It takes a lot to run a hotel, right? There are so many little things you need to source, and in large quantities. Some are daily needs, like food, drinks and bathroom amenities. Others are capital expenses that you'll (hopefully) only need to buy once.
In many cases, you can provide a massive benefit to your community by buying local – and the benefits extend well past the local producers. As the trend for responsible tourism gains momentum, you'll find travelers seeking out those hotels that can offer something unique, as well as those that offer the opportunity to give back to the communities who have welcomed them. If that sounds interesting, here are a few ideas for hotel essentials you could be sourcing locally.
1. Produce support your local farmers
Sourcing produce for your hotel's restaurant from local farmers means that you will create less plastic waste and less CO2 from having it shipped from overseas. And that's just the beginning. Perhaps more importantly, you will help the local community by providing at least one family with a reliable source of income.
Of course, there can be challenges with this approach, such as possibly needing to financially support local farm owners in some way while they get their production up to the scale and capacity you need. However, with healthy eating and responsible tourism both growing trends, having ‘locally-sourced organic vegetables’ on your menu will provide a significant boost in guest goodwill.
2. Linens support your local textiles manufacturers
Between bedding, towels, tablecloths, napkins and curtains, a hotel can go through a lot of linens. While it is undoubtedly cheaper to buy it in bulk from a wholesale supplier, this approach also makes your hotel seem unremarkable – it lacks any sort of standout detail. More importantly, it means lost income for small, local textile businesses.
Thailand is famous for its fabrics – especially Thai silk – and celebrating that fact with high-quality, locally-produced linens is a very visible way to broadcast the unique experience that guests will enjoy in your property. While the negotiations may be tougher, you might also be able to make a competitive deal with the local suppliers to keep the prices reasonable.
3. Souvenirs support your local craftspeople
Many travelers are getting wise to the fact that many souvenirs are actually mass-produced far from Thailand. These don’t provide the unique memento of their time here – and that’s where local crafts come in.
Hosting a small collection of locally-made souvenirs in your property benefits everyone. Guests get the sort of souvenirs they actually want, local craftspeople get the income they need, you get happy guests and genuine Thai culture gets a bit more global exposure. Not ready to sell souvenirs onsite? That’s okay. All the local artisans need is access to potential customers, which is something that your hotel can provide.
4. Seafood support your local fishermen
Not only are industrial-scale fishing operations putting seafood stocks at risk, but they undermine small, local fishing operations, for whom the fruits of the sea are sometimes their only source of income. By buying your seafood locally, you are providing a bit of stability for members of the local community.
The other, arguably more significant benefit to your hotel is the freshness of your ingredients. The ability to honestly add the phrase ’freshly caught’ or ’locally-sourced’ to your seafood menu is a major plus for foodies.
5. Furniture support your local carpenters
Alongside fabrics and food, Thailand has a proud tradition for building very sturdy, beautifully intricate furniture. Supporting local carpenters by fitting out your hotel with their wares supports the community, while giving your rooms an authentic, undeniably Thai look.
Even if you would prefer that your hotel has a simpler look, with clean lines instead of intricate carvings, appropriate furnishings can be sourced locally. It doesn’t have to be just wooden furnishings, either, as there are plenty of highly skilled metalworkers and manufacturers using other materials around the country.
6. Bathroom amenities support your local artisans
Travelers are getting increasingly aware of what they are putting on their body and are leaning more towards simple, natural cleaning solutions. Fortunately, small industries are popping up to support that need, with wares like artisanal soaps and shampoos becoming more widely available.
You can support these gradually growing industries by supplying your bathrooms with locally made amenities. It makes yet another wonderful memory point for your guests, and, when bought in bulk, can help you cut down on your plastic waste and carbon footprint, too.
7. Minibar snacks support your local brands
It's extremely common to see the big brands in a hotel minibar – generally a Snickers bar, often a Toblerone, typically a can of Coca-Cola and so on. While many of these might be locally manufactured, the benefit still goes to big multinational corporations and not the local economy.
Buying artisanal sweets would be the ideal option, given that they are often healthier and the money you spend on them will directly benefit the local community. However, if that’s not possible or they’re unavailable in bulk, you could at least buy Thai brands to give your guests national flavors when they get snacky.
8. Beverages support your local brewery
There's a growing trend, both around the world and in Thailand specifically, towards craft beers. As with most foodstuffs, it's a trend that is leaning towards providing unique flavors, supporting small businesses and healthier, more sustainable practices employed by manufacturers.
In Thailand, the choice of home-grown beers and spirits continues to grow, though there are some things you should aware of. While brewers have found some innovative ways around government restrictions, such as sending the ingredients to Australia to be brewed there and shipped back, the net result is that the prices are often quite high. A cheaper option could be to provide Thai teas and coffees as in-room refreshments.
9. Uniforms support your local tailors
While getting your linens supplied by the local textile industry certainly has the biggest impact on the community, uniforms offer another area where you can make a difference. And while the volume of linens can become expensive, staff uniforms are not needed in such great amounts.
Switching to locally produced uniforms, using local materials, arguably benefits your hotel more as they are more visible to guests and can be more colorful and interesting than bed linens. Additionally, having your staff dressed in traditional Thai styles adds to the local feel for the guests, providing a more immersive holiday experience.
10. Arts and decorations support your local artists
Since rooms with bare walls make your hotel feel more like a prison, adding some artworks to liven things up is highly recommended. These can be sourced locally, helping to support local artists while contributing to your hotel’s unique look.
It’s not just the rooms – a noteworthy sculpture or two in the lobby and grounds not only add something interesting for your guests and their Instagram followers, but also give you the opportunity to promote the local culture and traditions.