Surat Thani, a top-tier tourist destination in Thailand, is home to the beautiful and bustling island of Koh Samui. The island’s economy largely depends on its main economic crop, the coconut, as well as other plants like banana. Recognizing the potential of these resources in transforming the island’s souvenir industry, the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) has stepped in to fund two research projects focusing on souvenir development.
NRCT executive director, Wiparat De-ong, shared that one of these studies was conducted by the Faculty of Science and Technology at Thammasat University, while the other supported local communities by establishing a Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) Economy Centre. Both studies aimed to enhance the quality of souvenirs and increase the island’s revenue using scientific and technological knowledge. Additionally, the second study specifically centered on building a network of souvenir providers on the island and creating learning centers for entrepreneurs to showcase the production process and exchange expertise.
During the studies, the NRCT and its research teams observed various challenges entrepreneurs faced in product development. Some souvenirs that caught researchers’ attention included kalamae, a caramel-like sweet, for which they sought ways to extend its shelf-life packaging; skincare products made from coconuts, herbal ingredients; and items produced from banana fibers such as handbags, tote bags, and bar soap.
With these research initiatives, the NRCT aims to bolster Koh Samui’s economy on the global stage while providing local residents with a sustainable income source. By leveraging the island’s natural resources like coconuts and bananas, the researchers aim to develop unique, high-quality souvenirs that will not only attract tourists but also preserve and promote the island’s rich cultural heritage.
As part of fostering an engaging experience for the visitors, the learning centers in the BCG Economy Centre will allow entrepreneurs to connect with tourists through behind-the-scenes demonstrations of the production process. Here, tourists can discover how local artisans skillfully craft their products, infusing the souvenirs with a personal touch. This interactive experience will enable visitors to connect more deeply with the charming island of Koh Samui and its people, enticing them to return and share their experiences with others.
The NRCT’s efforts to revitalize the island’s souvenir industry are set to elevate Koh Samui from a premier tourist destination to an international hub for unique, sustainable, and memorable souvenirs. By investing in research and development, the island is positioning itself for a bright and prosperous future where innovation, tradition, and sustainability come together to create a thriving economy for the benefit of locals and visitors alike.