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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Thai Innovation Lights Up ITB Berlin 2024

The Thailand Science Research and Innovation Fund, in collaboration with the Program Management Unit for Competitiveness (PMUC) and Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI), alongside the Thai Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association (TEATA), Nutty’s Adventures, and Aonang Princeville Villa Resort & Spa, unveiled groundbreaking works in tourism and creative economic research transformed into marketable tourism programmes. This includes over 125 certified carbon-neutral tourism packages ready for sale at Internationale Tourismus Börse (ITB) Berlin 2024, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, held for the 57th consecutive edition at the Messe Berlin Exhibition Ground in Berlin, Federal Republic of Germany. Thailand’s tourism and creative economic research have captured the interest of European tourism entrepreneurs, paving the way for business negotiations and increased European visits to Thailand.

Assoc Prof Supawadee Photiyarach, TSRI Senior Specialist and Chairman of Subcommittee in Tourism and Creative Industry at PMUC, highlighted the collaboration between TSRI and environmentally conscious Thai tourism entrepreneurs like TEATA in launching 125 carbon-neutral tourism packages at ITB Berlin 2024. Spanning across 42 provinces, 17 major cities, and 25 secondary cities in Thailand, these packages have been certified by the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation (TGO). The packages were meticulously crafted by 200 researchers from the carbon-neutral tourism research working group, representing 20 universities. These initiatives, funded by PMUC and TSRI, received support from EU SWỊTCH-Asia and the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism, facilitating connections with Europe. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), as the main host, provided substantial booth space for activities within the fair.

“In addition to scheduled appointments with European partners, collaborative presentations at the event have garnered positive responses and significant interest from European tourism entrepreneurs, leading to negotiations with tourism entrepreneurs from various countries. The outcomes of tourism and creative economic research, resulting from collaborative efforts between three ministries and eight organisations over the past three years, demonstrate Thailand’s readiness in terms of research teams, processes, tools, and most importantly, users. This year signifies Thailand’s transition towards full-scale expansion and preparation for quality tourism, aiming to achieve Net Zero operations in the future, aligning with TSRI’s policy and government’s focus on high-quality tourists, secondary city promotion, and positioning Thailand as a destination for environment, health, and all-inclusive tourism.”

Ms Wasumon Netkitcharoen, President of TEATA, disclosed that with research funding support from PMUC and collaboration with researchers since 2021, TEATA, with backing from TAT, has intensified its domestic and international marketing efforts. This has facilitated the presentation of 125 certified routes/tourism programmes by TGO. Importantly, TEATA has attracted the attention of European sustainable tourism promotion associations, signing agreements with five global partner organisations: ATTA (Adventure Travel Trade Association), Planeterra, EXO Foundation, FAR, and Green Destinations Foundation, at the Thailand Stand of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), marking a historic moment for Thailand’s sustainable tourism sector through collaboration between private sector experts and academic sectors focused on research and knowledge enhancement.

Additionally, TEATA has engaged in negotiations with over 35 global companies, leveraging research results conducted by PMUC and TEATA in collaboration with researchers and academics for commercial benefit. Furthermore, TEATA was invited by ITB Berlin 2024 to the stage ‘Switching Asian Tourism to Green, Thailand: Inspiring Innovation in Thai Sustainable Tourism’ to share experiences regarding Thailand Local-Global Eco Innovation Carbon Neutral Travel Routes, alongside Mr Peter Richards from EU SWỊTCH-Asia and Mr Naut Kusters from the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism (ECEAT), contributing to the event’s acknowledgment in Europe. Following product sales activities at ITB Berlin 2024, TEATA held important post-event meetings with embassy officials and businesspersons from the Netherlands to address key objectives in elevating Thailand’s tourism destination status for quality tourists, collectively contributing to sustainable natural resource conservation.

From an academic perspective, Assoc Prof Dr Thamasak Yeemin, Director of Nature-Based Tourism, Environmentally-Friendly Tourism and Carbon Neutral Tourism at PMUC, emphasised the success of positioning PMUC’s Carbon-Neutral Tourism Plan as the centre focused on developing and implementing tourism activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aligning with Thailand’s goal to achieve zero carbon emissions. The international acceptance of the carbon-neutral tourism standard has led to sustained and mutually beneficial development across all sectors.

Assoc Prof Dr Siwarit Pongsakornrungsilp, Vice President of Walailak University, stressed the significant confidence and acceptance from European tourism entrepreneurs towards long-stay and wellness tourism programmes. This results from collaborative discussions with Thailand’s tourism authorities to stimulate the long-stay tourism market. Plans include testing tourism routes in the Andaman region and negotiating to expand flight routes to divert tourists from Phuket province to Krabi International Airport, ready to accommodate increased flights. Linking Thailand’s potential in health tourism, internationally recognised for quality and pricing, is set to expand long-stay visits, increasing tourist spending and generating additional tourism value.

On the academic front, Asst Prof Dr Pimlapas Pongsakornrungsilp, Acting Dean of the School of Management at Walailak University and Head of Project: Enhancing Management Standards Based on Local Identity and Innovation towards Carbon Neutral Tourism in Krabi and Connected Areas, stated that collaborative efforts have prepared Krabi to advance towards becoming a carbon-neutral tourism centre. Various activities such as carbon assessment, reduction, and offset mechanisms, involving government, private sector, local communities, have demonstrated a purpose-driven journey. Krabi has declared itself the first province in Thailand to aim to be a carbon-neutral city by 2040, thanks to tourism development activities and management processes that drive reduced greenhouse gas emissions, increased carbon offset activities, and private sector involvement. Most recently, Krabi province has jointly initiated the Krabi Carbon Neutral Tourism 2040 project with Mitsubishi Motors (Thailand) Co Ltd to continue driving sustainable tourism.

Moreover, Tourism for All has been another highlight, utilising research results from PMUC, evident in the case of visually impaired visitors from around the world coming to visit Thailand, supported by Nutty’s Adventures. This joint venture by researchers from several universities, including the Institute of Arts and Science, Mahidol University, Suan Dusit University, and Silpakorn University, has showcased success at ITB Berlin 2024, reaffirming Thailand’s tourism sector’s global prominence through collaboration between government, academia, private sector, communities, and society. This aligns with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation’s policy of ‘Good Research and Innovation, Meeting Needs, Leading the Way,’ emphasising private sector leadership, government support, and sustainability, making Thailand a true destination for tourists from around the world and for everyone alike.

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