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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Planet Happiness and DASTA Join Forces to Measure Host Well-Being in Tourism Destinations

Planet Happiness and Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA), a Thai government agency, will conduct a survey of happiness levels of host communities in the World Heritage sites of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya.

They will work together to measure happiness and quality of life at the two sites. The two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on 14 May.

Loei, Nan old town, Uthong ancient city, Pattaya city, Koh Chang islands and related areas are among other designated sites of DASTA where happiness will be measured.

The MOU provides a framework for the delivery of training to enable 30 DASTA staff to begin deploying the Happiness Index in destination communities. Faculty members of tourism studies from the universities of Srinakharinwirot and Mahidol, researchers from Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) and members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), also joined the training.

The initiative aims to show that measuring destination well-being and happiness is as important as counting GDP, profits and income and provides a more rounded and assured pathway to sector sustainability. The Happiness Index survey for DASTA in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya includes indicators for satisfaction with life, access to nature and arts, community engagement, standard of living, life-long learning, and health.

“Planet Happiness will help DASTA and its partners by deploying what is perhaps the best, most progressive, adaptable and easy to use Happiness Index survey on the planet,” said Laura Musikanski, author, lawyer and co-founder of Planet Happiness, a project of the Happiness Alliance, a non-profit organisation with eight years’ experience in happiness and well-being measurements.

On signing the MOU, Dr Chumpol Musiganont, Deputy Director-General of DASTA, said that the long-term viability of tourism sites depended on tourism improving the quality of life of host communities and engaging local people more directly in tourism issues. Over time, the survey will help measure how well this is being done.

“DASTA will measure the quality of life for tourism communities in Thailand,” said Musiganont. “And then take corrective action to enhance wellbeing, where we can,” he said.

At the signing, co-founder and director of Planet Happiness, Dr Paul Rogers, welcomed DASTA to the initiative, saying it was Planet Happiness’s first government agency partner and that Happiness Index surveys were already up and running in 10 tourism destinations in Turkey, Nepal, Indonesia, England, Mozambique, Vietnam and Laos. Thailand is the latest edition.

Rogers said that following DASTA’s example, Planet Happiness can provide governments and destinations anywhere in the world with the model and survey tools to accurately measure tourism community wellbeing. This would help avoid issues and problems associated with overtourism, he said.

“Planet Happiness aims to work with tourism organisations and universities to promote Gross National Happiness in Thailand and beyond,” said Rogers.

He added: “We want to move beyond the narrow tourism dollar and GDP agenda. DASTA promotes sustainable and quality tourism objectives in Thailand. We are delighted to join with DASTA on the journey to happiness and well-being.”

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