A local couple are in campaign overdrive this week to be selected as winners of a fantastic international competition being conducted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
From more than 200 global entries, South Bay residents Jackson Choy and Lori Fujikawa-Choy were chosen as one of 25 semifinalist teams, vying for the top prize in the Ultimate Thailand Explorer event, created by the Tourism Authority to counteract the decline of international tourism and to publicize Thailand’s five top tourist destinations: Bangkok, Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, and Koh Samui. The winning contestants will receive a deluxe holiday package trip to Thailand and more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.
Competitors from the U.S., France, Singapore, Canada, Poland, Australia, Thailand, the Phillipines, and the UK submitted video entries of themselves and 25 were chosen on the basis of online voting to move on to the next round. The contest ends this Thursday, Nov. 12 and votes can be cast at www.ultimatethailandexplorers.com.
Jackson and Lori have dedicated much of their time and energy to humanitarian work in Thailand and are hoping for the support of the community as the voting nears its end.
Lori answered some questions for the Rafu on Monday, as the contest heated up.
Rafu: Where are you and your husband from? Did you go to school locally?
Lori Fujikawa-Choy: I grew up in Torrance and attended North High School. I attended Cal State Long Beach and received my BFA in Graphic Design. Jackson is from the San Gabriel Valley and attended Temple City High School and went on to major in History at UCLA.
Rafu: Why Thailand? Do you travel to Asia regularly?
LFC: We try to go to Asia once a year – we really love traveling and went to Singapore and Thailand for our honeymoon this past June. Our first experience traveling to Thailand was separately as volunteers with the organization Youth With a Mission. Jackson went to Thailand in 2003 and I just happened to be assigned to Thailand the following year. We both stayed for two months and during that time did various volunteer projects including construction work for an AIDS hospice, and teaching English. I think those experiences have given us a different perspective on Thailand as a country – we’ve stayed in huts with hill tribes and also major tourist areas and big cities.
To us, Thailand is more than just a great vacation destination – we both have a genuine love for the Thai people and their culture and in a way it feels like a second home. We still have many friends who live in Thailand and between the two of us we’ve been back to visit seven times.
Rafu: How did you get involved with the contest and what has the process of entering been like?
LFC: My best friend Stephanie saw an article in USA Today about the contest and told us to enter because she knows how much we love Thailand! Entering the contest has actually been the easiest part – it’s getting people to vote that has been difficult.
Rafu: Why do you think you were chosen as finalists? What was it about your video that struck a note?
LFC: There were so many great entries for the contest, but I think one reason why we were chosen as semi-finalists was because we didn’t just talk about what we could do – we actually showcased our skills. We incorporated my photography from previous trips to demonstrate our ability to document our travels, and filmed our clip to be like a mini travel network piece. We actually filmed in Thai Town in North Hollywood to give an example of what we would do if selected to go to Thailand.
I think the fact that we’ve both been to Thailand before was also a plus. The purpose of this contest is to promote tourism and to essentially be an online tour guide to the rest of the world. Someone who has been there before can provide a much deeper understanding of what it’s like to travel there – and with only 6 days to travel and document your trip there’s not a lot of time for someone to get over any culture shock or figure out how to navigate the city if it’s their first time there.
Rafu: Online contests are becoming more prevalent and expose you, essentially, to the world. Are you concerned about baring yourselves to a global audience?
LFC: I think with any media platform there is always a risk of putting yourself out there and not knowing how people will respond or react. I think there is a balance of allowing yourself to be vulnerable and genuine to your audience, but also giving yourself boundaries. Unless they’re a friend of a friend, I’m not ready to add every single person on Facebook just to get more votes – at the end of the day that’s a little too much information for people to have.
Rafu: Should you win, what will your duties be? How can you help promote tourism to Thailand?
LFC: The teams who are voted as finalists will be sent to their chosen destination in Thailand for one week. The city we’re competing for is Phuket, which is Thailand’s largest island, and a very big vacation destination. Tourism accounts for an enormous part of Thailand’s economy, so you can imagine with the recession and the decline of international traveling how hard it is for some businesses over there to survive. When my husband and I went to Phuket this past June, there some restaurants that we would walk into and literally we were the only people there.
Our main task if selected is to be the best tour guides for the city of Phuket! We will be responsible for creating an itinerary of interesting activities and documenting our adventures through blogging, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network that we have available. Our goal is to highlight both cultural and social attractions that make Phuket a must-see destination for travelers of all types.
Rafu: What have been the best and worst aspects of the process? How nervous are you as the deadline approaches?
LFC: The best part of the process has been reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. As we’ve spread the word about the contest we’ve gotten some super enthusiastic support from friends that we haven’t seen in years! We’ve also gotten to know some of the other teams in the contest and they’re all really cool people – everyone that’s competing are seasoned travelers and have the best stories to share about their experiences!
As the deadline gets closer we are definitely nervous – no single team has held the lead for this entire contest, but we still need a LOT of votes to earn our ticket overseas! We know that anything can happen and we’re just glad to be a part of this whole experience.
The Choys’ video entry for the contest can be viewed here: