Meet the entrepreneurs of the Booking Booster programme. Get to know Pai and Mae from Local Alike. Local Alike is a social enterprise building an online platform to connect travellers and locals through meaningful experiences.
Somsak “Pai” Boonkam, - Founder and CEO
“I was born and raised in rural Thailand where I developed a deep appreciation for the ingenuity of indigenous culture and the role of sustainable development. After graduating from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco with an MBA in Sustainability Management I decided that my goal is to bring the wisdom of indigenous people to the market in order to develop sustainable products or services that have a positive impact on the society. After working for the Mae Fah Luang Foundation Under Royal Patronage, where I was responsible with business development for Northern Thai communities, I started my own social enterprise, Local Alike”.
Sirasar “Mae” Boonma - Service designer and project manager
“I have always been interested in creating experiences and engagement for audiences through a variety of media. Now, my expertise lies in developing travelling experiences with Thai local communities through human-centered social design, as I believe that these methods are one of the essential ways to create meaningful experiences that reach beyond the traveler's’ expectation, as well as develop and create sustainable products that have a positive impact on society.
In 2015, I graduated from the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship, Goldsmiths, University of London. Before that, I worked for five years as a project manager in Events and Exhibition department at Thailand Creative and Design Center, an organisation run by the government to promote Creative industries and stimulate the creative economy”.
How did your Local Alike story begin?
Local Alike started because we wanted to solve three major problems related to tourism in Thailand;
- Thailand generates around 6 billion Thai Baht per year from tourism. This is a huge economic opportunity. Yet, the income mainly disperses around urban areas in favour of large enterprises, big hotel chains and large travel agencies, and only a handful of local people get to benefit. We would like to help distribute at least 10% of this huge income to local communities.
- While general mass tourism may create jobs and income for locals, the majority of the industry does not answer to the actual need of sustainable development. There are many examples where mass tourism has been and will continue to be damaging to the local communities environmentally and socially. Local Alike would like to showcase of how sustainable tourism in the region could and should actually be.
- There are 200 established community based tourism (CBT) villages in Thailand. They lack a reliable channel or platform that will connect them directly to potential customers. Local Alike’s platform is dedicated to fill this gap.
What is your dream for Local Alike?
Our dream is to see communities that we work with operate their community tourism sustainably in the long run. We also would like to showcase of how sustainable tourism could and should be treated in our region.
What is one of your favourite experiences people can book on your platform now? Why?
They are all our favourite :) But to give one example, one of the "A day as .." collection. For instance, A Day As a Fisherman in Bangkok. Joining locals on their boat, our guests learn and feel how it is to life like a fisherman and a coastal farmer in just one day. You cruise on the boat heading to the sea, learn how to pick cockles, enjoy seafood for lunch, and design your own scarf or shirt with a tie-and-dyed workshop.
Tell us a bit more about the impact you make and why is it so important?
We have been working with 70 local community partners. We generated more than 15 million Thai Baht to these villages, which resulted in an annual increase of their income by 15%. This increase can help villagers to send their kids to high school or as an investment for the next crop season, instead of taking a loan. We’ve also created at least 500 part-time jobs throughout Thailand and implemented 12 social projects using our contributed funds to solve local issues such as waste management and poor local infrastructure.
In 10 years, we want to be the leading tourism social enterprise that truly showcases how sustainable tourism should be treated in the ASEAN region by using our impact modules.
Local Alike is working on five modules, called “Local Alike’s 5 impact modules”. First, building and developing communities under the idea of Community-Based Tourism. We build 13 workshops such as entrepreneurial models, financial and team management, and etc. to prepare and strengthen our partner villages. We also work with enterprises in helping them develop projects based on tourism community development.
Second and Third modules based on creating and developing inventive travelling programs that match with customers’ needs. For example, we help enterprises extend their CSR and employee programs into local Thai villages. They can travel to our partner villages or simply get to know the locals and participate in team building activities.
The fourth one is an online marketplace (www.localalike.com). It is aimed to connect travellers around to world to be able to book activities, tours, homestay listed by locals themselves as well as our curated programs. For example, we launched Joined tour. Each tour has a fixed day so travellers will find easier way to travel in Thailand also they will get to know local people and making new friends. Thus, communities will get fixed income.
The last one is Local Alike Development Fund. It is an essential tool to support and improve quality of life for each community we work with. For instance, a waste management processes, playgrounds, museum foundations, and more. We are doing this by taking five percent of our profits and taking a part of locals’ revenue to put into this fund.