Thailand’s tourism industry stands on the brink of disaster if it continues along its destructive path of unsustainable growth and can only be saved if it learns from nature, the celebrated architect, landscape designer and disruptor Bill Bensley has warned.
Known affectionately as the Willy Wonka of design for the incredibly unique storytelling hotels he has created around the world, Bensley is more than just a highly respected designer and architect. He is also a concerned conservationist as well as a passionate philanthropist and one who genuinely walks his talk. He has spent a lifetime challenging the status quo.
Now, as the world faces an unprecedented ecological emergency, he told travel industry delegates at Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF) 2020 that they must change their ways if they want to survive.
Running under the appropriate theme, “BANG BANG”, TTF 2020 is a high-impact, quickfire two-hour stage event that focuses on the critical issues facing Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industries. Setting an adrenalin pumping pace, the fast, furious and in-your-face forum featured a series of brilliant blue-sky thinkers, including Bensley himself, who is Creative Director at BENSLEY, and Jesper Palmqvist, Area Director for Asia Pacific at STR, the hotel industry analysts and benchmarking company.
Also taking to the stage was some of Thailand’s next-generation talents, who lead the debate on modern millennial issues. These included Bonn Paramacharoenroj, Associate Director of Business Development for YOO Worldwide, who urged Thailand to cash in on the cannabis tourism revolution, and Khongchanok (A-care) Paepipatmongkol, Innovation Project Manager at Fuchsia MuangThai Life Assurance, who discussed cross-industry collaboration, and how the Thai tourism industry can enhance the customer experience by working with other industries.
Driving the conversation however, was Bensley, who shook up the crowd with his vision for 2050. “The key question is: do you want your children and grandchildren to live on a scorched planet, where the forests have been destroyed, the sea is full of plastic, the air is poisonous and wildlife has collapsed? Or do you want to work towards a fresher future, where buildings breathe, everything we eat is organic and the natural world flourishes? You decide…,” he said.
To help hoteliers and developers embark on their path towards a cleaner tomorrow, Bensley also used TTF 2020 to launch his white paper, “Sensible Sustainable Solutions”, which includes a series of practical ideas and suggestions on how to make hotel business greener and help fight climate change.
STR’s Palmqvist revealed the data behind the decisions; according to STR there are more than 50,000 new hotel rooms on the way in Thailand, including 15,000 in Bangkok alone. This development surge will put huge pressure on land and resources in the country. A series of other young speakers, including Khun Bonn and Khun A-care, highlighted how niche tourism concepts can help Thailand achieve positive and sustainable growth, in line with the world’s top social and traveller trends.
“What will the world look like in 2050? It is a question we ask a lot, without seriously considering the answer. But this is no longer some distant future; 2050 is as close as 1990, and considering the widespread environmental destruction we have caused in the last 30 years, we need to stop greenwashing and start figuring out some real solutions. But the fact that this is such a massive problem doesn’t necessarily mean we need big solutions – we can all make a difference on a small scale. It just needs a collective will. Together we can build a better world,” said Bill Bensley.
“While Thailand continues to focus on the elusive target of 40 million international visitors, the industry continues to cannibalise itself by degrading and destroying the very environment that makes it so attractive. Alarm bells are ringing and we want TTF 2020 to be the wake-up call the country needs to stop it sleepwalking into disaster,” said Bill Barnett, Managing Director of C9 Hotelworks, the co-organiser of TTF 2020.
“To find the answers, we’ve welcomed 10 next-gen Thai hotel professionals to deliver quickfire ‘Bang Bang’ thoughts on what future trends will drive the growth of Thailand’s tourism market. Bricks and clicks are all well and good, but what elevates the Thai brand is its human capital. We want to spark a candid, no-holds-barred debate.”
TTF 2020 marks the ninth annual edition of this important industry event. Jointly hosted by The American Chamber of Commerce – Thailand (AMCHAM) and C9 Hotelworks, this year’s forum takes place on Monday 20th January 2020 in the Grand Ballroom of the InterContinental Hotel Bangkok.