Pattaya Daily News

06 June 2006 :: 13:06:21 pm 21669

ECO-TOURISM FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY HOLIDAYS Community Participation Enriches Your Vacation

In an era that extols sustainable development and the preservation of wildlife and indigenous culture, ecotourism has become a watchword. Thailand is fortunate in being a prime location for tourism and having such natural attractions as beaches and mountains, cultural and historical sites recalling the heyday of Thai civilization and a sophisticated infrastructure, allowing visitors easy access to most areas.
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The country has pioneered green tourism through decades of jungle trekking, elephant riding and sea cave kayaking. But, let’s not forget, natural ecotourism is about giving nature the holiday and ensuring \‘creature comforts\‘ means the comforts of the creatures\‘! At present, the number of authentic eco-tourism visitors is still small. Most come as part of groups participating in other types of tourism such as nature-based tourism, agro-tourism, cultural and historical tourism and health tourism of the area. The national parks system in Thailand is of growing importance to the eco-tourism industry.

     The last 30 years has seen Thailand establish 18 marine national parks in addition to more than 70 land-based ones. The Maekong River region, in Northeast Thailand, is one such area that the TAT has identified as a priority for tourism, especially, nature-based tourism. As the Mekong region increases in its exposure and popularity, these parks will experience an increased number of visitors looking for quality eco-tours. The government\‘s policy on tourism for the past years has been gearing towards more and more sustainable tourism development with emphasis on community participation, safety of tourists and non-exploitation. Enhancing the rural experience through personal contact, home-stays have joined tents, huts and barges as eco-sensitive alternatives to hotels and guesthouses.

     Local involvement empowers ecotourism, both in running tours and sharing their proceeds equitably. These incentives lead villagers to maintain traditions, conserve natural assets and resist the magnet of the cities. Home-stays may be frugal – cold water and floor mattresses are the norm. But the old Thai timber homes are kept very clean, and visitors usually find them surprisingly comfortable and allows the tourist to feel more like one of the family. Waterborne tours include floating markets, boatyards and canal-side wats, plus ancient sugar workshops. Apart from children swimming in the klongs (canals), betel-chewing grannies offering you khanom (dessert) in banana leaf wrappings, and teak houses on stilts, the most profound impression remains the community\‘s closeness to nature.

     Ecotourism is most definitely about cultivating sensitivity. So go for tours with a educative mission like REST (Responsible Ecological Social Tours) or Lost Horizons. That way you’ll be treating nature with respect and helping to preserve the culture, to boot.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : Internet   Category : Travel

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