Attention Internet-savvy travelers: Thailand is giving away free trips to five lucky couples who don't mind sitting in front of a computer while on vacation.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand launched a new campaign Tuesday offering five couples fully paid trips to the country's most popular cities and beaches. In return, they will be asked to blog, chat and tweet about their holiday in a bid to win a grand prize of $10,000, a BlackBerry and a video camera.
Applicants should be "good storytellers" and must know how to navigate YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, the TAT said on the contest's newly launched Web site where one-minute video auditions can be submitted until Oct. 15.
Thailand's tourism industry is facing its worst crisis in years, with foreign arrivals down 15 percent so far this year because of political upheaval and the global recession.
Tourism officials say they were inspired by Australia's recent highly publicized campaign dubbed the "Best Job in the World." The contest to serve as the caretaker on a tropical Australian island for six months, while promoting the destination on a blog, drew 35,000 applicants and worldwide media attention.
"We got the idea from Australia," said TAT official Phanom Kaributra, who is coordinating the contest. "We think it's a good way to use social networking to promote Thailand."
A panel of TAT officials will select 25 semifinalists by Oct. 15 and the winning five couples — and grand prize winner — will be chosen by worldwide online voting.
Each of the five couples will be sent early next year on a six-day trip to different destinations: the capital Bangkok, beach resorts Phuket, Samui and Pattaya, and the northern city of Chiang Mai.
Phanom said the couples would be free to explore but would not be encouraged to "go to red-light districts and places like that."