In 2022, Thailand welcomed 11.15 million foreign tourists. This year that figure rose to 11.4 million between January and 11 June alone, according to a statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports last week.
With its spectacular rainforests, beaches, warm hospitality and delicious cuisine, such is the appeal of Thailand that stakeholders across the public and private sectors are taking practical steps to protect the country’s natural assets, encouraging visitors to “leave only their footprints and take only good memories.”
Across Thailand, numerous programs and initiatives have sprung up in recent years to raise environmental awareness and cooperation among international travellers and foster responsible tourism practices, with widespread support among local communities.
One such initiative is ‘The One for Nature’ program established by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) to promote “Travel with Responsibility in Thailand." Initiated in 2020 to encourage sustainable tourism and protect Thailand's abundant natural resources, the success of the campaign prompted a second edition in August and September this year under the banner of ‘Amazing Thailand’, offering travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves once again in Thailand’s abundant and rejuvenated natural surroundings.
“The campaign corresponds with the TAT’s corporate plan 2023-2027, which aims to elevate TAT’s position as the strategic leader in driving Thailand towards experience-based and sustainable tourism,” said Mr. Nithee Seeprae, Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications. “Activities under The One for Nature campaign are conceptualised to strengthen awareness of Thailand as a quality destination for sustainable tourism that appeals to environmentally conscious travellers.”
The online campaign, which attracted over 10 million views, invited travellers to submit a photo of their favourite travel destination in Thailand and share it on social media for a public vote. The top two entrants with the highest votes were awarded an exclusive four-day/three-night sustainable tour package, including round-trip flights for two, accommodation, meals, and local activities.
Responsible tourism activities on the ground were initiated in popular destinations such as Pattaya, Chon Buri, and Walking Streets in Chiang Mai and Phuket where travellers took part in recycling activities and workshops turning trash into treasure.
The campaign concluded in Phuket where artificial reefs shaped like an elephant were constructed to encourage rehabilitation of the marine ecosystem. The result of a collaboration between TAT, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, and SCG – makers of the SCG-DMCR Litter Trap which can remove up to 700kg of water-borne waste per day - the reefs were placed at Ko Racha Yai by dive volunteers and the Racha Phuket Hotel.
Further initiatives spearheaded by TAT include a country-wide reduction in plastic waste by encouraging reusable or sustainable products. Launched in Bangkok, the campaign has spread far and wide, including the island of Ko Mak known for its white sandy beaches. To preserve and protect traditional ways of life, local residents have also committed to using locally sourced food, avoiding petroleum-based fuels, and installing efficient water and waste management systems.
On the popular diving island of Ko Tao, a number of dive centres organise monthly clean-ups and encourage tourists to reject the use of plastic straws, cups and bags. Up in the north east, Loei Province, with its spectacular mountain trails, rainforests and waterfalls is also playing its part. Earlier this year, Loei’s Phu Kradueng National Park, Thailand’s most popular destination for trekking, introduced a two day event called ‘Go Green: Go Clean: Go Grow’, encouraging visitors to participate in a local cleanup and plant a tree.
In July this year, TAT announced its strategic direction for 2024, which will continue to support the development of higher end and more sustainable tourism in Thailand.
“2024 will be the year of accelerating resilience, transforming Thailand’s tourism into high-value and sustainable tourism that emphasises on elevating and moving forward to a better tourism ecosystem,” said Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, TAT Governor. “To build a new ecosystem, we need to become less reliant on the number of tourists and focus more on increasing tourist spending, attracting quality tourists, developing the supply chain with our partners, and distributing income fairly to the local communities. We need to create a balance between economic wealth, social wellbeing, environmental wellness, and human wisdom.”
Reinforcing this message, Ms. Thapanee Kiatphaibool, TAT Deputy Governor for Domestic Marketing, said “TAT will continue to focus on creating and delivering meaningful experiences to quality travellers with different demands in tourism experiences.
“With the carefully planned 2024 strategic direction, TAT has set an overall revenue target in the best-case scenario of 3 trillion Baht. This constitutes 1.92 trillion Baht from international tourism and 1.08 trillion Baht from domestic tourism. TAT expects to welcome 35 million foreign tourists and inspire 200 million domestic trips in 2024.”
As part of its communications strategy, this week TAT released its latest promotional film at the World Travel Market 2023. Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications, Mr. Nithee Seeprae, said “The Meaningful Relationship advertising film forms part of our latest communication campaign to inspire travellers from around the world to come and engage in meaningful connections with every aspect of Thailand, from the local people and community to nature and meaningful, one-of-a-kind experiences.”
With thanks to Asia Pacific Superyachts