From the Bangkok Post:
The real deal
Born to parents who operated an outbound tourist agency, sisters Achiraya and Chayanich Thamparipattra have followed in the footsteps of their mum and dad. The sisters’ business concept is however different — they bring foreign tourists to Thailand and introduce them to local experiences.
In 2014, they co-founded HiveSters.com, a social enterprise that works with local communities to promote sustainable tourism.
“We work as a matchmaker between tourists who want to have local and unique experiences and locals who offer sustainable tourism activities but do not have a marketing channel or may have a language barrier,” said Achiraya, HiveSters CEO.
Achiraya, 32, has a master’s degree in international luxury brand management from ESSEC Business School in Paris while her younger sister Chayanich, 30, is a legal consultant graduating with a masters in law with a certification in international human rights law from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. The two sisters had worked in international organisations before the launch of their own business, making their dream come true.
The business was inspired by their personal desire. They wanted to offer an alternative to mass-tourism programs for their foreign friends.
“Before we started HiveSters, many of our friends asked for our advice about where to visit when they planned to come to Thailand. We didn’t want to recommend that they ride elephants or see tigers. We wanted them to see the real Thailand,” said Chayanich, co-founder and the company’s sustainability chief.
Then a question arose. They wondered how their friends could see authentic Thailand if they had limited knowledge about local places and could not speak the language. They also drew from their own travel experiences that were more enriching when they interacted with local people and learned more about different cultures.
The two sisters took the idea seriously and converted it into a business. They named it HiveSters, referring to a beehive that connects different communities, said Chayanich.
Since its inception, HiveSters has offered a number of sustainable tourism programs, such as visiting an old Chinese community in Talat Noi in Bangkok, where visitors can visit a local home and try local food; exploring a homestay in Khiriwong; traveling to Nakhon Si Thammarat to test organic fruits; learn how to dye cloth with natural materials such as a mangosteen shell and fallen tree leaves; and visiting rice paddies in the north to plant organic rice.
Started by word of mouth among circles of friends, the reputation of HiveSters is gradually scalable. They organized trips for friends of friends and also for other visitors whom they do not personally know. They have visitors from the United States, Europe or neighboring countries like Singapore.
Their customer base also expands from leisure travelers with a small group of friends and families or to corporate visitors.
“We have recently organized a one-day trip for Google executives from Singapore. They have a list of must-see places in Bangkok, like the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha temple. We brought them to visit the attractions in the morning. In the afternoon, we brought them to visit a local community in Nang Loeng. We all had a good time,” said Chayanich.
Nang Loeng was once Bangkok’s hub for the Thai traditional performance art called lakhon chatri. There is still a master of the performance living in the community. Nang Loeng is also known as a center for food lovers.
Recently, HiveSters initiated a new campaign to promote Bangkok’s old communities.
The idea came to them when the sisters had the chance to visit old communities with representatives of the Culture, Sports and Tourism Department of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). The trips were eye-openers for both of them.
“In my generation, I do not know much about khan long hin (stone-polished bowls), thaeng yuak (banana trunk carving) or paeng phuang (a traditional scented powder garland). I was amazed. I want other people to know about them too,” said Chayanich.
HiveSters joined hands with the BMA to initially select six out of 30 historical communities in Bangkok. Those communities are at risk of losing their cultural identity.
They created the “Appear” project, which received seed funding from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai AirAsia. The selected communities are Ban Bu in Bangkok Noi, well known for making stone-polished bowls for more than 200 years; Nang Loeng and Bang Lamphu, where visitors can observe gold and silver craft works; Hua Takhe in Lat Krabang, where visitors can learn to make kites; Bang Kradi, a Mon community in Bang Khunthian, and Koh San Chao in Taling Chan district, where visitors can learn how to make paeng phuang.
To make sure the communities can benefit from tourism, local hotels are invited to the “Alliance Of Good Neighbors”. During the first phase, six hotels will help bring tourists to local communities in Bangkok.
The hotels are The Sukosol, which will work with the Nang Loeng; The Erawan Group and Bang Lamphu community; Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit and Ban Bu; Banyan Tree Bangkok and Hua Takhe; Anantara Riverside Bangkok for Bang Kradi; and The Sukhothai Bangkok and Koh San Chao.
HiveSters also provides translators for each community program and encourage community leaders to serve as guides. The hotels need to evaluate the tourism programs that they support and give feedback to HiveSters.
“The project is social innovation, with public and private sectors joining forces to develop sustainable travel activities in Bangkok. We hope the project will improve the livelihoods of local people,” said Achiraya.
The Appear project will run until February next year. If the project succeeds, it will be expanded to other communities throughout Thailand. – Bangkok Post