Thailand could be a leading green tourism destination in the Asia-Pacific region if all tourism-related parties seriously promote the country’s potential and address the global warming problem, says the Thailand Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association (TEATA).
Global warming affects tourism, yet tourism partly causes the problem as well. Consequently, tourists have become more responsible for the environment, especially those from Europe, America, and Japan, who are a premium market.
This has resulted in the trend toward environmentally friendly tourism in many countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. However, their green tourism sites remain substandard because it takes times to develop green tourism routes and products, says TEATA. It also takes time to train communities and green hotels and restaurants must be certified by international organisations.
Meanwhile, Malaysia, a rival with potential, has not taken up a green tourism drive seriously while Singapore and Hong Kong have few natural attractions.
TEATA has been promoting green tourism for 12 years but international green tourists accounted for fewer than 5% of the total tourist arrivals to Thailand in 2010.
“We believe the proportion of green tourists will exceed 5% this year. Although the number of green tourists is still very small, global warming will spur growth in this segment in the future. Green tourists are very loyal and responsible,” said TEATA adviser Duangkamol Chansuriyawong.
Tourism operators agree and many of them want to go green but it is not easy to craft environmentally friendly tourism products.
The government and the private sector must tailor marketing campaigns and promote them seriously. Thailand’s green tourism has received good responses from Europe and TEATA is heading for North America, where green tourism is popular as well.
The association will promote green tourism routes in Thailand with Tourism Authority of Thailand offices in the United States. In Asia, Japan is its focus.
TEATA already launched the green routes, which are operated by specialists with eco-tour guides. The programmes offer guests unique opportunities to stay in green hotels, enjoy eco-tourism activities, and experience life, culture and nature with local communities.
The four green routes are The Flavours and Fragrances of Central Thailand (Samut Songkhram and Phetchaburi); The Charm of Isan Life (Nakhon Ratchasima and Khao Yai); The Spirit of Lanna (Lamphun, Lampang and Chiang Mai); and At the Cultural Crossroad (Chiang Rai). Three more routes will be added in the second half of this year.Thailand could be Asia-Pacific top green tourism destination