6HWbNHN-show-poster2x3-c7tgE2Y.png

Artbound

Start watching
MJ250sC-show-poster2x3-Bflky7i.png

Tending Nature

Start watching
Southland Sessions

Southland Sessions

Start watching
Earth Focus

Earth Focus

Start watching
5LQmQJY-show-poster2x3-MRWBpAK.jpg

Reporter Roundup

Start watching
City Rising

City Rising

Start watching
Lost LA

Lost LA

Start watching
Member
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Thailand's Tourism Social Enterprises Help Locals Hit by Coronavirus

Support Provided By


This story was originally published June 23, 2020 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Tourists dress in ethnic clothing before they start the tour of a village in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on February 28, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Wocation.
Tourists dress in ethnic clothing before they start the tour of a village in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on February 28, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Wocation.

When Thai travel consultancy Local Alike saw its revenue drop to zero due to the coronavirus outbreak, it started selling products from villages through social media.

The business has generated 2.6 million baht ($84,000) for locals in 20 communities selling products from snacks to rice.

"It exceeded our expectations," said Somsak Boonkam, founder and chief executive of Bangkok-based Local Alike, which promotes sustainable tourism in 200 villages.

"From now on, we would like to serve as an e-commerce platform for communities."

Thailand's social enterprises have been hit hard by the coronavirus, which has infected more than 3,100 people and killed more than 50 since January.

Although most businesses are allowed to reopen after a decline in new coronavirus cases, the country's borders are still closed, affecting the tourism industry.

Tourism is a key sector for the Thai economy, accounting for 18% of the country's gross domestic product last year.

But the industry's social enterprises — businesses that aim to do good — have adapted through the crisis, while also finding solutions for communities.

In response to high demand for the village products, Local Alike set up a separate company to handle the e-commerce platform, which will expand to 155 communities next year.

It hopes that by helping locals develop the products by improving packaging and product design, communities will be able to earn more.

Other social enterprises like civil society network SATARANA and HiveSters, set up to preserve disappearing cultures and help local communities, have also made online food delivery services a part of their long term business plan.

"(The coronavirus) has affected communities that once had income from tourism," said Achiraya Thamparipattra, chief executive at HiveSters, which returns 70% of the company's revenue back to communities through cultural tours. "And for us, from now on we can no longer operate just as a tour company. Setting up a food brand (that uses products from communities) will lower future risks."

NEW BUSINESS MODEL

Tourists attend a natural dye workshop taught by locals in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on February 28, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Wocation.
Tourists attend a natural dye workshop taught by locals in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on February 28, 2020. | Photo courtesy of Wocation.

Hotels and travel businesses expect business to pick up next month following the government's 22.4 billion-baht ($723 million) domestic tourism stimulus plan, announced last week.

The package, which is expected to stimulate 2 million domestic trips from July to October, includes subsidies on accommodation, transport, food and attractions.

Starting next month, Wocation, a tour agency that promotes mental health through craft workshops and group counseling, is looking to bring its workshops — which include cooking and ceramic classes — to people's doorsteps.

"Crafts are used by some people to heal their minds, and that can be done at home, which also promotes social distancing," said Pasiree Parichani, co-founder of Wocation, a social enterprise based in the northern province of Chiang Mai.

An embroidery kit, for instance, would contain woven fabric and naturally dyed yarn sourced locally from Chiang Mai, with 20% of sales going towards locals.

In Bangkok's Klong Toey district, Wilaiwan Bidinlae saw her income from selling Thai dessert drop by half during the lockdown, losing many foreign customers who used to come in group tours organised by Local Alike.

The company helped package and market her best selling sweets — sticky rice with coconut milk and fried spring rolls — on its social media accounts, which has helped her survive during the crisis.

Klong Toey is the city's oldest and largest slum, but Wilaiwan says her partnership with Local Alike has helped change that perception.

"Klong Toey has been portrayed in the media as a place with drugs and illegal activities, but when tourists come, they see that we have developed," she said.

Support Provided By
Read More
Farmworkers who harvest and pack bell peppers in the Coachella Valley listen to Montserrat Gomez explain the benefits of the covid vaccines.

Dispelling Vaccine Misinformation and Myths in California’s Breadbasket

Even though farmworkers are vulnerable the coronavirus, many hesitate to get the vaccine, worried the shot could have severe side effects or signal their whereabouts to immigration officials. Immigrant advocates in the Coachella Valley and other farming regions are visiting workers to try to allay their fears.
Trish Tanenbaum receives her first COVID-19 vaccination at Dodger Stadium on January 30, 2021.

Shortage to Close L.A. City Vaccine Super Sites

The mayor lamented the closure as an “enormous hurdle.” But vaccinations aren't completely stopping.
Faith leaders, activists and family members hold a public memorial in front of the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Francisco to honor 17 people who died of COVID-19 while in prison or ICE detention. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Image

Health Over Punishment: Organizing Efforts to Stop ICE Transfers in California and Beyond

Public health workers and grassroots organizers are intentionally building collective power across issues and communities for health equity.