Thailand’s creative industries are expected to grow by 3.55% to 1.51 trillion baht next year from an estimated 1.45 trillion this year, according to the Creative Economy Agency (CEA).
Thailand has established its soft power in three categories — tourism, foods and traditional medicine — for decades, while the overall creative industries spanning 15 sectors contribute 10% of GDP.
CEA executive director Apisit Laistrooglai said average growth of the creative economy exceeded that of GDP in the past year as the pandemic accelerated the sales volume of handicraft products, food and software such as online games, with people spending more on home renovation and entertainment while at home.
Average monthly income for workers in creative industries is higher than other industries, at 23,000 baht compared with 15,000 baht, but each creative sector has a wide range of income.
People in the handicraft industry, which makes up 60% of the total creative workforce, had income below the monthly average. A smaller cohort of those working for gaming and animation companies topped the ranks with 33,000 baht in monthly salary on average.
He said soft power cannot succeed without government support. Working in the industry for more than a decade, Mr Apisit has witnessed the problems with the mindset and attitude of those who regulate the creative industry.
“The government sector should be the backbone for soft power development, offering attractive tax incentives and strong promotional campaigns to compete with other countries that ramped up their creative industries recently,” he said.
Mr Apisit said Thailand has a lot of talented artists and creators, but they lack support to grow internationally, unlike other countries that have a specific body to lend help. He cited the Korea Creative Content Agency, which offers systematic promotion of the Korean Wave to the world.
“State agencies should empower creatives in initiatives they could not do on their own. For instance, CEA partners with eight professional associations to hear from each sector and help them reach a greater audience. We also host events in creative industries to help creators showcase products,” said Mr Apisit.
He said authorities should realise the nature of a creative economy requires both capital and time for each investment, yet the result may not always be successful.
“A bureaucratic system requires key performance indicators to gauge the efficiency of budgets, but most creative products need more time and effort to reach the global market,” said Mr Apisit.
He said a clear example was Lisa Blackpink, who said in an interview her record company groomed her for years before debuting the first album with Blackpink.
“It’s normal for every K-pop company that only a handful of trainees become pop stars. This kind of investment carries risks that state authorities and even some private companies don’t want to take, which partly explains why we still have a limited market within the country while our neighbours expand to the global arena,” said Mr Apisit.
He said there are two categories with the highest revenue growth potential in Thailand: local foods developed into processed products using creative ideas; and creative content, such as online games, films and music that could be offered on digital platforms, particularly the non-fungible token marketplace.