UP TO 70% OF TRAVELLERS WILL PAY A PREMIUM FOR TOURS AND HOTELS THAT SHOW CORPORATE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY;
TAT TO PRODUCE LOW EMISSION TOURISM MANUAL; HUMAN RESOURCE CRISIS EMERGING; HIS MAJESTY THE KING'S SUFFICIENCY ECONOMY CONCEPT SHOWS THE WAY
Responsible tourism a key goal for Thailand
Corporate and social responsibility (CSR) is more than a fashion statement in Thailand's travel and tourism industry.
Surveys conducted by the International Tourism Partnership and International Ecotourism Society reveal that 50-70% of travellers will pay a premium for tours and hotels that demonstrate CSR across the so-called triple bottom line: economic, social and environmental management.
Chief executive officer of Bangkok-based travel and tourism consultancy The Winning Edge, Bert van Walbeek, said CSR is an area that more tourists are becoming aware of.
"This is an area that not many companies have thought through, but you see it in the big boys like Diethelm and Asian Trails," Mr van Walbeek said.
"Their managers look over the brim of the cup to see what tourists are demanding in this area.
The mom and pop tour agencies don't stress this.
"The public will soon start putting more pressure on these people, who will then question suppliers, forcing them to be more open.
" Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, Phornsiri Manoharn, also sees the private sector as a key player in driving CSR.
"Private enterprises should be ethical and reliable entrepreneurs, which means delivering quality products and services that they have promised at reasonable prices," she said.
"This can create quality tourism and value for money which will impress tourists to revisit Thailand.
They (businesses) also work on environmental issues, poverty alleviation, education and training.
Many also work with the royal charities.
"As such, the shareholders, owners and employees of each company are the ones who then initiate whatever corporate and social responsibility policies are needed to create a positive image for the Thai tourism industry, and also establish whatever policies and procedures they see fit. They are the real stakeholders."
Thailand aware of global warming issues
Global warming has become a major concern for Thailand's travel trade, and both the public and private sectors are cooperating in helping to reduce it.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor, Phornsiri Manoharn, said the travel and tourism industry is a primary beneficiary of a clean and healthy environment.
"Fresh air, unpolluted water, lush jungles, and a pristine natural landscape are very much in demand, especially as people seek to get away from their high-stress, city-based lifestyles," she said.
To maintain these major tourism assets, Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sports, Suvit Yodmani has created the "Low Emission: Tourism Thai" project.
"The objective is to persuade all involved stakeholders, both the public and private sectors, including hotels, travel agents, restaurants, the general public as well as tourists, to become more environmentally conscious," said Ms Phornsiri.
She said that in line with this campaign, the ministry, the TAT and the private sector launched a tree planting programme on 29 September 2007 on the occasion of the World Tourism Day held two days earlier.
The event took place in Sukhothai Historical Park and Si Satchanalai Historical Park and was also promoted in other parts of the country.
To further drive Thailand's new global warming initiative, the TAT will produce a Low Emission: Tourism Thai manual to convince all stakeholders to participate in the project, promote eco-friendly tour programmes such as bicycle tours, encourage green hotels, persuade the general public and tourists to participate in reducing global warming.
Ms Phornsiri added that Bangkok had made great strides in improving its environment, with efficient mass transit systems and more green areas and public parks.
"These efforts are ongoing," Ms Phornsiri said.
"We believe that all global efforts to address the issue of climatic change are timely and appropriate."
Is Thailand facing a human resources crunch?
Human resources are creating the biggest crisis facing Thailand's travel trade, according to The Winning Edge chief executive officer, Bert van Walbeek.
He said there are simply not enough trained people.
"Especially in the rural areas where they try to turn rice farmers into waiters.
This will come up more and needs to be more thoroughly addressed," he said.
Gary Marshall, chief executive officer of TMS Asia Pacific, a human resource recruitment and services firm, notes that Southeast Asia has a reputation within its culture of service delivery.
"This culture of service delivery has been ingrained in the people of Thailand for many years," he said.
