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Thailand portrayed as hedonistic playground for elephant-riding cigar-smoking yuppies in ‘Where life rules everything’ tourism ad

A promo video for Thai tourism targeted at the well-heeled Hong Kong market has prompted a mixed response in the mainstream press and social media and started a debate about responsible tourism.

TAT video

The three-minute film, which has been viewed just under 100,000 times since being uploaded a week ago, has been highlighted for portraying Thailand as a hedonistic playground for rich people who ride elephants while smoking cigars, buy street food from a limousine and practice their golf swing off the back of a yacht.

Some on TAT’s Hong Kong Facebook page objected to the frequent showing of elephant rides, which are increasingly seen as cruel, linking to videos highlighting the abuse of elephants in tourism hotspots.

One poster commented: “This is disgusting. Thailand is about peace and beauty, not like these yuppies trashing places with ‘luxury.'”

Others defended the ad, suggesting that its critics were not the target audience. “Some people say it’s [the video] not real for Thailand because it’s not your style when travelling in Thailand but there are so many styles that you can travel all over in Thailand such as a backpacker, family, business person or rich people like in this ad.”

City life magazine BK published a piece dedicated to the film headlined ‘9 times the people in TAT’s new video completely won at visiting Thailand’, pointing out the most hedonistic parts of the film, such as when the young rich “gave no fucks in a 4×4 in the jungle” and “bossed it round the Old Town on tiny bikes”.

The agency behind the commercial was Leo Burnett Thailand, which created the multiple award-winning unbranded video ‘I hate Thailand’, which went viral last year with a story about James, a Western backpacker who loses a bag but finds love.

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