18 Oct 2021
The Sasin Research Seminar series continues with a fascinating talk by Associate Professor Krittinee Nuttavuthisit, Ph.D. The lecture is based on an ongoing project in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and now in Phuket about conscious hospitality businesses, which also led to a published book by Associate Professor Krittinee. The talk began by looking at the main problems faced by farmers in Thailand and the vicious circle they are in – accumulating debt, damaged ecosystems, use of more potent chemicals, and consequent health problems, which in turn fuels more debt. As farmers are a third of Thailand’s population, their issues are significant for the country and lead to food chain problems. Even though there is higher demand for organic produce from food businesses, restaurants, and consumers, it is difficult to find trusted and reasonably priced organic goods. Many of these problems stem from using a middleman, but there are also challenges such as shortages, inconsistency, and varying quality. These issues prompted Associate Professor Krittinee and other organizations, such as the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and TAT, to develop a solution. The idea is to promote and improve collaboration between all the stakeholders on the food value chain. Not only does this involve the farmers and food purchasers such as hotels and restaurants, but it also includes consumers and tourists. The project aims to coordinate collective demands, realign benefits, and promote the organic food chain. By involving and leveraging tourism in the process, the result has been called the ‘Organic Tourism Movement’. Associate Professor Krittinee then explained how the Organic Tourism Movement works and how data was collected. She also took part in Participatory Action Research (PAR), where she was actively involved while collecting data and doing research. This allowed for a cycle of data collection, research into solutions, and then implementation of solutions to see how well they worked. Twenty hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai took part, and information was collected through interviews with general managers, owners, chefs, and other stakeholders such as purchasing/marketing/PR managers. Observations also took place at various activities. The primary objectives were to explore hospitality businesses and the roles they played in organic food systems. Next, Associate Professor Krittinee played a video that explained the concept of Organic Tourism in more detail, the problems it is trying to overcome, and how the solutions are being implemented. Stakeholders develop trust with each other, and buying directly from farmers helps drive the movement toward healthier food, meeting the demands of consumers and tourists. The talk then discussed the academic literature on organic food services. Aspects looked at included motivations, perceived values, concerns, managerial decisions, and approaches. Various issues were identified, such as the balances business are having to find between business returns while providing organic sustainability. Currently, there are no established business models, so each organization has to find its own way. Associate Professor Krittinee then moved on to her research findings, looking at strategies and practices at differing levels in the food chain. This included stakeholders such as companies and employees, and business functions like sourcing, purchasing, production, and marketing. Points of view from each level were shared, such as related problems and issues and the strategies and processes developed to overcome them. The findings led to discussions with all stakeholders, including suggestions for companies to better appreciate value chain management, and improve staff understanding, engagement, and empathy. There needs to be a shift from the current focus on strategic outputs to more strategic values. It is essential that relationships are built with trusted suppliers, products of value are prioritized for both input and output, and marketers engage customers in supporting organic produce and sustainability. Associate Professor Krittinee concluded by stressing the changes that need to happen if the movement is to continue gathering pace. The work is ongoing, and future research will develop new business models and ways to promote organic produce and sustainability. The lecture was followed by an interesting discussion that further explored some of the challenges, plans and potential developments for the movement.