A Healthy Thai Hangover
By Jules Kay
The blockbuster bachelor party movie of the year, Hangover Part II, may have received mixed reviews in Thailand for its focus on the seedy side of Bangkok, but the benefits in terms of tourism may far outweigh any negative images portrayed in some of the scenes. According to a report published in The Hollywood Reporter, by June 20, 2011, "The Hangover Part II" had achieved $488.7 million in worldwide box office receipts, making it the most successful R-rated comedy of all time.
With such an impressive return, even the Tourism of Thailand has admitted that despite the gritty nature of the movie it is likely to help draw more tourists to Thailand, particularly thanks to several stunning scenes shot on the Kingdom's southern beaches, as well as passing scenery from boats along the Chao Praya River and amazing views from the city's highest al fresco restaurant.
The film's predecessor portrayed a similarly dark side to Las Vegas, which only served to promote the destination as a must visit part of the United States. In 2010, the year following Hangover Part 1, visitor volume to Sin City climbed for the fifth consecutive year and demand for specific Hangover related experiences such as a night at the mega suite at Caesar's Palace also shot up.
On the commercial side, several Thai companies have been quick to capitalise on the movie's global success. Singha Beer not only secured powerful product placement in the film itself, they also helped market the film's release and this month hosted a Hangover Part II party in Tokyo, as well as a Hangover Sweepstake competition online. Back in the Thai capital, a number of tour operators already offer Hangover tours that include most of the places and even some of the real life action in the movie. Options for Hangover fans include river trips, temple visits and sightseeing tours in places like Kao San Road, China Town and the Sky Bar for a Hangover Cocktail. Even the Go Go bars portrayed in the film are jumping on the promotional bandwagon, Bangkok's Bo Sa Bar now claims to be the White Lion bar in the movie, where the wolf pack drunkenly caused mass destruction.
For Thailand's resort destinations the long term benefits of the film may also be considerable. Destination weddings have been popular in places like Phuket, Samui and Krabi for some time, but the wedding business is likely to expand yet further thanks to the idyllic beach ceremony depicted in the film, which included classic elements such as launching traditional "Kom Loi" sky lanterns, already a popular inclusion in most of the packages offered at Thailand's resorts and private villas.
Beyond tourism and commerce, Thailand's ever expanding film production industry will also benefit from Hangover Part II's slick, professional feel. Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures chose Living Films as the local Thailand service company, and working closely with producer Dan Goldberg, from prep to shooting to wrap, Living Films worked on the film for over 7 months in Thailand and hired over 500 local Thai cast and crew to join many of the US crew from the original film. "Such a high profile film certainly puts Thailand on the map when it comes to high quality productions," said Living Film's Chris Lowenstein, the movie's line producer. "The fact that we made such a major film in Bangkok, on schedule, on budget, is definitely going to attract more overseas productions. Projects like this also create a variety of revenue streams, everything from accommodation to equipment and transport."