The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is entering the third and most important phase of its partnership with the Thai Organic Consumers Association (TOCA)which will see it invest in the TOCA platform to become a blockchain-based ecosystem, connecting organic farmers, industry and consumers in a virtuous loop that will reward best practices in food and sustainability.
Speaking at the ‘Asia Arising’ event, organized by WiT and Asia Weekly Trip, Numfhon Boonyawat, Deputy Governor for Policy and Planning, TAT, made it clear that Thailand no longer wants to “rely on tourist numbers but on returns. Fewer visitors, more spending. So we ask ourselves, what can we offer them, how to modify the offer in the direction they want and work as a team to offer quality tourist experiences, while protecting biodiversity and the environment.
“That’s why we’re working with TOCA to establish a model of best practice, to connect hotels, restaurants, other businesses and consumers with organic farmers – to bring farmers on board with new technology and demonstrate how blockchain can change their lives.We are now in phase 3 of this partnership – where we will invest in technology to develop the platform.
In 2019, Thailand welcomed nearly 40 million foreign visitors who spent 1.91 trillion baht. Since reopening last July with the first Phuket Sandbox, the recovery has been in spurts, with restrictions holding back most visitors and the Omicron variant throwing a spanner in the works. However, on April 22, the day of the “Asia Arising” event, he announced the abandonment of all testing, paving the way for a stronger recovery.
The Numfhon department is responsible for initiating the partnership with TOCA, seeing it as a way for Thailand to build supply and infrastructure in a new way that supports a sustainable agriculture and tourism industry. The first phase of the partnership took place during the opening of the Phuket Sandbox when the TOCA website was launched in tandem, and the organization expanded the offering and brought farmers and southern hotels to the platform. -form, while phase two saw further expansion of supply from other provinces.
Arrut Navaraj, Managing Director of Sampran Riverside and Chairman of TOCA, said, “The TAT partnership is exciting because, for the first time, funding goes beyond grants; this time, TAT will invest in technology and work with us to create an eco-friendly environment. – system that will reward customers and businesses with Earth Points – an incentive system to encourage best practices.
“During phase 1, we extended the supply to Phuket, Krabi and Phangan, which was more difficult than in the north because there are not as many farmers in the south. In phase 2, we will work on Bangkok and areas such as Surin. Now we have over 300 farmers on the platform.
“The bottleneck has been the take-up rate of farmers, we need to make it easy for farmers to enter their information, filter it, train it and show them that they can make more money from our platform, which then incentivizes other farmers to convert.
“On the demand side, we will appeal to the Thai Chamber of Commerce and the Thai Convention and Exhibition Bureau and encourage their members to use this platform so that they can earn land points and offset their carbon emissions. . In view of net zero by 2050, we need to help companies achieve their goals and one of the ways is to increase organic farmland.
“In Phase 3, with funding from TAT, we will work with our technology developers, Mulberry Soft, to develop the platform in such a way that we can measure the collective impact. Once the impact can be quantified, it will be easy for everyone to join.
Navaraj said the platform will focus on local adoption first, by local consumers, businesses and the MICE sector, before being marketed to inbound travellers. “If they can create the first wave of demand for our farmers, the rest will follow. I think that’s how Thailand should sell itself – a destination that connects travelers not just to great food and experiences, but also to an ecosystem that supports biodiversity and the environment.
“We will launch the National Earth Points Awards by the end of next year to recognize best practice among individuals and businesses. Earth Points will convert to Carbon Footprint Points – if big companies support this by sending staff to on-site meetings where they can buy organic produce, they can link this to their carbon footprint reduction.
“It’s a transparent system that tracks the entire value chain from growth to consumption – and companies have to actually do what their PR says.”
Asked why it is important for Thailand at this stage to have such a platform and such an ecosystem, Numfhon said: “The pandemic has taught us that we can do tourism differently, that we have a opportunity to reset our industry, to go beyond mass, but for quality and sustainability. We need to invest on the supply side and generate demand – the two need to be balanced. »
One market segment that would gravitate towards such a platform connecting organic food and farmers to travelers is the digital nomad and Navaraj cited Phangan as a good example of how a destination has transformed during the pandemic. “I’ve been there three times during the pandemic and it’s like it’s my own world now. Full of digital nomads – all foreigners, I felt like a foreigner there – working in cafes, classes yoga, spiritual healing treatments. These are the 21st century hippies and I think it will be a big trend and Thailand will do well with this segment.
The TAT is watching this segment closely, Numfhon said. “Digital Nomad is a high potential segment and we are very keen on its growth and how to enter this market effectively. For example, southern Thailand is known to attract nomads with nature that creates a preferable working environment… Moreover, the cost of living in Thailand is also affordable for long stays. Therefore, by the last quarter of this year, an official website for this segment will be launched to offer products and services tailored to their needs, starting with the US market. Chiang Mai is also in the list.
“However, a digital nomad visa is being processed. The bill for the creation of a 10-year visa for high-income expatriates and digital nomads was approved by the Thai government on January 18, 2022. But there is still a long way to go.
Commenting on inbound arrivals to Thailand so far, Numfhon said: “So far it’s been long-haul markets – interestingly, even with many entry requirements, Western tourists seem be happy to accept them and be the first to enjoy Thailand. The region is seeing a return of South Korean travelers. We will continue our marketing in long-haul markets – such as our virtual/hybrid lounges in Europe and in the United States, and we have the Thailand Travel Mart in June.
Asked if Thailand was worried about losing market share to destinations such as Cambodia, which has been bolder in opening up, she replied: “…we don’t want to focus there- above. If Cambodia opens up, and other Southeast Asian countries open up, it proves that our industry is ready to rebuild together and that we can stay together. Tourism is synonymous with exchange – we can learn together how to make travel safer.
* Watch the full interview here.