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A Natural Thai Choice

April 16, 2007 By: Camie Foster Travel Agent

Suggest Isan to first-timers and repeaters

Thailand is attracting increasing numbers of visitors from the U.S., and you can capture your slice of this market by talking up the diversity of experiences this destination offers. Pa Hun National Park

is very popular among those looking for an upscale vacation, says Peggy
Peterka, marketing manager of the western region for the Tourism Authority of
Thailand. "There truly are five-star-plus resorts of great value for the
more upscale traveler and those approaching upscale," she says. Nightly
room rates at most five-star properties start at about $120, she notes.

There are the locales that immediately spring to mind among
agents and first-time travelers alike, and rightly so, including Bangkok, Koh Samui,
Phuket and Chiang Mai. Beyond these icons, though, there are other destinations
that appeal to U.S.
travelers. This gives agents the ability to create interesting pairings for
clients in terms of where to go and what to do.

Khai Yai National Park, Najon Ratchasima

"Adventure is big in Thailand, from soft right up to
real adventure," Peterka adds. "More and more, we're finding that
travelers want an experience. They don't want to sit on the coach and watch the
countryside go by," she advises agents.

"They want to get out and see and touch and feel, and
get to know the locals."

An area that should be on agents' radar screen for these
travelers—whether repeat or first-time visitors to Thailand—is Isan, in the
northeastern part of the country.

Isan really hasn't been touched by tourism yet, she notes,
and while it's less commercial at this point, it does have a good
infrastructure in terms of lodging and diversions.

"You really get to see the typical Thai people and
their culture, also some great ruins," Peterka points out. "It's a
very interesting area, much more low-key and authentic."

Loei in the Isan area of Thailand

There are river tours, intriguing temples and ruins,
handicrafts, great food, agriculture and national parks. Travelers are able to
immerse themselves in the countryside. Khao
Yai & Phu Kradueng National Parks

Depending on their interests, travelers could easily spend
most or all of their trip in Isan, she says.

For such travelers, Peterka advises that agents suggest
their clients base themselves at a succession of properties so they can explore
each area for a couple of days and then move on.

Peterka's advice for Isan-bound travelers? "Allow
yourself to relax and get in the spirit," she says. "It's a shame
when people try to rush." Take that two-hour massage and make time to
enjoy the cuisine, she adds.

Indeed, when we spoke with Peterka, she'd already visited
Isan 10 times in the last two years and was anticipating—and mapping out—her

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