44 years of Lookeast … and countingby Percy Roxas
“Lookeast is like a warm and wonderful host who invites travelers into the family living room,” says avid Lookeast reader and long-time superstar Toon Hiranyasap, one of the countless readers who, for decades, have been enjoying the feature stories and information-packed articles of Thailand’s very first English-language travel publication.
It was back in 1971 that Lookeast appeared on the scene in Bangkok. Today, 44 years later, the glossy magazine is still very much vibrant and inventive, one of the few remaining media titles that are able to adapt to the challenges that the local publishing industry has faced over the years.
The publication began as a lifestyle magazine featuring articles on culture and general interest information. Its founder Soji Roberts, former consul-general of Sri Lanka, was a close friend of Dato Satish Sehgal, chairman of the Sehgal Group. When after two years of operation the magazine had not yet proved profitable enough, Roberts turned to Dato Satish.
“He gave the magazine to me,” recalls Dato Satish. “At first I was a bit hesitant but then decided to take the challenge. I studied the editorial policy of the existing publication; it needed changes. I decided to convert it into a consumer travel magazine with emphasis on providing useful information on Thailand, a major tourist draw for visitors from around the world.”
Initially it was Dato Satish who did most of the work. But as the publication grew in scope, English-speaking editors and writers were hired and soon Dato Satish’s brother Ravi Sehgal too brought his own expertise to the team. To support production cost, it was decided that advertising could create in the needed revenue. The strategy was to make Lookeast into a magazine with controlled circulation. Dato Satish arranged with the leading hotels of the day to have a copy of Lookeast placed in each of their guest rooms, free of charge. With this form of guaranteed distribution, advertisers very quickly became interested in appearing in Lookeast.
Lookeast thus became the first, and for many years the only, English-language travel magazine in Thailand. The secret of its longevity can be found in the strength of its appeal.
“Readers immediately found the magazine very useful because in it we provided information on everything they needed while visiting Thailand—what to see, what to do, where to eat, and more,” says Dato Satish. “This was especially vital for first-time visitors to the country.”
Current readers agree wholeheartedly. “Lookeast has always been considered a host and friend by its readers,” says Earth Saiswang, the Thai doyenne of PR in Thailand and a longtime friend of the magazine. “Travelers, expats, and those in local hospitality needed an honest guide. In fact, it is through Lookeast that I learned about and visited many locations in Thailand.”
This is not surprising, considering how much attention has always been devoted to highlighting pertinent travel information, and to offering fascinating feature stories that capture the interest of tourists and locals alike. That this interest is sustained is explicit in the growth figures: from an initial print run of 3,000 copies, today’s monthly circulation is more than 20,000. Lookeast continues to be the leading magazine of its kind in Thailand. And in the past few years it has developed a strong online presence (www.lookeastmagazine.com) that now attracts an additional 10,000 to 15,000 hits a month—and continues to grow.
After many years in their offices on Silom, since 2009 Lookeast’s new premises have been on the 18th floor of the Richmond Building on Sukhumvit. “Lookeast today looks much, much cooler,” says Knaokros Sakdanares, group corporate communications director for the Centara Hotels & Resorts’ Group and currently president of the Thailand Hotel PR Association, of the magazine. “I like the layout, look, and feel. And it’s even easier to find information. Young publisher Sid Sehgal is awesome and never stops, and the editors Anita Zaror and Percy Roxas are always very supportive.”
Lookeast has long been a solid training ground for many of the big names in the Thai editorial and publishing industry today. Throughout the years, Lookeast has kept its dynamic spirit and ability to change with the times. “We remain one of the leading travel magazines in the country today,” says Dato Satish. “Despite the stiff competition and the changing behavior of tech savvy readers, Lookeast continues to flourish. It is still widely read and accepted, judging by the many reader comments we receive. And we will endeavor to continue publishing the magazine for many, many more years to come.”
As reader Toon Hiranyasap says of Lookeast, “The magazine never ceases to captivate me with its gorgeous photos and intriguing stories of life and times in the kingdom. Over the years, Lookeast has grown, not into an older, but into a seemingly younger, more energetic magazine, with useful, relevant, and entertaining articles in every issue.”
As Lookeast celebrates a happy 44th anniversary, it is also a great occasion to look forward to new horizons for this trail blazing publication, now under the able leadership of Sid Sehgal.