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This Is the Most Offensive Tourism Campaign Ever

Welcome to Upright Position, SmarterTravel’s regular series in which Features Editor Caroline Costello discusses emotional and controversial travel topics. Got a question? Please send questions or comments about travel etiquette to may be edited.)

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has a message for women around the world: Come to Thailand, where we’ll fix your old and homely face. You’re welcome, ladies!

Thailand has launched an “Extreme Makeover” tourism campaign, the centerpiece of which is a contest that awards facial plastic surgery to the lucky winner. Women between the ages of 25 and 45 are called to submit photos of their faces and fill out an extensive medical questionnaire to enter to win a brand new look that will “change your life forever.”

Once you upload images of yourself, your pictures will appear on the Thailand Extreme Makeover site, where people can vote for the faces that are most deserving of surgery. Because if there’s one thing this world needs more of, it’s people judging women by their appearance on the Internet. A “committee of experts” will select three finalists, who will win a trip to Thailand plus plastic surgery. Videos of the winners’ surgery and journey to Thailand will be broadcast on the Extreme Makeover site.

The goal of this campaign is to promote medical tourism. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Thailand hosted as many as 1.4 million medical tourists in 2007. The country is one of the leading markets for medical tourism in Asia, the continent that leads the industry. Medical tourists, says the WHO, are a powerful asset to local economies because they’re a fast-growing faction and they tend to drop a lot of cash on expensive treatments.

According to the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, “The Thailand Extreme Makeover campaign is a reality competition that will not only create awareness about Thailand as a destination for medical tourism and the excellence of our medical facilities, but also promote the kingdom as a travel destination with something for everyone.”

“Everyone,” in this case, just covers women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Because those are the only people who are eligible. Not older folks, who are past their expiration date and will never achieve the youthful, sexy look of an empty-headed porcelain doll. Not men, either. Just us girls!

This campaign glibly upholds and endorses the worst of misogynistic stereotypes and a youth-obsessed culture. Just check out the ad, which promises “ultimate beauty” and informs, “just click for a better look for you … forever young” as a creepy disembodied hand draws correction lines on a young woman’s face:


Really, Thailand?


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