BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – Over the last few years, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has been increasingly refocusing the kingdom as an environment-friendly destination. By assuming the position of TAT Governor last year, Suraphon Svetasreni is keen to strengthen Thailand’s effort to offer a sustainable product. “We are in the age of responsible tourism, which demands creative solutions to ensure that tourism remains sustainable over the long term and precious resources are carefully and effectively conserved. We must strike a balance between generating revenues and preserving our environment’s assets,” analyzed the TAT Governor during his traditional press conference at the last Thailand Travel Mart. The soft-spoken man confesses to be himself a fan of natural discoveries. “I love, for example, spending times in the Northeastern provinces of Isan as they offer a truly genuine peaceful experience with wonderful people,” he said recently during a conference.
To better emphasize the message, TTM Plus 2011 adopted the theme “Caring for the Earth,” with large parts of the exhibition hall dedicated to companies, hotels, or tour operators committed to nurturing green and sustainable tourism. On its first day, TTM Plus had organized an open forum called “Thailand Goes Green.” And most post-tours starting after the show are “Green Routes” emphasizing eco-tourism.
Thailand is indeed slowly making its revolution in tourism with increasing activities looking at ways to compensate travelers’ carbon footprints. Although Mr. Svetasreni acknowledges that some tourism players use the green initiative to generate more advertising towards their product, he estimates that a lot has been achieved. Community tourism is gaining pace all across Thailand with villages sharing ancestral knowledge and handicraft skills with visitors. The government is also subsidizing programs using alternatives to fossil energies.
Thai government and private sector green initiatives across the board have gained prominence. Alternative “clean” energy and conservation top the list. The three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle – are now commonly known if not universally practiced. For some, it is strictly about caring for the environment, but others are joining the green ranks because it can pay.
Thailand has made significant gains in alternative energy use with the government subsidizing solar, wind, small hydro, biogas, and other clean energies. According to Mr. Svetasreni, Bangkok showed ,in many cases, the right example by developing the use of public transport, promoting recycling, and encouraging in some of the city’s area the use of bikes or also for cleaning up the air. “Thailand’s tourism future is definitely green,” stressed the TAT Governor. A brochure about Thailand tourism’s “Seven Green Concepts” is available in various languages including English.
Sustainability will turn into a necessity as tourism is likely to continue to grow rapidly over the years to come. TAT targets this year 16.8 million international travelers generating some US$21.3 billion in revenues. Domestic tourism in 2011 is likely to surpass 91 million domestic trips generating an additional US$14.3 billion in revenues. “Domestic tourism is turning increasingly into an extremely valuable asset as it can help to compensate the negative evolution generated by external uncertainties factors such as political upheaval.
While the new domestic campaign conveys a message of “traveling with an heart,” for international travelers, Thailand’s newest tourism campaign brings back an element of emotion for the ones visiting the kingdom. “In all of our surveys, Thai people’s genuine gentleness and sense of service are always cited among the top elements of choice for a holiday in our country,” added Mr. Svetasreni. Emotional encounters, emotional discoveries in front of the kingdom’s cultural and natural assets, this is the message that TAT wants to convey. And this justifies also the tourism authority’s slogan that “Amazing Thailand, always amazes you.”