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Michelin Guide widens scope

Restaurant bible to cover 7 new provinces

Yuthasak: Food and drink driving growth

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is confident that tourist spending on food and drink will exceed 800 billion baht in 2022, driven by the Michelin Guide's second edition covering seven new provinces.

Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the TAT and Michelin will continue to work on the food-rating project to boost gastronomy tourism for domestic and international tourists.

The Michelin Guide will put out its second edition this year after last year's release of the Bangkok guide. The five-year project run until 2021 under a budget of 120 million baht.

Mr Yuthasak said local and foreign tourists spent a combined 600 billion baht on food and drink in 2017, compared with total tourism income of 2.4 trillion baht.

Tourist spending on food and drink is anticipated to increase to 800 billion baht or 30% of total forecast income by 2022.

"The Michelin project will be the key factor driving the growth," Mr Yuthasak said. "Moreover, it will strengthen the overall tourism sector, especially local food experience."

Segsarn Trai-Ukos, country director of Michelin Siam Co and secretary-general of Michelin East Asia and Australia, said this year's Michelin Guide will extend to seven provinces beyond Bangkok: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon, Samut Prakan, Phuket and Phangnga.

The first five provinces are in the central region, and the latter two are in southern Thailand.

The TAT and Michelin last December announced the first Michelin stars for Bangkok, handing out 17 awards to one- and two-star restaurants.

The Michelin Guide has drawn more tourists to Thailand, mainly from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, as well as from elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

"The new 2019 edition is expected to be finalised and unveiled in the final quarter this year," Mr Segsarn said. "We still cannot say how many new restaurants will be awarded stars. All results are to be judged independently by an inspector team."

This year, Michelin is hiring two Thais to work with the judging team in order to sample spicy local foods.

Mr Segsarn said Thailand is not just one of the most popular destinations for international tourists, but it also offers a range of local foods across the country.

He said Phuket and Phangnga, famous for their world-class beaches, feature cuisine emblematic of the Andaman coast.

Last year, Unesco bestowed on Phuket the title of Creative City of Gastronomy, so the resort island's local cuisine will be promoted as distinctive and flavourful with its blend of influences from India, Malaysia, China and the Peranakan ethnic group.

"Basically, it offers an infinite variety of flavours worth discovering," Mr Segsarn said.

In addition to being a melting pot of regional cuisines, Phuket is also well-known for fresh seafood.

Michael Ellis, the international director in charge of the Michelin Guide for the new territories in the South of Thailand, said he was thrilled by the culinary and hospitality scene in Phuket, noting its mix of different cultural influences.

According to Mr Yuthasak, Jay Fai, who earned a one-star Michelin rating in 2017 for the street food category, will become a presenter to help raise Thailand's tourism image in Britain and Europe.

"Jay Fai will definitely help attract more visitors particularly first-time visitors, from secondary cities in the UK," Mr Yuthasak said. "Thai cuisine will be promoted there as well."

In the domestic market, the TAT will promote local foods in secondary provinces as part of a strategic plan to steer tourists to less-travelled destinations.

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