WHO Growing up in upcountry Thailand, the exposure to the ingenuity of rural cultures from young drives Somsak Boonkam, founder and CEO of Local Alike, to address socio-economic inequalities among less advantaged communities.
Following an MBA on sustainable management in the US, the trained engineer gave up a stable career to work in the non-profit sector, which subsequently led to his founding of Local Alike in September 2012.
WHAT Local Alike is a social enterprise that provides a platform for authentic experiences in community-based tourism (CBT) while helping to preserve local culture and generate income to local villages. Its portfolio of immersive experiences range from joining southern Thai fisherman in Koh Yao Noi for their early morning catch to meeting with hill-tribe tea planters in Mae Salong, Chiang Rai and learning about tribal culture.
On the Local Alike website (www.localalike.com), each listed trip clearly states the itineraries available, costs and a breakdown of how fees contributed will be channelled into the village income and development fund respectively. Each trip also details the village background, location, suggested activities and amenities, alongside photos.
Since its official launch in March 2014, Local Alike has received 660 bookings from within Thailand and abroad, including travel agencies and corporate companies.
WHY “There are some 200 established CBT (providers) in Thailand but they lack reliable channels to connect them directly to prospective customers,” shared Somsak. “My goal is to share the wisdom of indigenous people to the mass market, (and) develop sustainable products and services with a positive impact on society.
He added: “Local Alike can change city dwellers’ perspectives of looking at local villagers.”
TARGET Somsak envisions Local Alike to become a “showcase” for sustainable tourism in the region, while growing into a reliable long-term partner for CBT suppliers.
“We plan to expand to at least 100 communities (from the current 15) in Thailand and neighbouring countries,” he said, citing Laos and Myanmar as the next targets in the enterprise’s growth plans. “Our ultimate goal is to help our communities achieve self sustainability.”