Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has outlined a series of recommendations for travellers and eco-friendly strategies for tour operators in Thailand, to help both parties follow a greener path when the country’s doors reopen to tourism in July. These initiatives are at the heart of TAT’s stated mission to protect the natural world for the long-term sustainability of the Kingdom.
“In order to preserve the natural habitat, wildlife and traditions of the Kingdom, it is our responsibility to ensure that we regulate the impact of mass tourism on the ecosystem and engage with our local partners to ensure responsible tourism that is sustainable,” says Pichaya Saisaengchan, who is director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand for Dubai and the Middle East.
Of the 39 million travellers who chose Thailand for their vacation last year, an estimated 500,000 come from the MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) region. Pichaya sees this emerging demographic as central to the growing popularity of wildlife tourism, volunteerism and eco-friendly travel. Following COVID-19, he sees tourism as an essential spoke in the wheel of conservation funding and development.
“The impact of the global pandemic has left a funding gap for the world’s wildlife initiatives, many of which rely on tourism for their revenue streams,” says Pichaya. “We would like to support them by highlighting legitimate organisations and initiatives that are doing great work in the Kingdom, and how tourists can continue to support them whilst travel is restricted,” he added.
TAT is providing tourists, agents and operators with a helping hand in steering visitors toward projects, activities and initiatives that can have a positive impact on conservation efforts. Earlier this year, in collaboration with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, they launched a conservation campaign in Koh Tao called ‘The One for Nature.’
Working with the Save Elephant Foundation, TAT is also supporting Thailand’s elephants through community outreach, rescue, rehabilitation programmes and educational ecotourism. A range of sponsorship packages also help elephant-friendly travellers provide food, medical care and shelter for these iconic animals.
Despite its negative impact on tourism, COVID-19 has had a positive effect on many aspects of the natural world, from air quality and urban pollution, to fish stocks, beach cleanliness and breeding sites. The deserted beaches of Phuket and Phang Nga have recorded the largest number of leatherback turtle nests in two decades; in April, the popular holiday island of Koh Samui welcomed the arrival of around 200 baby green turtles, which hatched from a beach outside the Banyan Tree hotel. The resort is now building its 2021 stay packages around conservation of this new turtle breeding site, allowing guests to support the preservation of the island’s newest wildlife attraction.
TAT is committed to raising responsible tourism standards nationwide. In 2019, they initiated the Responsible Thailand Awards, which recognise tour operators and providers that tread lightly on the country’s natural resources and promote the sustainable showcasing of its wildlife attractions.