Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, is a fundamental element of Thai culture, revered for its deep historical roots.
This martial art, also called the “Art of Eight Limbs,” attracts enthusiasts and professionals worldwide. It now offers an opportunity for extended stays in Thailand for those who train in this intense sport.
A new initiative, planned for launch in March, will allow international visitors to obtain a 90-day visa specifically for participating in a basic Muay Thai training program.
Pimol Srivikorn, a government subcommittee chairman, stated that training in Muay Thai would enable foreigners to extend their stay in Thailand by 30 days beyond the standard 60-day tourist visa.
To extend their stay to up to a year, individuals must demonstrate proficiency in Muay Thai and have a contract to fight professionally in Thailand, according to Srivikorn.
The Thai government views Muay Thai as a strategic tool for leveraging the country’s strengths and aiding economic recovery through its cultural appeal.
The Pheu Thai Party, currently in power, pledged to use cultural elements like Muay Thai to stimulate economic growth.
Recently, a National Soft Power Strategy Committee was formed, led by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Pheu Thai leader Paetongtarn Shinawatra. It focuses on sectors like recreation, entertainment, finance, business, and foreign affairs.
This committee identifies key areas such as food, sports, festivals, tourism, music, books, film, games, art, design, and fashion as potential drivers of Thailand’s soft power.
Muay Thai’s global appeal and cultural significance make it a pivotal part of this strategy.
In 2018, the sports tourism sector in Thailand was valued at 120 billion baht, with Muay Thai contributing significantly to this figure.
The value of Muay Thai specifically saw a considerable annual increase, reaching more than 120 billion baht in 2019. It has gained popularity in countries like Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the USA.
In 2023, Muay Thai received recognition from the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and was included in the European Games 2023, with 16 countries participating.
Prime Minister Srettha highlighted the significant revenue generated from Muay Thai, particularly in tourism hotspots like Koh Samui and Phuket, known for their renowned training gyms.
Pimol Srivikorn, advising the prime minister, encourages those interested in Muay Thai to find certified training gyms online.
Muay Thai training facilities aiming to attract international students must meet high equipment standards.
The government expects a significant influx of international students annually to learn Muay Thai, which will also boost the export of related equipment and traditional attire.
A collaboration between Burapha University and Muay Thai trainers is underway to establish comprehensive training standards.
Pimol Srivikorn emphasizes the need for a strategic approach to promote Muay Thai and its trainers internationally.
Over 5,000 Muay Thai gyms exist in the UK alone, offering lucrative opportunities for Thai trainers.
Pimol sees the global popularity of Muay Thai as an opportunity to enhance its international profile.
A joint initiative with the Labour Ministry aims to certify Thai trainers for international employment, focusing on regions like China, the Middle East, and Europe.
The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) plans to create a Muay Thai testing center to coordinate with countries seeking experienced coaches.
Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanich discusses promoting elite Thai fighters and supporting Muay Thai gym operations as key strategies for enhancing Thailand’s global standing in the sport.
The government’s efforts will include financial support and marketing strategies to elevate Thai cultural influence.
Muay Thai is at the forefront of this endeavor, which may expand to include other traditional sports based on their international appeal.
Phusit Rattanakul Serererngrit, from the Department of International Trade Promotion, mentions the collaboration with SAT and the International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) to host the Muaythai Global Power event.
The event is set to be the first phase of this fresh campaign, aiming to highlight the significant role of Muay Thai in introducing various local sectors to a broader audience.