Local identity promotion and tech adoption key to economic recovery and soft power promotion

Local identity promotion and tech adoption key to economic recovery and soft power promotion

Government, academia, big firms and local creators agree that the creative economy is pivotal for Thailand’s economic recovery.

Government and private organisations should join forces in leveraging technology to promote sectoral growth, proposed by key speakers in the “Creative Economy Forum Thailand 2022” seminar co-hosted by Creative Economy Agency (CEA) and government affairs consultancy Vriens & Partners.

The government has long recognised the importance of the creative economy’s potential to generate soft power and catalyse economic growth, CEA Chairperson Mrs. Atchaka Sibunruang stated.

Mr. Chakrit Pichyangkul, Executive Director of the CEA, added that Thailand’s creative economy is a high-value industry that accounts for 7.58% of national GDP. 

Suvit Maesincee, former Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, said that soft power is a game changer in the world’s post-pandemic environment. The development of the creative economy and adoption of technology should be prioritised by national strategies. Support of the creative economy should be thought of as investments for the future by policymakers. 

While Thailand’s inherent cultural DNA – as evinced by the diversity of its peoples, places, and products – makes the country a leading candidate to serve as the regional hub for creative industries, it needs to better manage and demonstrate its cultural output.

Reskilling to stay in-demand 

Ms. Saowaruj Rattanakhamfu, Research Director of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), revealed that Thailand’s projected growth between 2025 – 2031 will stagnate at 2.1%, if the skillsets of the country’s workforce remains unchanged and if the widening gap in quality of education still persists. 

By contrast, Thailand can achieve a 4.5% growth rate if the country’s creative industry is fully leveraged by businesses. Beautiful yet functional repackaging of goods, adoption of savvy design to optimise customer and traveller experience, and improving content to expand their international appeal are some of the many contributions the creative industry is capable of. 

What is needed are multi-party synergy, national rebranding, reskilling coupon hand-outs, educational institutes’ transparency on employment and pay rate, and incentives for foreign high-skilled labour, she recommended.

Tourism and service amplifier

The creative economy can help drive real economic growth. According to CEA, it increases overall economic value by a factor of 1.95 times.

In fact, these sectors see creativity as a desirable attribute, as businesses need innovation. “Every organisation should instil creativity into their work culture, trial-and-error and experience sharing should be encouraged," Ms. Suwanee Suwanasaengroj, President and CEO of Chamni's eye, said.

Mr. Teeratas Krungkaew, Strategic Planning & Investment Manager of PTT OR, added that creativity is also at play in his corporation’s decision-making, as businesses today need to continually adapt to changing lifestyles and public attitudes towards issues such as environmentalism, equality and diversity.

Mr. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, Deputy Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, also reiterated that technology adoption is key to understanding changing customer behaviour and demands. Businesses and creators can also leverage technology and media to communicate with customers.

Local creative economy as key driver for Thailand’s soft power

Currently, our understanding of soft power should not be limited only to what is taught by textbooks. Thailand can exercise soft power by promoting our cultural assets to the world. We can revitalise tourism and international trade through local identities, gastronomy and artisanship.

“Still, these assets should not be kept frozen," Mr. Suthipong Suriya, Food Stylist of Karb Studio, remarked. “If we want to conserve them, we should foresee future scenarios for these local identities that accommodate two generations. Platforms where two generations can work together will be opportune for blending originality and contemporariness that will eventually advance local identity.”

“Each local community has its own wow factors, and it is an individual quest to bring them out,” he added.

To creators, technology and media are critical to its promotion of the creative economy. 

Social media are enablers that organically enhance visibility for destinations, products and services. Local creators can build a virtual community for users to exchange their experiences. Mr. Korakot Aromdee, Design Director of Korakot International, said that translation tools boost local creators’ outreach to global customers.

Technologies also help local creators with production. “Some of them can earn their living from posting video clips of their life online with their smartphones,” noted Mr. Tikumporn Phupanna, songwriter and producer of Molam Hologram.

Films and series that are now shifting onto online streaming services can also create momentum that is conducive to tourism, stimulating consumption, investment inflows, and skills development of local workers. 

Mr. Sarut Wittayarungruangsri, Head of Public Policy at Netflix, shared that research by the company has shown that people are 2.4 times more likely to think of a country as their dream destination if they have seen content from such a country. An example was provided by Mr. Lak Taechawanchai, Director of Technology of Muaythai iGLA and Vice President of the Digital Council of Thailand, who opined that “Hard selling can be imposing and inadequate, as it is now more effective to make Thai boxing pants a fashion through the media.”

Continual and serious commitment from the government in promoting soft power is also vital. A conducive business environment prioritising tourism promotion, foreign film production rebates, incentives for enterprises relevant to the creative economy is key to the successful promotion of Thai soft power. Public-private cooperation is also urged as a quick win both parties can enjoy. 

CEA, established in 2018, is responsible for promoting creative economy initiatives and ventures. It aims to deepen cooperation with government and private partners to nurture creative ecosystems through creative people, creative business and creative districts. It supports the establishment of creative districts in 33 provinces across the country to distribute growth and revenue.

Promotion of digital transformation and protection of intellectual property rights, together with Bio-Circular Green Economy (BCG) development were also mentioned as being among the agency’s priorities.

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