Cannabis tourism provides hope for Thailand’s hard-hit industry

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

In 2018, Thailand made history by becoming the first Southeast Asian country to legalize cannabis for medical purposes. 

Since this time, the Kingdom has continuously made efforts to expand legalization for the export, import and production of the green plant. 

Now, an amended version of the Narcotics Act means that the industry could attract greater business opportunities, such as cannabis-focused tourism. 

Based on fresh findings published in the “Asian Cannabis Report an analysis of Asia’s legal cannabis industry carried out by Prohibition Partners the sun-drenched continent’s market value is anticipated to top USD$12.5 billion (392 billion baht) by the year 2024.

Currently, Thailand’s cannabis industry is valued at $661 million; $237 million of which is accrued through the medical cannabis sector and $424 million from the non-legal recreational cannabis market.

President of the Cannabis Investment Summit World, Jacky Ong, recently discussed the topic of cannabis in Thailand at the three-day virtual event, which stretched over November 11-13. He believes that cannabis tourism in Thailand could strengthen the local economy; particularly post-pandemic.

“Cannabis tourism should boost Thailand’s status as a leading medical and wellness tourism destination,” said Mr Ong.

Cannabis tourism in Thailand could attract a diverse range of customers

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the palm tree-speckled islands of Thailand attracted more than 40 million tourists every single year. Unfortunately, travel restrictions and health warnings meant that the exotic paradise– where there are some 1,430 islands have since been left eerily quiet. 

The good news is that cannabis tourism in Thailand could entice a diverse group of travelers from all corners of the globe. As a plant that is constantly gaining recognition for its therapeutic qualities, such as analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, it’s highly likely that the Kingdom of Thailand will start appealing to medical travelers, the elderly and luxury tourists; to name a few.

According to Mr. Ong, mainland and Southeast Asian-based tourists are expected to be the most likely to descend upon Thailand. Why? Because no other country in Asia has legalized the distribution of cannabis for wellness and medical purposes.

On the other hand, consumers residing in North America will be less likely to check out the cannabis tourism industry in Thailand, since America already boasts plenty of legal markets.

Mr. Ong noted that, in order to capitalize on cannabis tourism in Thailand, the country must focus on developing and advertising cannabis-focused healthcare establishments and clinics. Additionally, he says that energy must be poured into wellness resorts, manufacturing facilities and cannabis doctor certifications.

Let’s not forget about tour packages too, which, he says, will bolster recognition for Thailand’s cannabis tourism industry.

Cannabis tourism in Thailand: Niche market in the works

Just a few years ago, Than Global Travel teamed up with Rajamangala University of Technology Isan, Sakon Nakhon Campus to develop a range of educational cannabis-focused tours. The venture arose after the university was approved to cultivate plants for medical research purposes.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 people partook in the cannabis tour initiative, which saw health volunteers and sub-district hospital officials embark on tours to cannabis plantations in Buri Ram and Sakon Nakhon.

Executive officer of Than Global Travel, Kattikamas Thanyajaroen, told reporters that the company is intent on developing a niche medical tourism market. She is optimistic that this could amplify Thailand’s position as a respected wellness and medical hub.

Mr Ong-ard believes that legalization efforts could soon spread across much of Asia, so long as more people start to embrace weed. With cannabis tourism in Thailand, he feels that consumers and travelers can educate themselves on the plant and acknowledge its widespread benefits.