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In 2012, after completing his MBA at Presidio Graduate School, Pai Somsak Boonkam returned home to Thailand, where he began working with the hill tribe villagers at Baan Suan Par and 4000 Rai campsite in Chiang Rai, Northern Thailand. His goal was to assist the villagers in developing their homestay businesses. While doing this work, Pai met and began collaborating with California native, Natalie Carr, who was also working with the hill tribe villagers.  Both were impressed by the villagers’ excitement, determination to succeed, and motivation to improve the quality of their lives. The villagers possess various skilled cultural practices, such as basket weaving, cooking, and maintaining tea plantations with which they sustain their livelihoods. However, the ability of the villagers to leverage these skills into sustainable incomes limited due to the difficulties they face in promoting these businesses beyond their village. This has led to a gap between the villagers’ skill levels and the income they receive for such skills.

With the intention of closing this gap, Pai and Natalie connected with me, his former teammate at Presidio Graduate School, as well as with two additional Thailand natives, Soramist Chintanamanus and Kannikar Intawong.  Together we formed Local alike. Local alike is a community-based tourism platform dedicated to developing and supporting local homestays, local tour guides, and unique local cultural activities. It connects locals offering these services with interested travelers through an online booking system and an activity database. The business acts as a liaison between locals and tourists, ensuring that both party’s expectations are met.

Local alike intends to make a difference in the lives of the people who possess valuable skills and knowledge but are currently unable to develop them to their full potential, while allowing them to maintain their cultural traditions. We provide an opportunity for villagers to maximize their skill use, as well as to share the importance of their traditions and culture with others. Travelers benefit from an experience that is truly unique and authentic. They are offered the opportunity to learn from locals and experience what life is like in the village.  Guests can explore the tea leaf plantations, participate in the harvest, witness and be a part of traditional ceremonies, and take language and cooking lessons. Through this venture we hope to increase awareness of local cultural practices and the lives of the local people. Doing so, we intend to bridge the gap between traditional tourism and the way locals actually live their lives, as well as to develop relationships of mutual respect across cultures.

In late 2012 Local alike entered and won funding from the BanPu Champions for Change competition, a competition designed to encourage and support social enterprises developed to solve social and environmental problems in Thailand.  With this funding, we were able to move forward and began piloting homestays in Saun Pa Villiage and 4000 Rai.

Currently, Local alike is a finalist in the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) of Southeast Asia, a competition that aims to encourage investment in new social ventures that create triple bottom line benefits within Southeast Asia.  Please take a minute to check out Local alike’s competition video and see what we’re about. The team whose video gets the most “likes” on the GSVC facebook page by Saturday March 9th is guaranteed to receive a minimum amount of funding, so please help us out by liking the video and sharing it with your friends!

About the Author / Presidian Editor

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