Thai ecotourism gets helping hand from Asian network

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Ecotourism in Thailand, a significant and growing segment of the tourism market, is about to get a helping hand from the Asian Ecotourism Network, which opened a branch in Thailand last week with the goal of assisting local communities with development and marketing expertise as another tourism expert said Bangkok is on track to become the world’s third most accessible megacity.

Masaru Takayama, chairman of the Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN), said that Thailand has the potential to become an ecotourism hub in Asia, and that Asia is one of the world’s largest markets for ecotourism. Over 800,000 foreign tourists and more than two million Thai tourists took part in ecotourism and adventure travel in Thailand in 2016, according to the Thai Ecotourism and Adventure Travel Association (TEATA).

Eco-tourism encompasses a range of adventure and travel activities including bicycle tours, elephant safaris, sea cruises, trekking, walking and wildlife tours as well as community home stays where tourists learn about and participate in local life and culture. Thailand, despite is rapid development,still has many pristine areas for adventure and ecotourist to explore.

Takayama said his organization will assist communities to develop ecotourism in a sustainable way. AEN will create networking opportunities for stakeholders, including local communities, the public sector, the private tourism and hospitality sectors, non-government organizations and academics. The goal is to encourage stakeholders to embrace international standards in order to strengthen Thailand’s brand in ecotourism.

“Through AEN, we will provide more hands-on connections and relevant opportunities for members working at the regional scale. We will provide more networking and business opportunities, significant information, educational materials and networking prospects to both small and large organizations within Asia,” Takayama said.

Neeracha Wongmasa, president of TEATA, said that ecotourism accounts for between 10 and 20 percent of all Thai tourism. He echoed Takayama’s views on global standards, saying his group’s priorities are “to develop ecotourism and adventure travel to meet with higher-level international standards along with improving internal management. However, developing this segment requires strong cooperation among stakeholders as well as active TEATA members.”

Meanwhile, Bill Burnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks, a hospitality and real estate consultancy serving the Asia-Pacific region, urged the government to keep developing Bangkok because it has great potential as a destination.

He noted that when completed, Bangkok’s subway network will cover more miles than the London Underground, opening up new areas for tourists.

“Bangkok will become the world’s third accessible megacity after Beijing and Shanghai in the next five years,” he said.

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