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Sustainable tourism in Thailand. Eco tourism & community tourism

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Sustainable tourism in Thailand

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Thailand has been fortunate enough to benefit from exponential tourist growth. Visitors entering the country have doubled each successive decade since the 70s. Now it numbers more than 15 million people every year. This is a huge benefit to the Thai economy, bringing in more than $15 billion a year.

Tourism on the Andaman Coast

It is no surprise that tourism on the Andaman coast has alos been on the rise in recent years. Phuket still remains the runaway leader in the region - yet increasing numbers of visitors are looking further afield for a more enjoyable holiday experience in a less developed area.

These are people who love Thailand, who feel that places like Phuket and Koh Samui have gone too far. Brimming over with 7-11s, McDonalds and Starbucks, these destinations lose the underlying culture that once made them so charming. Often the arrival of corporate chains marks the beginning of the end as many of the distinctive Thai cultural traits get lost in a sea of homogeneity.

sustainable tourism thailand
Promotion of tourism in Thailand has led to the industry to explode. More than 15 million people visit every year.
thailand cultural tourism
One of the original reasons to visit a country like Thailand was to delight in the cultural differences
cultural homogenity
Now multinationals exploit native societies through a bizarre fusion of values to sell more product

Sustainable tourism - an oxymoron?

It does not take a huge stretch of the imagination to wonder whether tourism is ever sustainable. Is the tourist footprint ever a good one?

As visitors look beyond Phuket into Phang Nga we see signs that Thailand must be careful of the long term impact of mass tourism. The temptation to cash in on the tourist boom is all too evident as legions of multinational resorts push through Khao Lak towards our beloved Koh Phra Thong.

So many areas have been irreparably damaged in this way. The bulldozers and pollution slowly destroy the natural habitats. Obviously, the scenery is a prime reason why the tourists come. So with the nature on the wane, the motivation to visit is removed and the next wave of tourists never arrive. This remains the irony of eco-tourism.

thailand shark finning
It is estimated within a decade most species of shark will be extinct. Find out more on our Shark Conservation course
thailand eco resort
Golden Buddha house materials are sourced from sustainable plantation hardwood and built by local craftsmen
project aware thailand
Blue Guru Diving's conservation efforst are featured on the website of non-profit Project Aware Organisation

Hope for Koh Phra Thong?

The encroachment of mass tourism has yet to reach our shores, but it is not far away. Koh Kho Khao to the south is becoming increasingly popular whilst Koh Phayam to the north is widely recognised as a trendy travellers hotspot. Koh Phra Thong is next on the radar.

Thankfully, we have a community of operators on Koh Phra Thong with an understanding of the pressures of mass tourism. Between us we hope to have the integrity and influence to guide the island to develop in a more sustainable way.

Blue Guru Diving

- runs PADI Project Aware and Coral Reef Awareness courses for divers & non-divers to raise aquatic conservation awareness & action
- runs the "Whale Shark Exploration Program" in conjunction with Golden Buddha Beach Resort. The PADI Whale Shark Awareness specialty course is included in this program to raise divers' awareness and contribute to international research & conservation projects
- runs PADI Turtle Awareness specialty course to raise tourists' awareness and participation in local conservation project run by Naucrates (see above).
- runs PADI AWARE Fish ID, Underwater Naturalist and Peak Performance Buoyancy courses to increase divers' knowledge/skills and ensure non-damaging diving practices
- is a registered operator for Ecocean's Whale Shark Project, The Shark Trust, Coral Watch and Project AWARE
- has initiated a scuba diving training program for Thai nationals to become PADI Divemasters
- briefs all divers & snorkelers about eco-friendly practices to preserve local marine life & environments
- ensures boat crew use mooring buoys & do not drop anchors on reefs and is committed to increasing the number of mooring buoys on local reefs
- conducts CoralWatch surveys to monitor the health of local reefs & contribute to international research on bleaching effects
- organizes underwater & beach clean ups to preserve local aquatic habitats
- has developed a Coral Reef Restoration project with opportunities for staff, locals & visitors to participate
- runs rainforest trekking, mangrove boat trips & village tours using paid local guides to educate eco-tourists about local environments & cultures
- offers Divemaster trainees the opportunity to learn to be eco-tour guides
- employs multi-lingual staff to aid communication & relationship development with the local community and education of eco-tourists
- creates employment & income-earning opportunities for individuals & organizations in the local community
- promotes and arranges use of transport and accommodation owned by local individuals
- is based in a natural setting at an eco-resort, Golden Buddha (see above)
- has a dive centre constructed by local craftsmen using natural materials which blends in with the palm tree lined coastline
- uses NO electricity in its dive centre and minimizes water consumption through use of dunk tanks restricted for essential kit maintenance

Golden Buddha Beach Resort

- houses all built out of plantation hardwood by local Thai craftsmen
- strict building height restrictions and only 12.5% per one rai plot
- all Thai staff - 90% local to the island -paid a decent wage and holiday pay (very unusual in Thailand)
- ongoing training for staff
- electricity from 6pm - 11pm
- no hot water (you dont need it), no air-con (the sea breeze is fine), no swimming pool (there is a bay with warm clear water next to the resort)
- recycle own and others waste, taking it back to the main land

Naucrates - Conservation Biology

- running community and nature tourism projects on Koh Phra Thong since 1996
- sea turtle monitoring the extensive beaches of Koh Phra Thong between January and April to find and protect nesting sites
- mangrove rehabilitation project to restore depleted areas
- sponsored teacher in Baan Lions school providing education in english and the environment
- Naucrates volunteers based in Baan Lions providing much needed income for the village
- development of homestay program in Baan Lions

Blue Guru's Eco-Initiatives & Eco-Education