Fostering the responsible growth of Thailand’s tourism industry

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We worked in collaboration with Amadeus and Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) on a report that looks into the four key areas Thailand needs to consider to grow tourism sustainably.

The future of tourism should not be defined in terms of growth, particularly in relation to visitor arrival numbers. There is a limit to growth that destinations can cope with before it becomes detrimental to the local population and the environment. The issue of so-called ‘overtourism’ has already become acute in certain high-profile destinations like Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik, however the narrative needs to be changed and the industry should be focusing on capacity management.

Responsible travel is increasingly becoming more and more important to tourists in choosing their destination. After all, no one wants to visit a destination that has been robbed of its natural beauty or that is struggling to cope with too many visitors.

Thailand is one of the most visited destinations in the world, however the local government, tourism boards, as well as hospitality businesses in the private sector now more than ever need to work in partnership to ensure the responsible growth, value and quality of travel to the country.

Technology and data can play a critical role in spreading out tourism demand, mitigating any negative impacts and ensuring a symbiosis exists between the host destination and the complete visitor economy, ensuring economic growth and responsible development for all industry stakeholders.

However, since data currently exists in various silos, it needs to be consolidated in order to gain deeper and more meaningful insights. This is why the public and private sectors need to work together to ensure the data pool is rich and accurate. Let’s look at an example, public sector data on its own is very limited for real-time population management. To be more effective, local authorities need to have access to geo data from telecom companies and even sharing economy services too. The analysis of this data can then manage overcrowding at busy sites, decide on ticket prices and even help plan infrastructure investments and long-term policy.

What is equally essential, is educating users on how to interpret and use the data for real-time analysis and predictive modelling. Data access initiatives must go hand-in-hand with a significant investment in education, upskilling local authorities and hospitality businesses on how to use the data that is available. All this must be managed while reassuring the general public around data privacy.

A successful case study in creating a model of the city’s population density and movements, to inform policy makers has been done for the island of Phuket. Thailand’s depa worked with Phuket’s regional government, mayors and the private sector to create a Data Platform for the island. It combines IoT data with open data from across the island – such as data from 1,000 free WiFi hotspots and vehicle license plate registration data from CCTV cameras – to provide a comprehensive overview of visitor demographics.

We still have a long way to go on the responsible tourism front, to start seeing changes awareness needs to be built around the problem and potential solutions. We believe that an increase in public and private partnerships could be one solution in helping combat the issue of capacity management.

Download the report here: Thailand towards 2030 – Future of Travel & Tourism.