Communities using pandemic to make tourism responsible

Thais are turning the current drop in global travel during the COVID-19 pandemic into opportunity by adopting more responsible approaches.
“The pandemic catalyzed a growing trend in responsible tourism as people’s mindset was overwhelmed by the uncertainty in life,” said Kaewta Muangasame, a Tourism and Hospitality Management lecturer at Mahidol University.
Tourism is crucial to Thailand’s economy and prosperity of the people. The sector accounts for as much as 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. Traditional mass tourism has long dominated the sector. But that has been slowly changing in recent years, and the fallout from the pandemic is accelerating that transition.
The demand for change is often coming from the tourists themselves.
More Thai tourists were looking for alternatives to the typical beach vacation, tourism professionals said. They are seeking ways to give back to society, trying out community-based tourism where they can learn about cultural heritage and preservation.
“Travelers seek unique and meaningful experiences to learn and see things in a responsible manner. This includes creating positive changes, moving away from mass tourism as seen in the pre-Covid era,” Kaewta said
Tourists are indulging in health-related adventures such as forest bathing, hot springs and wellness centers. Especially as people feel stressed or at risk from the threat of illness.
Spiritual tourism has also gained popularity with locals visiting sacred places.
Achiraya Thamparipattra, a Co-Founder of Hivesters, a tourism social enterprise that promotes local cultures, said European tourists, in particular, wanted to travel more sustainably.
The answer is to get communities involved. Many had begun taking part in the zero-waste movement, including banning plastic use during trips and in hotels, she said. “Tourists are craving more local experience, which is a trend that started before the outbreak,” Achiraya said.
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