Teamwork shines in cave crisis

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CHIANG RAI, 9 July 2018: As hundreds of international volunteers and an army of Thai rescue teams and specialists work around the clock, the entire nation is praying that all 12 young boys and their football coach will be rescued. Four of the boys were brought out of the cave late Sunday.

Now there is hope that rescue workers will extract the remaining young soccer players safely from the tiny refuge deep in the flooded Tham Luang cave.

We all recognise the rescue teams’ courage, sacrifice and commitment. We salute them for working tirelessly hand-in-hand to save those equally brave young lads stranded in the cave for more than two weeks.

It illustrates that we can overcome the impossible and rise to a challenge through the strength of teamwork. It appears to be an essential part human make-up that when faced with crisis we can put aside differences and work as a team.

Almost overwhelmed by the mud and slime, the sheer exhaustion, the tragic news of the death of a volunteer diver and the immensity of the task, the human spirit and compassion rises to the challenge, inspiring us to weight in as a team and make it count.

Once the crisis is over, does teamwork and cooperation prevail? Or does petty rivalry reassert itself as the norm? It is not that Tham Luang provides a profound revelation, or a solution that has failed to gain our attention in the past. There have been many instances that have illustrated how Thailand has succeeded by joining hands and working as a team.

It is just we forget the power of teamwork. It’s an elementary subject, far to mundane to find its way into a power keynote speech packed with ‘new gen’ terms and wordiness.  We recognise the power of teamwork when we watch the World Cup and the underdogs prevail over celebrities. And on a far more serious dimension teamwork is what will save those young lads trapped in a cave.

Let’s drift with the topic of teamwork and how it applies to tourism. Or, more precisely, let’s look at the lack of it. On the sidelines of the Mekong Tourism Forum I spent considerable time listening to comments from delegates and concluded that the three pillars of Thai tourism are not working as a team.

We assume that the heads of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau are good pals. They might even meet at the health club, or go for a cycle ride and chat about the trio’s joint efforts developing campaigns for Thailand.

We assume that’s what routinely happens and that the directors below the CEOs are all on talking terms and seeking every opportunity to help each other to achieve success for the country.

Or is the opposite true? That they are protective of territory, creating fiefdoms within fiefdoms and teamwork gets thrown out of the window?

Does anyone ask how the Ministry of Tourism works with the TAT and TCEB? Is there a pooling of resources, working to achieve the same objectives and are they travelling along the same path to reach identical goals? Or perhaps, Thailand’s tourism industry, particularly the three pillars, have lost what is so evident at Tham Luang; teamwork? This is not about merging government agencies. Rather it is about recognising and respecting each other’s role and contribution, while seeking opportunities to rally Team Thailand in harmony rather than discord.