Thailand’s tourism sector keeps growing. More than 30 million visitors are expected to arrive in 2019 alone. We know why Thailand attracts people in such record-breaking numbers, and the experiences that the nation offers to all who land on her shores. As the visitor numbers swell, smart and conscientious actions need to be adopted and enforced to make sure that every tourist, whether they travel from the other side of the world or just up the road, leaves no lasting or damaging mark on the social or natural environments of Thailand.
As it turns out, the industry is in agreement. Under the guidance of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and its many #AmazingThailand initiatives, tens of millions of visitors are taking a more responsible approach to their journeys.
Here are just five of the many ways Thailand is cleaning up its act, and its natural environment:
NO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
In 2018, the Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) announced a ban on all single-use plastics throughout all 154 national parks in Thailand.
Instead of plastics, visitors are being encouraged to opt for biodegradable or reusable packaging and materials. So your trail snacks don’t have to hurt the trail. They’re pulling no punches in their messaging, either—at the beach at Ko Mae Ko in Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, visitors find a sign looking out over the beautiful scene below asking ‘How long until it’s gone?’ accompanied by images of paper cups, cigarette butts and aluminium cans and how long it takes for each to biodegrade. It’s an eye-opener, and it’s working. DNP estimates that in the first year of the ban, 3 million fewer plastic items were disposed of or littered in the parks.
REDUCING OCEAN WASTE
After the land, the ocean needs our attention. Thailand is stepping up and acknowledging its role in the choking of our waterways and oceans at the hands of plastic waste. To address the issue at a global scale, we have to do something locally.
‘Upcycling the Oceans, Thailand’ is an industry-led initiative launched in 2017 which sees PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) and the Ecoalf Foundation band together to make Thailand the first Asian country to join the global fight against ocean waste. The goal is to help rid the seas, islands and coastal areas of trash, and recycle or recover as much as possible.
World Wildlife Foundation, collaborating with the TAT, DNP, Nokscoot Airlines and Bangkok Art and Culture Centre launched the ‘Travel Ivory Free’ campaign to stamp out the illicit trade of ivory and ivory products. The trade, though illegal in Thailand, continues—with Bangkok being seen as a trading hub for ivory flowing from Africa into Asia. The campaign is all about highlighting how no trip to Thailand needs to include ivory, and early signs from customs seizures show that it’s working. Elephants are an ancient symbol of Thailand, even appearing on old versions of the national flag. The slaughter or harm of these symbols, whether here in Asia or in Africa, doesn’t fit with the identity of the country.
KEEPING LOCAL SPACES LOCAL
The natural environment is only one area which is feeling the effects of swelling visitors numbers. Social ecosystems are struggling under the weight of tourism, with many neighborhoods and villages sitting under the threat of disruption or destruction.
TAT works with small local areas in the cities and countryside to promote responsible tourism efforts and sustainable business models. Local communities are empowered to present their authentic selves while providing engaging and captivating tourism activities in their own area, keeping the tourism spend local and trading on the uniqueness of each village.
NO SMOKING ON THE BEACH
Since the beginning of 2018, smoking has been banned at 24 of Thailand’s most popular beaches. Across Phuket, Phang-nga, Krabi, Trang, Samui, Hua Hin, Cha-am, Chon Buri, Rayong, and Trat, the smoking ban has been enforced. An estimated two-thirds of all cigarette butts are disposed of incorrectly or improperly, and the butts themselves can be devastating in the waterways. The filters are made of plastic, they leech toxic chemicals and heavy metals, and they take decades to biodegrade. The beaches are really beautiful—but only for as long as we keep them that way.
These are just some of the ways that Thailand is protecting its future while welcoming visitors in the present. But there are so many more. At Wonderfruit, TAT is kitting out The Fields with their latest creation to showcase Thainess to Wonderers: Baan Sabai. The mobile Thai house, built onto a bus converted to CNG, is a roaming reflection of the Thai culture and ingenuity that keeps millions coming to the country in search of an unmatched experience. Baan Sabai will park up where it’s needed, play local tunes, and encourage anyone coming from out of town or overseas to look below the surface to see the responsible, sustainable actions beneath.