CREATIVE INDUSTRY FOR A RESILIENT ECONOMY
published : 4 Oct 2021 at 09:48
Leveraging the artistic skills and passionate ingenuity of Thai people together with the country’s cultural heritage, the Thai government expects the creative industry to play a more prominent role in Thailand’s economic development across industries.
The creative industry is one of the areas underscored for development by the Thai government due to its potential to enhance the country’s international recognition and economic value. As digital technologies continue to facilitate access to distinctive Thai contents and products for a global audience from anywhere in the world, the unique skills, designs and passion of Thai artists gain greater recognition at the international level.
The creative industry is also championed by the Thai government as an effective bridge between traditional and contemporary that will enable the country to build on its intellectual capital and cultural heritage through the application of new technology and innovations. Creativity is also considered fundamental to distinguishing Thai brands in the global arena and driving the service sector to increase the country’s development.
Based on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s definition, the Thai creative industry covers a wide range of business activities such as arts and crafts, advertising, architecture, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing, research & development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, and TV/radio.
It has then pushed for their development by creating a conducive environment, promoting a research and business ecosystem, and increasing opportunities for new entrepreneurs through the collaboration of all agencies.
The Creative Economy Agency (CEA), the agency entrusted with the promotion of the creative economy, has identified fifteen businesses within the creative industry, in line with the definitions put forward at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Data compiled by the CEA revealed that those businesses accounted for nearly 10% of the country’s gross domestic product and created jobs for approximately 2% total population.
The CEA also found that the creative industry accounted for 4% of Thailand’s exports in 2019, with a total value of approximately US$10 billion. These export items include design products (US$6.5 billion), visual arts (US$1.2 billion) and art and crafts (US$1 billion).
Digital Content Skills Attract Global Audience
As the Thai population has grown more accustomed to digital content and tools, the skills of Thai digital content creators and designers have risen to a level that has earned recognition from global animation projects. Thai digital content creators and designers have been offered opportunities to participate in pre-production, production and post-production stages of international projects of the US and Asian countries. At the same time, animation work by many homegrown animation companies has also been acknowledged at the international level.
A study by the Ministry of Commerce showed that the key competitiveness of the local digital content industry lies in the skills, discipline and service-mined attitude of animators, designers and production teams as well as the rich creativity and cultural wisdom that has long made the country one of the most cost-effective service providers in Asia.
The digital content industry is one of the government’s target industries for promotion. The government aims to establish Thailand as a regional hub for both owners of intellectual property and service providers under the outsourced contracts of multinational companies in the near term. To support this, the Ministry of Commerce has implemented programs to enhance the recognition of Thai digital content makers and creators internationally while also setting up business matching programs for animation, gaming, characters and e-learning.
Meanwhile a study by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) showed that Thailand’s digital content industry, including animation, games and characters, and big data, grew by 10% between 2019 and 2020, to reach a value of US$1 billion1. The study also showed that the digital content industry is expected to accelerate in 2021 as Thai consumers use online tools more in their daily routines and entertainment. With demand increasing both locally and globally for gaming, e-learning, and streaming entertainment content during the COVID-19 pandemic, new opportunities are constantly being created for Thai creators and designers.
Thailand’s vibrant digital content industry is comprised of more than 100 registered animation and gaming companies, of which 60% are animation companies and 40% are gaming firms. The industry is also supported by an estimated 1,000 freelancers.
Resilient Exports of Arts and Crafts
With global consumers increasing their spending on artisanal and eco-friendly products, the Support Arts and Crafts International Center of Thailand (SACICT)2 expects Thailand’s handicraft exports to rebound in 2021. This outlook is also in line with the country’s overall export prospects thanks to the improvement in international trade.
Overall, in the first quarter 2021, Thailand’s total exports of handicrafts fell by 8% to US$2 billion. However, exports of Thai handicrafts rebounded by approximately 12% year-on-year in March to US$0.7 billion after falling by 12% and 20% in January and February, respectively.
The products with the highest export value were silver and gold handicrafts, worth a combined US$0.3 billion, up 11% year- on-year from March last year. The export value of handicraft products was US$0.2 billion, up 21.4%, while ceramic products were worth US$16 million, up 9.48%. The biggest export market was the US, followed by Japan, Germany, Hong Kong and the UK in descending order.
The development of handicrafts at the city level and collaboration between related sectors in those targeted cities, which is being promoted by related agencies, will play a key role in encouraging the growth of handicrafts business. A study by CEA on Chiang Mai’s handicrafts industry found that 80% of Chiang Mai residents prefer to buy handicrafts from physical venues such as craft and art markets or shops, as opposed to online channels.
Given the significant contributions that handicraft industries make to income and employment in local communities, the Thai government has ramped up its support for the handicraft market. To achieve this, SACICT will focus on applying new ideas and techniques to traditional and cultural products with the aim of increasing acceptance among the local consumers, creating a sense of pride in the national heritage and contributing to sustainable development.
The Ministry of Commerce has mapped out a plan to push forward Thailand as the “Art & Craft Hub of ASEAN” with emphasis on the country’s attractive ecosystem for trade and investment in handicrafts and materials.
The Ministry of Commerce will also promote standard certification for Thai handicrafts for export as well as the adoption of environmentally-friendly processes and zero waste practices. To drive innovations in these areas and gain global acceptance, SACICT is working in collaboration with the Thailand Textile Institute3, the National Nanotechnology Center4 and Central Laboratory (Thailand) Co. Ltd.5
Tourism and Creative Economy under BCG Focus
Tourism and the creative industry are included in the Thai government’s development plan for the Bio-Circular-Green Economy, with the aim of developing sustainable tourism, creating a tourism destination management system, conserving the environment and advancing high-value tourism such as wellness tourism, culinary tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism and sports tourism.
Under the BCG Economy framework, the country plans to promote tourism to less-visited cities through the development of transportation networks and promotion with digital tools. The creative industry is expected to benefit greatly from cultural tourism.
Thailand also plans to promote medical & wellness tourism among those seeking long-stay vacations in Thailand. The focus will be on safe and healthy food, convenient and high-quality accommodation equipped with communication infrastructure and health-promotion activities, and sports and recreational activities intended to help visitors experience local communities and culture.
A study by CEA showed that the cultural tourism sector generated approximately 28% of income from the creative economy, followed by the Thai food industry (19%), advertising (15%), fashion industry (13%) and design (9%) in 2019.
2 Handicraft exports poised to recover (bangkokpost.com)