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8 Nov, 2016

Col Somchai Hiranyakit, Governor, Tourism Authority of Thailand

ASEAN Travel & Tourism Hall of Fame – Initiated by Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil to recognise the many veterans who helped grow and shape ASEAN tourism over the last 50 years.

Col Somchai Hiranyakit

Date of Birth: 22 October 1925

Place of Birth: Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand


A career military officer. Completed Dhepsirin School (1941), Pre-Military Academy Class No.5 (1943), and B.Sc (Army) from the Royal Military Academy in 1949.

After further training as an Anti-Aircraft Company Commander (USA) Anti-Aircraft Mechanics (USA), graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College in 1957.


Entered the tourism industry with a temporary assignment to the then Tourist Organization of Thailand (TOT) in 1961, to assist with the organisation of the annual Elephant Round-up festival in Surin Province.

Between 1964-69, assistant to the Director General for Technical and Planning, TOT and Assistant to the General Manager, The Erawan Hotel, Bangkok. Between 1969-76, did stints as Deputy Director General for Promotion and Planning, Administration, and Development. Named TOT Director General in 1976 and first Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 1979 following its elevation to a state enterprise. Remained Governor until retirement in October 1986.

Set up the International Hotel and Tourism Institute Management School (I-TIM) in 1987. Opened the Sheraton Sima Thani hotel in his birthplace, Nakhon Ratchasima, the first world class hotel in North-east Thailand, in 1992.

Instrumental in getting the TOT upgraded into the TAT a full-fledged marketing organisation, setting up the Tourist Police (1977) and founding the TAT-run Hotel and Tourism Training Institute, Bangsaen (1981). Founded and became first chairman of the Thailand Convention & Promotion Association (1984). Served as Senator, Parliament of Thailand (1983-88).

Active in the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the UN World Tourism Organization (WTO). Chaired the East Asia Travel Association (EATA) in 1980-81, the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Tourism (SCOT) in 1981-83 and the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) in 1981-82. Helped found the Association of Asian Convention and Visitor Bureaux (AACVB) in 1984.

Earned awards such as the 1985 “Sank Ngeon” Award for the Promotion of Tourist Industry and Thai Identity; 1986 “Man of the Year” Award from Lak Thai Magazine 1988 “Men of Achievement Award”, The Economics Magazine and Knight of the Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.

Contribution to ASEAN tourism

His most formidable achievement was conceptualising 1987 Visit Thailand Year to the mark the auspicious 5th cycle 60th birthday of the late King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, a landmark event that catapulted the Thai tourism industry into a whole new era and led to many similar events worldwide, including the Visit ASEAN Year 1992. He also played a major role in strengthening the foundations of the then nascent travel & tourism industry.

Date of Passing: 8 June 2004.

Source: Col Somchai’s son, Khun Kongkrit Hiranyakit.