"But as the economy continues to grow at a rapid pace, and more opportunities are presented to the locals from other industries, the tourism and hospitality industry can run the risk of a drop in standards from less people entering the workforce.
" He added that the trade must continue to attract new generations by offering clear career paths.
"A focus on up-skilling the existing workforce and offering training programmes that meet international demands is a must," Mr Marshall said.
"Foreign talents that work in Thailand must also adopt the approach of developing local talent with clear succession planning within their organisations.
" Former Tourism Authority of Thailand governor, Seree Wangpaichitr, (1994-1999) began stressing human resource development during his tenure, and continues to advocate the need for better training to help improve overall service quality and create a mentality of good ethics and high quality in doing business.
To tackle the challenges that lie ahead, Pacific Asia Travel Association chief executive officer, Peter de Jong said: "Thailand should maintain its culture in the face of rampant development and attend to the maintenance and retention of human resources here in face of the competition of the region."
Tourism can help communities
The Tourism Authority of Thailand community development department and the Plai Pong Pang Administrative Organisation in Samut Songkhram province initiated the "Thai House Conservation Project for Tourism" in 2000.
District leader Kanang Kantamaturapoj and the Social Research Institute from the Chiang Mai University launched this communitybased tourism (CBT) project, as a method to provide remote villages with the chance to be a part of the prosperity tourism can bring to communities.
Mr Kanang initiated the project.
He thought CBT would help generate revenue for Plai Pong Pang locals.
The village then held a meeting to discuss the community's capacity and tourism management.
A tourism centre was built and conditions were set for households wanting to host a home stay.
Three houses were chosen for the successful pilot project of 12 tourists, which motivated more villagers to participate.
Regulations, tour programmes and rates were set and a 15-member committee was elected.
A training programme was established to teach participants tourism management, cooking and language skills.
It included the 16 home-stay house owners, boatmen and employees at a palm sugar plant and pomelo orchard.
According to the study, CBT did not bring significant changes to the village.
Locals continue working, going to the temple, and helping each other.
They feel their lifestyle is the tourism product.
The homeowners receive 100 baht per tourist after contributing to the centre, and many have been making 50,000 baht per year or more.
They consider this supplemental income to their normal farming activities.
The palm sugar factory owner and pomelo orchard owner said that they benefit somewhat when tourists buy their products, though talking with visitors and taking pride in their enterprises are the main motivating factors.
Boatmen receive 250 baht per trip after contributing to the tourism centre, which they feel is fair.
The study showed 20% of the villagers directly received income from the project while the non-participants benefited indirectly through new roads and bridges.
TAT SUSTAINABLE TOURISM POLICY
Planning a sustainable future
Thailand's sustainable tourism development plan aims to balance the triple bottom line: economy, environment and society, while mixing in His Majesty the King's "sufficiency economy" concept.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor, Phornsiri Manoharn, said: "The future of Thai tourism is being shaped actively by the sufficiency economy.
"This concept will see us emphasise more on quality over quantity, and slowly move away from the numbers game, a policy that we feel will gain importance as ecological interests outstrip economic ones.
It will become an important part of our tourism development strategy.
" Integral to this is the promotion of the nine Royal Initiative Discovery projects which incorporate a learning experience into travel and leisure.
"For the first time, visitors can experience the relevance of various development projects initiated by His Majesty.
These projects cover areas such as agriculture, occupational training, education, traditions and culture," Ms Phornsiri said.
When embarking on its sustainable tourism policy, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and TAT consulted with the Fiscal Policy Research Institute.
This sustainable tourism development plan aims to achieve three main objectives: expand the market, increase the rate of repeat tourists, and enhance Thailand's reputation.
Market expansion includes increasing the number of tourists in the existing market and penetrating new markets.
This can be facilitated by exploring new products to meet the tourists' demand and implementing a destination management system and a proactive marketing strategy.
Increasing visitor's satisfaction through good experiences when travelling in Thailand tends to develop a positive attitude towards the country, which should lead to a higher repeat rate