There is a growing awareness about the importance of responsible tourism when visiting destinations. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) confirm responsible tourism is a significant consideration for many people when booking a holiday. According to recent figures from ABTA, 45% of travellers say that the sustainability credentials of their travel provider are important when booking a holiday. This figure has almost doubled since 2014 when it was 24%. Fan Club Thailand supports this move towards more responsible tourism and we are pleased to see that there have been many positive steps taken in Thailand in recent years. At the same time, we also acknowledge there is still more work to be done. To help you with your next trip to Thailand, we’ve put together some of the ways you can support responsible tourism.
What is responsible tourism?
Responsible tourism has been defined as, “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit”. This also means ensuring that the rights and needs of all those who support your holiday are respected. People who live and work in a tourist destination should benefit as well. The broad concept of responsible tourism can also include what is sometimes described as ecotourism, and sustainable tourism. The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), defines ecotourism as, “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
Supporting local communities in Thailand
Community based tourism (CBT) is a wonderful way to experience Thailand. CBT is an initiative managed and owned by the community, for the community. This form of responsible tourism takes into account the need for cultural, environmental and social sustainability. There are many mutual benefits to CBT in Thailand. As a guest, you are able to participate in the daily life of the community in a non-obtrusive way. And in return the local community can see that there are tourists who are genuinely interested in learning more about them and their way of life. Community based tourism is being promoted in Thailand with projects such as ‘Village to the World’. If you are interested in community based tourism in Thailand, take a look at the experiences available via Local Alike and Andaman Discoveries. For more insights about home-stays and the positive impact of CBT, read our featured articles about these villages:
Ban Mae Kampong in Chiang Mai
Ban Muang Pam in Mae Hong Son
Ban Don Kai Dee (Benjarong Porcelain Village) in Samut Sakhon
Ban Bang Phlap in Samut Songkhram
Ban Na Ton Chan in Sukhothai
Helping the environment in Thailand
A host of new environmental measures have been introduced in Thailand in recent years. Some of the main ones are:
- March 2017: Thailand became the first Asian country to join the Upcycling the Oceans campaign from the Ecoalf Foundation.
- November 2017: Smoking was banned on a number of Thai beaches to cut down on the high number of discarded cigarette butts.
- June 2018: Maya Bay on the Phi Phi Islands closed to the public to allow the marine ecosystem to recover from over-tourism.
- August 2018: Single use plastics were banned at more than 150 national parks around Thailand.
- August 2018: Plans announced to trial the use of an e-ticket system to prevent over-tourism at National Marine Parks.
- October 2018: Overnight stays at the Similan Islands no longer allowed.
If you are visiting Thailand and want to help out in a hands-on way, take a look at the activities carried out by Trash Hero. The volunteer-led group have a number of chapters around Thailand and they also run an innovative bottles and bags programme encouraging the use of refillable water bottles and reusable shopping bags. If you’ve been to Thailand you will already know that plastic straws are used a lot. If you want to politely decline the use of a straw, learn how to say it in Thai courtesy of the video clip below from Trash Hero.
Ethical elephant experiences in Thailand
Spending time with elephants often comes high up on the must-do list when tourists visit Thailand. The subject of elephant tourism is an emotive one and we advise doing your research carefully to ensure you are visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary.
Read more details here
Hotels in Thailand supporting responsible tourism
The Phuket Marriott Resort & Spa Merlin Beach is another hotel that has excellent green credentials. The hotel employs full-time conservation experts and also works with the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This has led to the opening of the Merlin Butterfly Sanctuary which is home to over 30 species of butterfly. In addition, the hotel also works with the IUCN and Sea Bees Diving to protect the reef ecosystem in front of the hotel and is involved in the Mangroves for the Future Project.
On Ko Samui, the environmental policies implemented by the Banyan Tree resort are having a positive impact and it is no coincidence that a green sea turtle chose a quiet stretch of beach in front of the resort as a nesting site. Banyan Tree Samui has raised awareness of climate change through tree-planting events and also initiated a coral rejuvenation project. The resort lives up to its ethos of ’embracing the environment, empowering people’ and plays an active role in supporting young people from the local communities via mentorships and scholarships.
The gorgeous Elephant Hills resort in Khao Sok is fully committed to sustainability and has been described as “a model for how a luxury travel experience can also educate and conserve.” Also in Khao Sok, Anurak Community Lodge prides itself on being part of the local community which means employing local people wherever possible and supporting local businesses. In nearby Khao Lak, luxury resort The Sarojin is also renowned for its work with the community that ensures the economic benefits of tourism helps local people. And at their properties across Thailand, the Akaryn Hotel Group have been trailblazers in Asia with their policy to remove single-use plastic from all their hotels.
Speaking of hotels, it’s always nice to be nice. Leaving a small tip for the hotel cleaning staff or drivers and porters is a gesture that will be appreciated. This simple act of appreciation can make a real difference to that member of staff and their family who are part of the local community.
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