Smart mobility and infrastructure keys to responsible tourism in Thailand

Khun Pracha

VP of Digital Economy Promotion Agency, Thailand

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Known for its tropical beaches, luxurious palaces, and elaborate temples, Thailand is a country with huge potential both economically and culturally due to its evergreen tourism industry.

However, the steady rise in visitor numbers is putting a strain on the country’s infrastructure, resulting in overcrowding and over-tourism. As a country Thailand can continue to flourish through tourism, but it needs to make it’s travel infrastructure smarter.

In 2017, Thailand adopted its smart city manifesto - Thailand 4.0. This manifesto saw initiatives such as the introduction of Alipay, WeChat Pay, and Rabbit LINE Pay for seamless payment on public transport in Bangkok. According to the recently launched report Thailand Towards 2030: Future of Travel and Tourismco-authored by Amadeus, Digital Economy Promotion Agency (depa), and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), smart mobility solutions are where data and technology are integrated to improve the efficiency of movement around a city.

Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong have already successfully deployed and implemented smart city projects. From these projects there has been a reduction in congestion and pollution, ultimately making these cities more liveable and attractive to talent, tourism, and investments.

But in Thailand, smart mobility is still at a very early stage. There is a huge untapped potential to explore. For example, using transport data to inform travel management systems like traffic lights in real-time, or using that data to inform how ‘sharing economy’ services like Grab and Get are deployed, are just two significant projects that could make a huge difference. But this won’t be possible without greater public-private partnerships (PPP).

Our report shows that Thailand’s public sector doesn’t currently know which companies to partner with and it’s even more challenging as private firms, especially smaller businesses, start-ups, and overseas investors often don’t know how to engage with Thailand’s public sector. Therefore, we believe that third-party advisors will be crucial in bringing the key players together.

Significant private-sector investment will be needed to scale smart mobility nationwide. Thailand needs to create a receptive and favorable environment to encourage this. Steps should also be taken to actively incentivize smart mobility investments outside Bangkok to ensure that a two-speed system doesn’t develop between the capital and the rest of the country. Thailand and its cities will need to form ‘City Development Companies’ with private-sector partners in the future – to better bid for funding and formalize the nature of their partnership. This model has already successfully been established in Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Khon Kaen.

Every day Thailand competes with other countries across the region to be chosen as an entry market for both larger corporations and startups. The easier the government can make it for companies to invest, the better off the country will be. Incubating local start-ups will also be vital for cultivating home-grown talent and proprietary technology for advances in smart mobility.

Today, we’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible with smart mobility. More provinces need to follow the City Development Company model being piloted to access vital funding and plan for the long term.


Asia Pacific, Social Responsibility, Thailand, Environmental Sustainability, Guest Post

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