While Queen Sirikit celebrates her birthday, thousands of tourists will be discovering the wonders of her country. Tourists, in fact, quickly learn of the genuine love and admiration the Thai people hold for Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol. It often surprises many of them that royalty, sometimes viewed with indifference in the West and other Asian countries, thrives in Thailand. Some have little or no knowledge of Thai royalty when they arrive in the country, but they leave with an understanding of why the king and queen are such an intrinsic part of Thai life. This is not merely a royal couple who sits back and waves from limousines, but a king and queen dedicated through hands-on hard work of trying to better the lot of the less privileged. The visitor cannot help but be impressed. The king and queen are part of the overall impression tourists garner from a visit to Thailand. It is an impression that keeps them coming back. This year, while tourist numbers throughout Asia have been falling, visitors to Thailand had increased by four per cent up until the end of June. This may have been viewed as a modest increase in previous years but, in terms of the current economic situation in the region, it is quite an achievement. The buoyancy of Thai tourism in such rough regional waters can be attributed in part to the 'Amazing Thailand 1998-99' tourist promotion, the lower value of the baht and the decreasing cost of air fares. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is promoting the country through numerous overseas efforts. The 'Amazing Thailand' logo, for instance, appears in the window of travel agents around the world. Thailand has been renowned as a cheap place to shop but the devalued baht and increased competition among retailers and restaurants is adding to the bargains. The Tourism Authority has also launched Asia's first country-wide shopping discount card. For 250 baht (about HK$50), tourists can get discounts of up to 20 per cent for one year at a wide variety of outlets. Cardholders can also accumulate points earned from purchases.