It was a evening of laughter and great food last night, as Trafalgar launched its 2015 Asia program with a cooking class and dinner for 20 people at the family-run SalaThai restaurant in Vancouver. The evening was designed to mirror the authentic experiences Trafalgar provides to help guests connect with local people and cultures.
“It’s a sampling of what awaits in Thailand,” Wolf Paunic, Trafalgar’s vice-president of sales, told PAXnewsWest.com.
After a demonstration of the Thai art of fruit carving, guests went to their cooking stations, where the ingredients were laid out for green curry chicken. SalaThai’s Chef Eddy led the cooking demonstration while guests donned aprons and got to work. With a little help from Joy Kongslip, matriarch of the family that runs SalaThai, everyone’s dishes came together – and the result was good enough to serve for dinner.
In the final cooking lesson, guests learned to make green papaya salad, a process that involves plenty of smashing with a mortar and pestle. Working in groups, guests had a great time mashing and stirring the salad into shape.
Guests’ very positive response to the cooking class was no surprise to Paunic, who told PAX that Trafalgar’s program is based on providing tactile experiences with an insider point of view.
“Cooking tells a story,” he said. “And we are all about telling insider stories.”
He added that just as the evening’s cooking classes and meal were hosted by SalaThai’s Kongslip family, Trafalgar’s guests in Thailand are invited for a meal at a local family’s home as part of the company’s Be My Guest program.
As guests sat down to eat their creations – supplemented by dishes prepared by SalaThai’s staff – the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s representative for Canada, Kayla Shubert, shared a presentation about the country.
Shubert said that 213,161 Canadians visited Thailand in 2014, and the Conference Board of Canada predicts an average four per cent growth in the number of Canadian visitors to Thailand over the next several years. More than 60 per cent of visitors from Canada have been to Thailand at least once before. Why go back? Shubert said there are three reasons: the warm Thai hospitality, the diversity of experiences available in the country and the value.
“From budget to top-end luxury, you will be pleasantly surprised at every price point,” she said.
Shubert revealed that the Tourism Authority of Thailand has launched a new campaign for 2015 with the theme “Discover Thainess.”
“We want people to discover the magic of this very special country,” Shubert said, adding that Trafalgar’s focus on experiencing the local culture is a great fit with this campaign.
As dinner wrapped up, Paunic presented Trafalgar’s Asia Program, with a focus on the Thai itineraries. The company offers an 11-day Secrets of Thailand tour, which can be combined with an optional three-day add-on of either Cambodia or Koh Samui.
“From Day 1, our guests experience the destination and interact with the local people,” he said. In Thailand, that means early morning tai chi in a local park for those wanting to shake off jet lag on their first morning in Bangkok.
Trafalgar takes guests to small town as well as the major cities, and where possible offers accommodations in converted buildings of historical value. Through the Be My Guest program, guests tour a village and visit a local co-operative before dining in a local family’s home.
“Ninety-five per cent of our guests rate the Be My Guest experience as the most memorable event they attended,” Paunic said.
Paunic concluded by emphasizing the value of a guided vacation for first-time travellers to Asia.
“The experiences are curated and carefully planned,” he said. “It’s hassle-free, so you can forget about the logistics and focus on the people.”
To learn more about the Thailand Tourism Authority’s Discover Thainess campaign, visit na.tourismthailand.org. For Trafalgar’s 2015 Asia program, go to www.trafalgar.com/can/destinations/asia.
PHOTO: Marie Anne MacRae, VP, Global Strategic Partnerships, The Travel Corporation; Wolf Paunic, VP Sales, Trafalgar; Katherine Chin, PR & Digital Media Strategist, The Travel Corporation; Kayla Shubert, Representative for Canada, Tourism Authority of Thailand; Quentin Lemmer, Sales Manager, BC & Yukon, Trafalgar.