Vang Vieng, Lao PDR


The TOCA platform will enable travellers to find hotels and restaurants that buy from organic farmers, and eventually they will earn and redeem points on the platform.

Thai Organic Consumer Association partners with TAT to launch platform connecting travellers with organic farmers

IN tandem with the reopening of Phuket tomorrow (July 1), the Thai Organic Consumer Association (TOCA), in partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), will be launching its platform to the global market with the return of the inbound traveler to the kingdom.

TOCA was set up two years ago by Arrut Navaraj, managing director of Suan Sampran, who’s been spearheading the organic food and tourism movement in Thailand for the past decade. Inspired by similar non-profit models in the US such as the Organic Consumers Association, TOCA aims to connect consumers including travellers, restaurants and hotels to a network of certified organic farmers throughout the country.

“For the past 10 years, we worked on the supply side, working with farmers throughout the country to spread the practices of organic farming and putting in place certification and a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).

“Now we want to work on the demand side, getting consumers, travellers and businesses to join the movement and then making it easy for them to connect with the farmers,” said Navaraj, whose journey into organic tourism started when he turned his 60-year-old family resort business into an organic farming hub in the Sampran district of Nakhon Pathom. What started as a tourist attraction offering Thai cultural shows in its early days now has 50 acres of certified organic gardens by the river, as well as the popular Patom Organic Living Café (there’s also an outlet in Bangkok) which retails Patom organic products.

TOCA received an initial grant from the National Innovation Agency to build its platform, using blockchain technology, which now connects about 4,000 local members to networks of organic farmers in the country – about 200 families in the Sampran area where his 50-acre family resort is located and now expanding to Chiangrai, Amnajaroen, Trang, Nakorn Si Thammarat and Phuket.

With the reopening of Phuket, as well as a Thai government national initiative to embrace a BCG (Bio, Circular, Green) economy, the association has been approached by the TAT to launch its platform to the international traveller.

“Our vision is in line with the national agenda of promoting a Bio, Circular, Green economy and tourism can be used to support the value chain by promoting fair trade and sustainable development,” said Navaraj.

“The intent is to make it easy for inbound travellers to find restaurants and hotels that buy from our organic farmers and to also know in detail what these businesses are doing in areas such as food waste management and carbon reduction.”

New features will be added to the platform over time as it rolls out – features that will allow travellers to earn points as well as redeem them at participating hotels, restaurants and other businesses on the platform.

Navaraj acknowledges this will take time to roll out and in any case, he realises that inbound tourism will not be returning in full flight anytime soon, so he has time to develop the platform in a measured manner. In a way, the shutdown of inbound tourism to Thailand has been a blessing in disguise, allowing TOCA to focus on building up its local base of members and farmers first.

Membership is free to encourage consumer demand and TOCA relies on sponsorships and partnerships, such as the one it has just sealed with the TAT.

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