The Commerce Ministry plans to promote Thailand as a regional wellness and retreat hub in the medium term, starting with upgrading green hotels and resorts to organic hospitality centres. Piramol Charoenpao, the commerce deputy permanent secretary, said some Thai hotel and resort operators have branded themselves as green hotels and resorts by investing in green energy, waste management and waste-water treatment. But these establishments can be dubbed organic hotels and resorts only when they use organic products from local networks.
"A few resorts in Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Phuket have already gone organic. They cater mainly to foreigners and have met with some success, so the ministry will try to encourage more operators to become organic," said Ms Piramol. The ministry will work with other government agencies to help upgrade the production standard of organic products, training and product development. The target is both upscale hotels and resorts catering to foreigners and mid-level resorts serving locals.
The ministry hopes to reach the organic standard within three years.
Such systematic development will help create opportunities for a franchise system that will generate more revenue for the country, said Ms Piramol. She said wellness resorts in foreign countries charge very high service fees, offering the possibility for Thailand to develop its knowledge about holistic health care and expand in this market segment. The main obstacle to organic development in Thailand is inconsistent supply and logistics costs keeping prices high. Ms Piramol said her ministry has worked with farm networks to increase supplies, organising about 4,000 communities that produce organic vegetables to supply people with health problems. It also tries to promote organic farming in schools to increase the number of households that go organic. The government wants to increase the organic produce supply from neighbouring countries for processing in Thailand, making the country an organic hub. There has been a national strategy to promote organic farming the past three years, but little progress has been made. It is expected the new secretariat from the Agriculture Ministry will drive efforts to increase supply.
Some 90% of organic produce in Thailand is supplied to local markets, while the rest is for export such as organic rice. A report called "The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends" indicated 218.7 million rai of organic farmland globally produced commodities worth US$50.9 billion in 2008. The market is projected to grow by 50% a year. Areas with a high proportion of organic agriculture _ 20-30% of the total _ are the EU, the US, Australia and Japan.