Thursday 21, January 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: Thailand is advancing in its efforts to place more emphasis on community-based tourism in line with the Royal Thai Government’s national tourism development plan for 2016-2017, and as part of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ strategies to attract more ‘quality’ visitors to Thailand.

The ‘Stability, Prosperity, and Sustainability Tourism Forum 2016’ held in Bangkok on 16 January formed part of the many activities under the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to educate the industry and encourage greater participation in promoting community-based tourism in order to achieve stability, prosperity and sustainability for Thailand’s tourism. About 230 travel and tourism operators, private and government organisations from all around the country attended the forum.

In his opening address, H.E. General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, provided a broad overview of the national social and development priorities, and lauded the role of tourism in fulfilling the targets and objectives. He pledged full government support for the industry.

H.E. Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports said, “Under the Royal Thai Government’s national tourism development plan for 2016-2017, we plan to disperse income to local communities nationwide as well as build a better quality of life for the local people, strengthening the communities, and promoting the preservation of Thai culture and traditions. All these will lead to the conservation of our natural resources and the sustainability of the country’s tourism industry as a whole.”

Hosted by the newly-launched TAT Academy, the ‘Stability, Prosperity, and Sustainability Tourism Forum 2016’ was conducted to promote community-based tourism knowledge and to help various stakeholders identify new business opportunities. The event was also set to provide opportunities for participants to establish networks with the entrepreneurs who had successfully implemented a community-based tourism platform.

Dr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of TAT said, “Community-based tourism is a global trend. Today, travellers are in search for tourism products and services that take into account the environmental, economical, and social sustainability. This is a new aspect of tourism that TAT will be gearing toward for future tourism development of Thailand.”

The Forum featured keynote speakers: Mr. Robert Basiuk, Director of Borneo Adventure, Sarawak, Malaysia, outlined how community-based tourism was becoming a global trend. The next speaker, Mr. Peter Richards, a sustainable tourism expert with the Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I), provided a more detailed focus on how Thai communities are catering to the tourism sector, both domestic and foreign.

Mr. Basiuk lauded Thailand as a model destination that adopts strategies and practices towards sustainability tourism. He said that in order to achieve sustainability from the development and promotion of community-based tourism, which helps disperse income to all part of the society, the initiative would require cooperation from all involved, especially the private sector.

Mr. Richards added that, “Community-based tourism is popular among European travellers as they are looking for memorable quality travel experience. Community-based tourism means something simple but with a unique identity and story, and offers a new and insightful experience of the local way of life of the people in that particular community.”

Some of the successfully developed and promoted community-based tourism products highlighted at the ‘Stability, Prosperity, and Sustainability Tourism Forum 2016’ included:

* Bang Phlup Community, Bang Khonthi district, Samut Songkram: successfully combines agriculture to create tourism stories and activities for tourists.
* Ban Ko Klang, Mueang district, Krabi: creates a tourism product by presenting the people’s way of life. The community has received recognition at both the local and international levels including the Thailand Tourism Awards and the PATA Gold Award.
* Hivesters website: the online platform provides a one-stop-shop for community-based tourism activities where tourists can look for information and books instantly on
* Local Alike: this is community-based tourism where local people take part in designing the trips and activities so visitors can travel like a local.
* Akha Ama Coffee: a local coffee brand originating in Ban Mae Chan Tai in Chiang Rai but has successfully made itself to have a worldwide reputation.
* Maajaidum: brand of local whisky made from coconut flower based in San Kamphaeng in Chiang Mai.
* Mae TEETA: a brand of organic textiles and indigo-dyed fabric which has found success from further developing the folk wisdom to create a brand of unique fabric.