Focus on low-carbon tourism

This month, Thailand launched long-term resident visas, allowing affluent and high-income foreigners to stay in the country for up to 10 years to boost the economy and tourism. Approximately 400 people filed for the visa in the first 12 days, indicating considerable demand.

Simultaneously, Japan opened its doors to welcome foreign visitors on self-guided tours booked through registered travel agencies. It also increased the total number of arrivals per day to 50,000 and lifted the requirement for a pre-arrival test for people who have received three doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

This seems to be an excellent opportunity for travellers to dust off their luggage and gear up for the forthcoming holiday season somewhere other than where they have spent the previous two years.

As Thailand lifted the Thailand Pass scheme in July, and as the pandemic has been receding, digital travel platform Agoda recently revealed the top trending holiday destinations of Thai travellers being popular places in Asia and Europe.

According to Agoda's booking data collated from May to August 2022, Thai travellers' top five outbound destinations are South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, France and UK, respectively. With nearly fully loosened travel restrictions, Bangkok is one of the most popular cities this year, offering colourful nightlife, beautiful temples, unique culture and a variety of gastronomic options.

The other top five Asian treasures are Jeju Island, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, and Seoul. Pattaya is likewise placed eighth among the top 10 destinations famous for a multitude of things, including its striking beaches, wonderful food and lovely hotels.

"We are seeing international travel coming back this year as travel restrictions have eased, proving people have been looking forward to travelling internationally for the past two years. Travellers are making the most of the holidays and are keen to visit both domestic and international destinations in Asia. Reliving memories and returning to places they once enjoyed seems to be the trend this summer," said Omri Morgenshtern, CEO of Agoda.

Travel recovery trends adapted from World Travel & Tourism Council's 2022 report showed Bangkok is the top Asia Pacific destination for both US and UK visitors and it is in the top three globally for all regions this summer. With 2 million total arrivals, Indian tourists are the most likely to return to Thailand, followed by Indonesians, Singaporeans, French and Swiss.

Singaporeans are the most frequent visitors to Malaysia, followed by Thailand and Indonesia, while Americans' top three Asia Pacific destinations are Bangkok, Manila, and Tokyo. Australians are the most frequent international visitors to Bali, followed by Singaporean, Korean, and Indian vacationers.

As travel bounces back, American Express Credit Card released the 2022 Global Travel Trends Report that examines the motivations and considerations of travellers in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Japan, India, the UK and the US as well as trends shaping the future of travel.

Now, travellers prioritise beneficial behaviours such as wellness activities, giving back to communities and environmental protection. They spend more time considering who and what they are travelling for, with 78% of respondents wanting to have a positive impact on the town they are visiting.

Top activities that visitors want to do to help the community include dining and shopping at small businesses (55%), visiting a landmark or heritage site (42%), touring a national park (40%), browsing a farmer's market (37%), and attending cultural tours or visiting museums (36%).

In recent years, travellers have been paying more attention to the environment and sustainable tourism in order to help relieve global warming and waste problems. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has taken another step towards growing Carbon Neutral Tourism in line with the government's Bio-Circular-Green Economy Model.

Under the concept of Adjust, Reduce and Compensate, it has worked with Tham Suea Community in Phetchaburi, Rimklong Homestay Community in Samut Songkhram, Rai Jai Yim Farm Stay in Kanchanaburi, Rai Khuean Rang Farm Stay in Nakhon Ratchasima and Thai Tawee Pomelo Garden in Nakhon Pathom to develop a programme of low-emission leisure activities, in which visitors can learn about a way of local life, culture and smart farming for sustainability.

To lower their carbon footprint, all products and services are revamped and the carbon footprint is estimated to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in a predictable and automated manner. Part of the proceeds from the sale of services or products will be used to support CSR activities. For example, if a coconut sugar workshop emits CO2, we might compensate by planting five trees in a community.

As people begin to travel again, Thailand remains one of the world's most popular vacation destinations. As travellers' attitudes about the environment have shifted, it is time to expand low-carbon tourism. However, everything should begin with ourselves.

Pattarawadee Saengmanee is a feature writer for the Bangkok Post's Life section.

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