BANGKOK (The Nation/Asia News Network): The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is focusing on ensuring that tourists from around the globe see Thailand in a new light – as a “sustainable destination” that prioritises environmental protection, TAT Governor Thapanee Kiatphaiboon said on Thursday (Sept 7).
The TAT will focus on educating foreign tourists so that they see that the kingdom’s tourism industry is making strides to align itself with the global trend towards greater sustainability.
“Thailand is setting sights on becoming a high-value and sustainable tourism destination to confirm that our tourism industry is not involved in damaging the world,” Thapanee said.
The new TAT governor, who assumed office on Sept 1, said that the tourism industry has faced challenges from environmental issues. She pointed to wildfires in northern Thailand, which disrupted tourism for months.
“A bad environment discourages tourists from coming back. They view this as a poor-quality destination. To turn Thailand into a quality destination, we need to change the tourists’ perceptions and sustainable tourism is something we long for,” she said.
“Sustainably Now” is part of the TAT’s overall strategy to transform the tourism sector. This also includes “Partnership 360” – boosting alliances in and outside the industry – accelerating the adoption of digital and information technology, and focusing on niche and special-interest markets.
The TAT has developed its own Sustainable Tourism Goals (STGs) based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.
A recent survey on foreign tourists visiting Thailand found that most respondents identified “meaningful travel experiences'' as the goal of their vacations. The survey was conducted on “free independent travellers” who plan their own trips and prefer to travel alone or in small groups.
Last month, the TAT launched the Sustainable Tourism Acceleration Rating (STAR) project. It awards three to five stars to tourism operators that improve their sustainability. Its goal is to get at least 85% of the participating tourism operators to have three to five stars by 2025.
“The TAT may not give the PR or marketing priority to the operators that place no importance on STGs, as opposed to those who take part in the project,” Thapanee said.
The plan to turn Thailand into a sustainable tourist destination has started with a pilot project in five provinces – Phuket, Khon Kaen, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok – to encourage tourist businesses to offer environment-friendly services.