Informal Workers Programme

Learn about PATA’s initiatives to support communities 

Tourism and informal workers

The Informal Workers Programme was created as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support one of tourism most important – but often overlooked – stakeholders in the tourism industry: the informal workers.

While tourism promotes iconic destinations and sites, it is the people we meet there that bring to life the local experiences that we cherish and remember for years to come. The tourism supply chain is therefore dependent on the people living and working in the host communities.

Many of the people making their living through tourism are, in fact, informal workers. They include street food sellers, souvenir sellers, drivers, freelance tour guides, activity providers, artists, and artisans.

Informal workers make up a majority of tourism employment and provide entrepreneurial opportunities to women, youth and the elderly. Despite this, this vital sector lacks voice and is too often excluded from industry discussions.

COVID-19 impacts

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been countless studies and discussions on the impacts of lockdowns on the tourism industry with staggering statistics on loss to GDP and employment. Yet these statistics do not include informal workers.

Lacking formal government registration, informal workers can fall through the cracks of social protection and employment benefit schemes. Further, given the informal nature of their livelihoods, it is also more difficult to assess how the pandemic has impacted them, thus limiting relief efforts. Informal workers, no matter how crucial to a destination’s tourism success, are often forgotten and bear a disproportionate burden during times of crisis.

What did we do?

PATA and the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism asked the question: how has the pandemic affected informal workers within the Thai tourism supply chain? PATA’s research found (to no one’s surprise) that the impacts have indeed been devastating. 

Upwards of 94% of informal workers in Thai tourism have experienced severe employment impacts, resulting in 86% of respondents falling into extreme financial hardship.

To meet the challenge of providing a voice for informal workers, as well as to enable a safer, more successful reopening to international visitors, PATA and the Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism have launched a programme to assist informal workers. This programme aims to reconnect the informal workers with the new traveller mindset and train the informal workers to be prepared for safe, welcoming international reopening. It includes many practical aspects of running a sustainable micro-business given the ‘new normal’ that COVID has created.

Informal workers in Thailand

December 2021

Designed to spread as many benefits to the community as possible, PATA hired unemployed freelance tour guides and under-employed tourism professionals to work with PATA staff and civil society organisations to deliver community-based training to fellow informal workers across the streets and markets of Bangkok, Thailand.

This programme, which builds upon the research that PATA conducted with focusright between December 2020 and March 2021, assisted 500 informal workers in 15 communities of Bangkok to meet health standards and operating safety procedures; provide community-based tourism product re-development; and understand the new needs & wants of tourists in the post COVID-19 era.

Training topics

Specific topics of the training in Thailand included:

Google Maps for Businesses

New for most informal workers, they learned how to add their business to Google Maps and add information and photos. They appreciated this marketing tool that does not impose any costs.

Google Translate

Informal workers learned how to use Google Translate to communicate with international visitors more effectively and be able to explain their products and services to tourists.

Cashless payments

Cashless payments and QR code payments were also important topics, and most informal workers quickly adapted to using their mobile phones for this type of payment.

Health and safety

Registering for social security benefits and learning how to self-administer a COVID-19 Antigen Test Kit (ATK) were the most popular topics among informal workers.

Child safety

Another very important part of the capacity building was familiarising informal workers with child safety standards. The training focused on showing how everyone in a community can protect children.

Supporting Partner for Thailand Informal Workers Programme


Following the successful implementation of the Informal Workers Programme in Thailand, PATA is extending the programme in Indonesia with the support of Visa. The Informal Workers Programme in Indonesia will be facilitated by PATA member Wise Steps Consulting in Bali and Jakarta in April and May 2023. The training will cover the following topics:

  • Health and safety
  • Cross-cultural understanding
  • Foreign language skills
  • Food hygiene
  • Financial skills
  • Digital marketing
  • Basic principles of tourism

Supporting Partner for Indonesia Informal Workers Programme

Informal Workers at your destination?

The Informal Workers Programme can be implemented in different national and subnational destinations, with contents and structure tailored to the needs of the local community and informal workers.

Leave a message below to know more about the Informal Workers Programme in your destination.

Check out our other initiatives

PATA also has initiatives for destinations, such as the Tourism Destination Resilience (TDR) Programme, and for tourism businesses, such as online courses, guidelines and toolkits for plastic and food waste reduction, finance skills, digital skills and cybersecurity. Check these below:

For destinations

For businesses

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