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.
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.
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?