Image of people on a boat on a beach


Koh Tao Better Together

Small tourist boat drivers and taxi drivers received “cash for work” by collecting marine debris floating in the ocean and cleaning the beaches

Before COVID-19, Koh Tao Island in Surat Thani province, which has one of the world's best diving spots, had a thriving tourism industry and attracted over 500,000 tourists each year. Tourism was the main source of income for the locals, as well as business corporations such as tour operators and hotels. However, once the pandemic hit, the Royal Thai Government had implemented a strict lockdown approach that caused islanders from Koh Tao to lose a substantial amount of income as a result of their inability to operate boat tours. Lockdown measures imposed by the government to curb the spread of the pandemic caused tourism to collapse, and with limited access to government assistance and left to survive on their savings, over two hundred households and more than 1,000 individuals have lost their incomes.

Therefore, Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) managed by UNDP Thailand, together with Krungthai Bank and Raks Thai Foundation, carried out the crowdfunding campaign “Koh Tao, Better Together.”

“Koh Tao, Better Together” was carried out from October 2020 to January 2021, and raised $92,847 USD through the donation platforms, exceeding the original target of $64,800USD for COVID-19 impacted communities to sustain their lives and ecosystem in Koh Tao. With funds generated from this crowdfunding campaign, 200 registered tourist boat drivers and taxi drivers were identified as direct beneficiaries. These small tourist boat drivers and taxi drivers received “cash for work” by collecting marine debris floating in the ocean and cleaning the beaches. Households were able to use the temporary basic income for food and basic utilities while marine biodiversity resources of Koh Tao Island also benefited through collection of marine debris. Apart from helping the boat drivers to support their families and survive the crisis, the campaign helped to restore nature and prepare the island for tourist visits. The campaign was thus in alignment with the objective of BIOFIN, which is to foster sustainable economic growth and achieve sustainable development by conserving biodiversity and ecosystems.

BIOFIN Thailand celebrated the award from the Global Corporate Sustainability Awards (GCSA) for best practice in CSR for the work of the “Koh Tao, Better Together” crowdfunding campaign. Upon successful completion of the campaign in helping clean up the beaches of Koh Tao and supporting livelihoods impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the former Mayor of the island had this to say,