Buri Ram, a lesser-known vacation destination in Thailand, recently saw an influx of tourists after South Korean group Blackpink's member, Lalisa "Lisa" Manoban — in fact a Thai — inadvertently used her popularity to promote the place.
As one of the smallest provincial capital cities in Thailand with limited attractions and activities, Buri Ram used to fly under the radar when it came to tourism. Ratpacha Teerapattharakit, president of Buri Ram Tourism Association, said that aside from international sporting events like the MotoGP, it is challenging to promote tourism locally.
That is until recently, when Lisa pulled the spotlight onto Buri Ram after an interview and her first solo music video featuring various local attractions. Now, Buri Ram’s tourism officials are expecting a windfall — much like boy band BTS' power in spreading South Korean tourism.
A 1000% taste of Lisa’s childhood snack
When Lisa promoted her solo debut single album, LALISA, in an interview on a popular Thai Talk show, she spoke of how much she missed her hometown, specifically pinpointing the congregation of meatball stalls that surround the Buri Ram railway station.
“People buy and eat them right there at Buri Ram train station. They’re really popular,” she told host Woody Milintachinda. “The highlight is the sauce found only in Buri Ram.”
And her fans literally ate it right up. Following the singer’s appearance on the show, sales of food vendors situated around the Buri Ram railway station skyrocketed by around 1,000%. The Bangkok Post reported that two store owners noticed that their sales had rose from approximately 100 Thai Baht the day before Lisa’s interview to around 10,000 Baht in the days that followed, with majority of their orders made up of online sales from other provinces.
Bordin Ruengsuksriwong, the provincial Tourism Industry Council president, spoke to NME Asia about the frenzy for a taste of Lisa’s childhood snack, calling it “unprecedented” and thanked her for rejuvenating the small local businesses. “Now some shops have about 2,000 orders a day. Business is even better than pre-Covid-19,” he said.
A temple given new life
After featuring the Phanom Rung temple in her music video, Lisa’s influence single-handedly spiked tourism receipts in Buri Ram. Photo Credit: YouTube/Blackpink
The excitement to experience Buri Ram through Lisa’s eyes was further intensified when the Blackpink YouTube channel released the LALISA music video featuring Lisa as a solo artist. On the first day of its release, it amassed 73.6 million views on YouTube, becoming the most-viewed music video on the platform by a solo artist within 24 hours.
Aside from its catchy and upbeat track, fans literally snapped up the gold-gilded Thai headdresses featured in the video, while the ancient temple in Phanom Rung Historical Park has also been bathed with visitors.
Already, the provincial authorities stated that the number of tourists visiting Phanom Rung National Park has doubled from around 200 to 400 per day since the music video's release, as The Star reports.
Tapping on the Blackpink effect
Panuwat Ueasamarn, chief of Phanom Rung Historical Park, said that the Buri Ram Tourism Association has received many inquiries about Lisa-inspired tour packages, as reported by The Nation Thailand. The association plans to introduce a three-day, two-night programme to Phanom Rung, with an itinerary that would allow travellers to visit meatball shops, Lisa’s hometown in Satuek district and a tour of the Phanom Rung Historical Park.
The president of the Buri Ram Tourism Association expects that “Phanom Rung will be crowded with locals dressed like Lisa, just like how a [Thai period drama set in Ayutthaya a few years ago] spiked tourism receipts there”.
After Covid-19 measures were eased on 1 September, the occupancy rate at Buri Ram's 800 hotels offering 4,000 rooms began to improve, reaching 60% on weekends and 40% on weekdays from from single digits the past few months, said Ratpacha.
According to The Bangkok Post, Buri Ram welcomed 2.33 million travellers in 2019, of which 2.25 million were locals and 77,874 were international travellers. The number of tourists in 2020 stood at 960,463, which comprised 951,939 Thais and 8,524 foreigners.
Ratpacha added that the positive impact from the LALISA music video will help promote the province as an attractive destination in the local market.