Thailand needs tourism. The industry that brings travellers to the country’s beaches, back alleys and Buddhist temples employed almost 6 million people, raked in US$109.5 billion and accounted for one in every five baht spent in 2018, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. But, according to a recent post on the website Pattaya Unplugged, which claims to be “the Number One Tourist info source in Pattaya”, the Land of Smiles is faking its warm welcome when it comes to visitors from the West. The snappily titled opinion piece (“Ten reasons why Western foreign tourists are not wanted as badly by the Thai Tourism Ministry versus Indians, Chinese, Russians, Koreans, etc.”) catalogues why the Southeast Asian nation doesn’t care for Western visitors – understood here to mean those hailing from Europe, North America and Australia. Compiled by an American living in Pattaya, those reasons were gleaned from “many talks with people from many different backgrounds and cultures [...] not just the view from a barstool”. Some points the writer makes are close to correct, if horribly elucidated. Ignoring the subtext of in-group superiority in the statement, “There are simply more of them then [sic] us”, statistics show that Thailand does receive significantly more non-Western arrivals than Western ones. According to Ministry of Tourism & Sports data, 27.3 million of the nation’s visitors in 2019 came from East Asia (including Southeast Asia), with 2.4 million from South Asia, while Europe, the Americas and Oceania accounted for 6.7 million, 1.6 million and 900,000, respectively. Similarly, “We often don’t spend as much as people think” has some truth to it. In 2017, Chinese tourists each spent US$192.84 per day in Thailand. The next most extravagant visitors hailed from the Middle East, who dropped US$190.60 on average in a day. Taking up the rear as the tightest tourists were those from Europe, who each parted with just US$125.47 per day. However, Western tourists do tend to stay for significantly longer – Europeans for 17 days versus eight for the Chinese – and it all adds up. Although it is not easy to quantify whether Western tourists do, indeed, “tend to complain more online, troll, write negative reviews and feedback and bicker”, it is possible that “Western foreigners are more demanding in person” with “more of a sense of entitlement than many other countries”. Certainly, beleaguered Barcelonans, who have been overwhelmed by travellers streaming in from France, America, Britain, Italy and elsewhere in Spain, can empathise. It is not the Chinese who have caused “touristphobia” in the Catalan capital, but an unsustainable influx of Westerners. However, “They still like package tours” is not only ignorant, it is wrong. “Most of us westerners [sic] grew out of package and group tours decades ago,” explains the writer. “The Chinese, the Indians and some Russians have not. This makes them easy to bring from one high profit tourist attraction to another.” Excuse us while we shrink with shame. A recent Bangkok Post article reported that 60 per cent of Chinese visitors to Thailand are independent travellers; the image of a flag-following flock is becoming increasingly outdated (not to mention xenophobic). Similarly, Indian travellers, 67 per cent of whom choose to make their own way rather than participate in group tours, according to another Bangkok Post report, are courted precisely for their autonomy. Package deals might get the people in but they do not generate as much for the local economy as solo sightseers, something that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has been aware of for some time. In 2016, TAT launched a campaign aimed at shifting the emphasis away from mass tourism to what it called “quality” experiences. The 10th point on the Pattaya Unplugged list contends that most non-Western visitors are not sex tourists, which is not to say that all Westerners are , but, according to the writer, “Most Russians and Chinese have zero interest in the red light district and come with families”, a fact that apparently “angers many of the long standing visitors and fans of the red light district”. “Some western [sic] foreigners would prefer to come and sit in a bar for two weeks s**tfaced [...] The tourists coming here for family activities and businesses are generally wanted much more then [sic] the barstool crowd.” Finally, some sense! Ultimately, however, there is little value in applying an us-versus-them mentality to Thailand’s international arrivals, or indeed to weighing the worth of one nationality against another. In times like these, when the coronavirus outbreak is crippling Asia’s tourism industry, surely every visitor should be given a big, authentic smile. Couple arrested for making porn, ‘working’ without a permit in Thailand Well, perhaps not every visitor. An American man and a Hungarian woman were arrested in Krabi, Thailand, on February 25 after staff at the hotel they had checked-in to told police the pair were in the country illegally, having overstayed their visas, according to a report in British tabloid the Daily Mail . When officers raided their room, they allegedly found the couple “romping” on a bed for the benefit of recording equipment set up to capture their antics. The pair had reportedly been making and selling pornographic videos and had been in Thailand for 256 days without visas. Police colonel Kongrith Suksai said, “We will charge them with publishing and trading pornography in the Kingdom, earning income without a valid employment permit and overstaying their visas.” Songkran and tom yam, icons of Thai cultural heritage And while we’re on the subject of Thailand, the Ministry of Culture recently announced that it would be nominating Songkran, the Thai New Year holiday, which involves a lot of water, for inclusion on Unesco’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. If the five-day festival is accepted, it would join the 2022 list, reported the Bangkok Post . In the running for the Tangible Cultural Heritage list is the nation’s fiery favourite, tom yam kung soup.