Ecotourism in Thailand
Tour companies in Thailand advertise jungle treks, scuba diving and other expeditions as «nature tourism». But the popularity of these activities has caused environmental problems. Like mass tourism, mass jungle trekking can damage the ecosystem and the living and working conditions of local people.
As a solution to the problem, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) introduced the idea of ecotourism here a few years ago. Ecotourism is tourism that is environmentally friendly and that also benefits local communities.
Meeya Hawa is a local conservation worker in the fishing village of Jao Mai. He explained some of the problems. «When the tourists come, they stay at comfortable resort hotels and ignore our small hunts. They go to the island by the resort’s boats and eat at the resort’s restaurant. And they throw rubbish into the sea».
But things are changing. In the mountain village of Kiriwong, the villagers have started an Ecotourism Club with rules to protect the environment. The club has limited the number of mountain trekkers to only thirty a month. Each trekker pays about 3000 baht (750 US dollars) for a four-day trek which includes food, accommodation, sightseeing and a donation to the community.
Many tourists complain and say the mountain should be for everyone. The director of TAT in the area also thinks Kiriwong should lower the price to attract tourists but the club doesn’t agree. Nipat Boonpet, the club’s secretary, says “Tourists only think of what they pay for food, travelling and accommodation. Nature for them is free. It is not.”
It now seems that if there isn’t a real change in the thinking of both tour operators and tourists, the natural environment will be destroyed.