Thai commerce Ministry launches new theme to promote Thai foods overseas

The strategy of boosting Thailand's soft power in global markets is a key policy of the PM Srettha’s government. Food stands out as a significant "soft power" tool for Thailand as Thai cuisine remains highly popular worldwide.

The Nation

The Nation



File photo provided by The Nation.

January 8, 2024

BANGKOKThe Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP) is promoting Thai foods abroad as part of the government’s ‘soft power’ policy with a new theme, “Travel, Taste, Eat Thai SELECT”.

The initiative encourages Thai restaurants to secure the Thai SELECT symbol, to reinforce the authenticity of Thai cuisine.

The strategy of boosting Thailand’s soft power in global markets is a key policy of the Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government. Food stands out as a significant “soft power” tool for Thailand as Thai cuisine remains highly popular worldwide.

The CNN Travel website ranked Thai food as the 8th best globally. Additionally, the Taste Atlas Awards 2023-24 recognised five Thai dishes — “pad krapow”, “khao soi”, “gaeng phanaeng”, “tom kha gai”, and “massaman curry” — among the top 100 dishes out of a total of 10,927 worldwide.

According to Poonpong Naiyanapakorn, director-general of the Commerce Ministry’s Trade Policy and Strategy Office, the pivotal factor contributing to the exponential growth of Thai food’s popularity abroad is the government’s support.

Since 2002, the government has elevated culinary diplomacy, or “gastrodiplomacy” through the Global Thai Restaurant Company. This has led to a threefold increase in Thai restaurants overseas, from 5,500 to 15,000, he said.

The ministry also supports this by awarding the “Thai SELECT” certification, ensuring standards for Thai restaurants both locally and internationally.

The upward trend in Thai restaurant businesses abroad represents a crucial strategy to propagate Thai soft power globally, offering avenues for business opportunities and income generation for associated Thai industries, Poonpong said. The growth of Thai restaurants overseas contributes positively to various industries, directly and indirectly.

The promotion of Thai food as Thailand’s soft power relies heavily on Thai restaurants as primary channels for recognition, he said.

The ministry has policies and plans to propel Thai restaurants abroad, providing Thai SELECT certification to guarantee Thai authenticity for these restaurants, both domestically and internationally. These restaurants serve as showcases and conveyors of Thai wisdom, promoting Thai soft power in multiple dimensions, Poonpong added.

The Thai SELECT certification by the Commerce Ministry is granted to Thai restaurants and pre-packaged Thai food products that genuinely offer Thai flavours through traditional Thai cooking methods. According to data from the Department of Foreign Trade, there are currently 17,478 Thai restaurants worldwide, with the US having the highest number, around 6,850, accounting for 39% of all Thai restaurants abroad. Moreover, there are 1,546 Thai SELECT restaurants worldwide.

The Department of Business Development is collaborating with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Tourism Authority of Thailand to bolster “Thai SELECT Food” as a soft power of the nation through joint marketing campaigns, he said. This includes the “Travel, Taste, Eat Thai SELECT” campaign, which collaborates with local community enterprises and community learning centres in each region to attract more tourists to these communities.

This initiative aims to create new experiences daily, promoting the sale of community products and Thai SELECT restaurants in the area, Poonpong said. Additionally, they highlight the uniqueness and differences of localities, developing tourism routes for Thai SELECT restaurants in all regions.

Promoting Thai cuisine as a soft power, both domestically and internationally, serves as a significant selling point for the country and contributes to driving the Thai economy, aligning with government policies, Poonpong said.

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