By Wipaphat S. Trossel
For many countries, tourism is a catalyst for social development. At the start of 2020, the economic growth of these countries was hard-hit by travel restrictions affecting not only the tourism industry, but also all commercial activities connected to it. As a perennial tourist favourite, Thailand was naturally affected as well. Adapting to the new normal with the relaxing of travel requirements from the beginning of July 2022, the tourism industry in Thailand is now ready to be reborn.
With over 7 million foreign tourists (from January 2022 to October 2022), Thailand still ranks among the world’s top five most popular tourist destinations. The anticipated number of travelers is estimated to be 46.96 million by the end of 2024.
Creating a niche market in the tourism business is a gateway for players to differentiate themselves from competitors. Integrating Intellectual Property (IP) rights into the tourism value chain can offer opportunities to increase competitiveness in Thailand’s crowded but lucrative marketplace.
This article aims to outline the relationship between IP mechanisms and the tourism industry as well as its influence on consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Some examples of IP rights in the tourism value chain:
Brand protection is a key strategy allowing companies to distinguish their products/services from the rest. In the tourism industry, the concept of “destination branding” is often associated with the aim to develop certain characteristics of a place that visitors can connect with, thus boosting the economic advantages.
It is undeniable that the registration of trademarks is a crucial strategy in promoting a business. This is particularly evident when one looks at a mobile device or mobile app store and is confronted with a sea of icons.
Notwithstanding, gaining or regaining consumer recognition and loyalty requires long-term marketing investment and is rarely a one-and-done deal. By working collectively, business owners can create a “symbolic identity” through shared marks to exploit broader economies of scale.
Collective marks are tools to promote products or services originating from members of an association that links to the same history, culture, union, confederation, group of persons or any other state or private organization. Certification marks are employed by anyone who complies with the standards that are established by the owner of the mark (e.g., quality, mode of manufacture, origin). Purveyors of popular vacation activities such as gastronomy tourism, cooking classes and artisanal food excursions may stand to benefit from incorporating collective or certification marks as an attractive way to draw customers, especially in a society where food is a main cultural asset.
Geographical Indication (GI) applies when special characteristics of a product can be attributed to a specific geographical area. GI consists of the name of origin of the goods showing a strong connection between the product and place.
In Thailand, the protection of design includes “any configuration of a product or composition of lines or colours which gives a special appearance to a product and can serve as a pattern for a product of industry or handicraft.”
The visual appeal of fashion items, handbags, jewelry, product packaging, furniture, hotel interior design or any three-dimensional features of an article is one of the main factors leading to the customer’s purchasing decision. These can also be protected via design patent.
One innovation that travelers who use booking or payment platforms will be familiar with is the Graphical User Interface (GUI), which enables a user to interact with an electronic device through use of mobile applications and can consist of icons, animations, design elements, and visual indicators. With a user-friendly interface, visitors can seamlessly navigate the app, obtain information and perform operations or transactions. In practice, protection for GUIs can be sought through the design patent system (examples shown below).
Copyrights are typically used to protect any artwork, promotional materials, brochures, footage, and layouts/images/audio on social media, and it applies to the content on websites as well.
The tourism sector has indeed become one of the most powerful tools in promoting economic growth, establishing social development, and increasing the GDP rate in the post-pandemic era. That said, it takes a village to make tourism work. What makes a destination unique, and where its strength and identity lie, is the foundation for the success of both the industry and the country.
To this end, leveraging IP rights in the tourism value chain – whether by establishing an effective brand or securing adequate protection – will strengthen the competitiveness of related businesses and prevent third parties from commercially exploiting the IP owners’ rights.
If you want to learn how to make your IP work for you, reach out to us at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to help!