Lessons from Bangkok for Ballito?

Category Newsletter: Article 4

Tim Johnson, Sales Director of Seeff Dolphin Coast was fortunate enough to visit Bangkok in Thailand recently.  This article is a short overview of his experiences and learnings in this truly incredible city.

As part of a corporate group a great deal of activities were packed into the 5 day stay. These included:

  • Visiting the mind-boggling Chatuchak Weekend Market which is the largest weekend market in the world with around 15000 stalls.
  • Fine dining on the open rooftop of the magnificent 61 storey Banyan Tree Hotel.
  • Feeding elephants at the Elephants World Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi Province.
  • Walking across the Bridge over the River Kwai.
  • A dinner cruise aboard a traditional boat on the Chao Phraya River in the heart of the city.
  • The iconic Buddhist Grand Temple.

What really stood out for me during this visit were the incredibly hospitable and respectful Thai people, the efforts to keep the city clean, as well as the energy and entrepreneurial enterprise on display everywhere we went.

With tourism being such an integral part of the Thai economy, it’s easy to judge the hospitality as being purely superficial.  However my overwhelming sense was that everyone we interacted with took a genuine pride in their role or service offering, and conducted themselves with a quiet humility that was very difficult not to respect and reciprocate.

It made me consider my home town Ballito. Ballito is touted as a "Tourist Destination". Perhaps levels of service and generosity of spirit should be focussed on, so we too could aspire to greater heights in order to truly place ourselves on the map and offer memorable experiences for our visitors.

As far as cleanliness was concerned, I remember distinctly walking down the main street in China Town and thinking to myself that amongst all the chaos and activity, the streets were very clean. It was only when I consciously looked for the answers that I saw a team of cleaners every 30-40 metres with mobile recycling bins doing their part. Of course, when you take this kind of pride in your neighbourhood, it becomes infectious to your visitors, and becomes ingrained as more of a civic duty. Either way, it is clear that community involvement and the likes of the Urban Improvement Precinct (UIP) we have in Ballito, are incredibly important to maintain our area’s beauty and appeal.

As far as the entrepreneurial attitude and market culture is concerned, I was blown away. In a third world country it is clear that there is a need to create more jobs and encourage self-starters. Whether it was the food, clothing or souvenir vendors, the city was abuzz with activity and enterprise. Not only do the Thai people clearly have an appreciation for hard work, but the local authorities have also created opportunities for them to operate. Whether it be the government subsidised market areas and food security programs, or the relaxed vending bylaws to encourage a vibrant street food culture, there is quite a lot to learn from. As I walked around and sampled the diverse and delicious Thai food offered in just about every square inch of the city, I reflected on the bureaucratic nature of our local food vending licenses which are prohibiting what should be opportunities to establish and grow a local food truck culture which I know is desperately trying to emerge as it has elsewhere in the country and world.

To become the unique and desirable tourism and development destination we all want  Ballito, and of course South Africa to be, it is worth looking beyond our boundaries to find inspiration in innovative and out the box thinking that is borne from both necessity and a desire to be as unique and memorable as it is in Bangkok.

The examples are out there, we just need strong leadership and a willingness to incubate and nurture more meaningful public-private partnerships. 

Author: Chrissie Johnson

Submitted 08 Aug 17 / Views 621

Ballito, KwaZulu Natal

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