of the shop. This is NOT a tourist information center. It is a travel agency. They are only interested in selling you tickets and tours. They are not interested in giving you information and definitely don’t want to give you any free maps. To be clear, this has nothing to do with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) or the Bangkok Tourism Office. Many of these shops also used to have the logo for TAT on the window but they were threatened with legal action if they continued to do so without permission.

The sad moral of the story is, if you see a shop like this in Thailand at a tourist destination or a transport hub, don’t expect to get any help for free. But if you do get hassled like this for no reason then please do help others by reporting them. I know local police won’t help as there isn’t anything illegal going on here with the sign. And as far as I know there is no law against swearing at your customers and giving them the finger. But, in this digital age we are armed with the power of social media. We can now use Facebook and blogs such as this one to spread the message to warn other people to stay away from so-called “Tourist Information” centers like this one. What about you, have you ever had any bad experience like this with people working in the tourism sector?

13 thoughts on “When is a Tourist Office not a Tourist Office?

  1. The Thai text on the “tourist information” sign says “Chiang Mai S.K. Tour and Travel Co.,Ltd.”.

    That is a Chiang Mai based travel agency, and they are registered with TAT as a travel agency.

    The “tourist information” signs are misleading, but so is a lot of things.

    I think we don’t have the full story on this one, but it doesn’t look like a friendly operation…

    1. Yes, there isn’t anything illegal here. Nothing that can be done to shut them down. But obviously, if they don’t want any more irate customers they need to take down the big “Tourism information” sign.

      A tip for other people looking for maps of the skytrain and metro, just go to the station as they have free maps. There is a Metro down below Hua Lamphong train station. They could have told him that.

      1. There doesn’t _need_ to be anything illegal for the Thai officials to fix it.

        I’m sure the travel agency would not hesitate to change the misleading sign if an appropriate mid-ranking official from the Thai Police or TAT has a friendly chat with them. This may well happen (quietly) if the incident gains too much publicity.

  2. I think the guy speaks good enough Thai (considering that he has posted in Thai on his FB page) to know where to pick up a MRT map. Again, I suspect we don’t have the full story here…

  3. I bought tickets in that place a few times – combined Train + Bus tickets from Bangkok to Laos for example. Don’t remember the prices unfortunately co can not say If they were ok. But I’m sure that I was pointed to this place by a tout operating on the ground floor of the station.

    I wish I still lived in Bangkok. I’d print this article out and bring it to them just for fun of seeing the look on their faces.

    1. I’ve written a blog about scams at this station before. As you arrive someone comes up to tell you that there are no tickets left for the train that you want. They then direct you to a travel agency outside that they say is run by the government. You are then sold overpriced bus tickets or tours you didn’t really want.

    2. There are direct bus services from Thailand to Laos these days so I don’t understand why anyone would buy a combined bus/train ticket when they can travel direct. Chiang Mai-Luang Prabang services and Bangkok-Vientiane and Bangkok-Pakse services are amongst the latest services in addition to the numerous Isarn-Laos services. Just book these tickets directly with the operator (i.e. the Transport company at the main bus terminals) rather than go through a travel agency. You’ll save money and a lot of headaches.

  4. What about the similar “tourist information” sign outside the train station, on the left, as you walk in from the metro station? I was there last night and I think it was a similar font and colour, but not 100% sure.
    I guess by now I have a fierce enough look so touts don’t approach me, if they do, I have sufficient Thai to give them a verbal finger…

  5. I agree with KristoferA: some details must be missing (i.e. what was actually said to elicit that reaction from the Thais). Bangkok is all about money – kind heartedness has become a rarity. Better to just walk away from them and forget it. They know another customer will come along soon. Meanwhile they go back to playing Facebook. Mai pen rai.

  6. They know there will always be a steady supply of clueless tourists and that’s why they think they can get away with this behaviour. I’m seeing this attitude more and more in Thailand.I would love to see these photos go around facebook so they can be avoided.

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