Southern operators keen to promote beach-friendly tourism

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Tourists have the beach to themselves at Tarutao Marine National Park, part of Satun province in the South.
Photo: Karnjana Karnjanatawe

Southern tour operators are keen to offer sustainable tourism as an option to beach lovers to keep up with global trends and preserve local resources.

Sustainable tourism combined with community-based tourism (CBT) could be a remedy for overcrowded beaches and help local stakeholders enjoy tourism’s benefits while keeping natural resources less disturbed, said Thamrong Chomphusri, director of Andaman Discoveries.

“Quality tourists are opting for sustainable travel and authentic experiences,” he said. “The stronger baht might shorten the length of stay, but reviving the image of southern beaches will attract healthier income for communities in the long run.”

Since the aftermath of the tsunami in 2004, Andaman Discoveries has offered CBT packages to 14 communities in Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, Phangnga and Ranong provinces, with more than 50% of income returned to villagers.

Ban Talae Nok in Ranong and a Moken tour in the Surin Islands of Phangnga are the most popular packages for cultural learning.

Samart Jaroenrit, president of the Tourism Association of Satun and acting president of the Tourism Council of Satun, said local operators are more aware of sustainability, such as their attempt to turn Pakbara pier at Koh Lipe into a plastic- and foam-free site.

There’s also a plan to arrange beach conservation activities at Tarutao National Marine Park before it is temporarily closed from May 16 to Oct 14 for rehabilitation.

Don Limnunthaphisit, president of the Phuket Old Town tourism community, said concrete plans are needed and should include all stakeholders in the supply chain, from upstream to downstream, to enhance the capability of local communities to lure more tourists from the beach to villages.

To achieve that goal, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) should invite inbound agents, aiming for high spenders such as cruise tours, to inspect local activities, increasing the likelihood that they will be featured in tourism brochures and strengthening their marketability, Mr Don said.

CBT activities in Phuket Old Town can cater to 40 visitors per round, two rounds per day, presenting the traditional way of life through food, livelihood and architecture, with individual travel insurance offered.

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