Thai officials are striving to create a thriving sustainable tourism industry which would not be a burden on natural resources and the environment, a lesson Sri Lanka cannot afford to ignore as it begins to revive and expand its tourism industry after a decades-long conflict.
Tourism Authority Governor of Thailand (TAT) Suraphon Svetasreni emphasised the need to be more conscious about the environment more than ever before.
“We are in an age of responsible tourism, which demands creative and sustainable solutions to ensure tourism is sustainable over the long term and precious resources are carefully and effectively conserved,” he said.
“To drive this message home and demonstrate our genuine commitment to nurturing Green and Sustainable Tourism, we have adopted ‘Caring for Earth’ as the theme for this year’s Thailand Tourism Mart 2011,” he added.
He was addressing the media and travel agents at the Thailand Tourism Mart 2011 ‘Amazing Gateway to the Greater Mekong Sub Region’ organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) held at the Impact Exhibition Centre, one of the largest convention centres in South East Asia where over 1,000 buyers and media personnel were hosted.
“If we do not protect our natural resources it would deal a big blow to tourism in the long term, and hence, it is the prime duty of all stakeholders, which include our travel partners, tour operators, local communities, hoteliers and tourists themselves, to be environmentally conscious,” Svetasreni said.
With a rapidly increasing number of tourist arrivals to Thailand there is a greater possibility that more and more resources would be used up. In 2010, Thailand recorded 15.9 million tourist arrivals and the number is expected to reach 16 million this year, the governor said.
“As in many developed and developing economies, we also feel the pressure from socially and environmentally responsible consumers, as well as from international visitors and travellers, to address environmental issues and adopt green corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies,” he said.
Thai government agencies have become more involved and private industries are more active in conserving the environment.
The Thailand Board of Investment provides maximum incentives, including tax relief, stream-lined customs procedures and licensing, to green companies that invest in the country, while in the past decade, Bangkok’s environment has improved significantly with the use of natural gas-powered public transport, replacing diesel-run buses and the advent of electrically operated sky trains and planting a large number of trees for a greener city, while practicing the three R system ( reduce, reuse and recycle) adopted by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority. (By Harischandra Gunaratna in Bangkok)