Meeting The Maestro, Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya
Helming the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) as its president for the past couple of years, Chiruit Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya is a 15-year veteran of the meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions (MICE) industry. But the 48-year-old father of one had other ambitions as a youngster.
Despite having a big pair of shoes to fill—he is the son of privy councillor Dr Chirayut and Thanpuying Oranush Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya—Chiruit says he never felt pressured to follow a particular path.
“My parents allowed me to pursue my first passion, which was music. I discovered a love for singing while in high school in Edmonton, Canada for a year as an exchange student. The school put on musicals such as Bye Bye Birdie and The Phantom of The Opera and I sang in all of them.”
There comes a time in life where one has to make a pivotal decision and for Chiruit it came about when he left school and had to choose what to study at university.
“I opted for a degree in history at Kasetsart University after returning from Canada and later I earned a master’s degree in public administration at the American University in Washington DC. I would have liked to have studied music, particularly voice, for my bachelor’s degree but back then we didn’t have the excellent music faculties that we have today,” he explains, adding, “Then again, I never really dreamed of becoming a professional singer or musician, although I enjoy performing. I have appeared on stage with artists like Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi and Bird Thongchai McIntyre as a guest singer, and we even have our own band at work. Music is a shared hobby we all love.”
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As a young man the bubbly-natured Chiruit eventually found his professional focus through his father. “My dad influenced me a lot,” he says in an earnest tone. “Back in 1987 Thailand’s tourism industry was facing a shift and dad, then chairman of the TAT, was working on the Visit Thailand campaign and it inspired me to look into tourism. Initially I wanted to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but then realised that my animated personality would be better suited for something more active, like the Ministry of Tourism and Sports,” he laughs.
Today Thailand ranks at the top of the ASEAN region as a MICE destination, but Chiruit won’t be resting on his laurels. The president of TCEB says, “Our strategy is to target smaller communities and corporate social responsibility or CSR, which is almost mandatory for bigger corporations. We also want to distribute activities beyond our traditional locales such as Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Pattaya and Phuket. We have great new potential destinations—I’m thinking of cities like Udon Thani, Korat, Phitsanulok, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai, which have improved infrastructure and also have many tourist attractions. Now we also bid for mega-events to inject revenue into the country.”
When asked about his 14-year-old son Akarat, the proud father says he has taken a leaf from his own parents’ book. “My wife, Duangkaew, and I don’t really expect anything from him. Like all parents we just want him to be happy. Akarat is very independent and is currently studying at boarding school in Vancouver, Canada. I want him to be a global citizen but I also want him to be aware of his Thai heritage. He has spent a lot of time with his grandparents and I believe he’s absorbed some of the wisdom of his grandfather.”
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