In the last two years, community tourism has generated over USD 20,000 income for villagers, while also generating funds to a children’s center, orchid conservation and other community development projects.
“Community tourism goes beyond enjoying a new culture while supporting sustainable development — it’s also a great way to make life-long friends,” said Thamrong Chompusri, director of Andaman Discoveries.
Darunee Pakdee, or Cha as her friends call her, smiles as she welcomes the group of tour operators to her village on the Andaman Coast. Unlike the majority of visitors over the past few years, this group of visitors is not here to see the destruction wrought by the tsunami of 2004. Instead, they are here as tourists to enjoy the cultural and natural splendor of Ban Talae Nok, a village of 67 homes situated in between the coral reefs and dense rainforests of Southern Thailand.
Life has not always been so easy for Cha — the majority of her village was destroyed in the tsunami, and, due to declining fish stocks and mangrove destruction, she was unable to return to her traditional fishing lifestyle. With the development of community tourism, however, her luck is turning around.
“We are beginning to understand how to connect tourism with our way of life, and share with people the natural environment that we depend on for our culture and livelihood,” Cha explained.
Since rebuilding their lives after the tsunami, some villagers in rural Thailand are using tourism as a tool for sustainable development. Community members such as Cha now offer homestays, eco-tours and other activities — allowing visitors to participate in the traditional way of life that so often eludes the casual tourist. Their work has been assisted by Andaman Discoveries, a social enterprise founded in 2006 that works as part of the North Andaman Community Tourism Network. Under the sponsorship of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), these two groups are serving as a bridge between local villages and the private sector.
In recognition of their unique approach, Andaman Discoveries recently received a 2008 SEED Award for Entrepreneurship in Sustainable Development. Chosen from close to 400 applications from over 100 countries worldwide, Andaman Discoveries will use the Award to expand its partnerships with the local Community Tourism Network.
The SEED (Supporting Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development) Initiative is a global network for action on sustainable development partnerships, founded by IUCN, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to deliver concrete progress towards the internationally-agreed, aspirational goals in the UN’s Millennium Declaration and the commitments made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002.
SEED focuses on locally-driven, entrepreneurial partnerships in developing countries. Its goal is to inspire, promote and build capacity to support the many innovative ways in which diverse groups are working together to improve incomes and strengthen livelihoods; tackle poverty and marginalization and manage and conserve natural resources and ecosystems.
Through an annual, global awards scheme SEED reveals a wealth of novel ways of doing business through partnerships and provides international recognition to the most promising enterprises.
SEED Award Winners then receive a tailored package of support services to help them to become established and to increase their impact. This includes access to relevant expertise and technical assistance, meeting new partners and building networks, developing business plans and identifying sources of finance.
“I applaud the success of Andaman Discoveries and the North Andaman Community Tourism Network,” said Dr. Janaka de Silva, IUCN Thailand’s program coordinator, adding that “these IUCN-supported efforts can serve as a model for tourism throughout the region.”
“Events like this give me the motivation to develop tourism to benefit my community, despite the challenges. I hope to develop a strong tourism group with the help of young leaders in the village and the new generation.”
Gasom Vejasart, Laem Naew Community Tourism Group
“Until I visited, I was not aware the North Andaman had so much to offer. I hope to send groups for cycling, homestay and volunteer activities.”
Ittipol Puttasiri, product manager, North by Northeast Tours
“By creating genuine cultural exchange between guests and villagers, community tourism creates an opportunity for communities to preserve their traditional ways of life and natural environment.”
Bodhi Garrett, North Andaman Community Tourism Network
“The SEED Awards are playing an important role in helping to bring about positive change. The winners identified show all of us how, working together, we can make real progress towards meeting our development goals.”
Kemal Dervis, UNDP administrator
“We are beginning to understand how to connect tourism with our way of life, and share with people the natural environment that we depend on for our culture and livelihood.”
Darunee (Cha) Pakdee, Community Tourism coordinator, Ban Talae Nok
“Community tourism goes beyond enjoying a new culture while supporting sustainable development — it’s also a great way to make life-long friends.”
Thamrong Chompusri, director, Andaman Discoveries
“I applaud the success of Andaman Discoveries and the North Andaman Community Tourism Network. These IUCN-supported efforts can serve as a model for tourism throughout the region.”
Janaka de Silva, program director, IUCN Thailand
For more information, please contact:
Bodhi Garrett, lead consultant, North Andaman Community Tourism Network
Tel: +66 81 787 7344
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