The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (DASTA) is a Thai government department that was established in 2003 with the objective of developing sustainable tourism in order to distribute income to local communities. It is accountable directly to the Prime Minister and aims to strike a balance between the economic, social and environmental impact of tourist development, while retaining the natural beauty of destinations as well as their culture and traditions.
Various criteria are considered when selecting designated areas. These include the biological, physical, social and risk of destruction values of the destination; the destination’s potential for development in arranging tourist activities; its accessibility, safety and infrastructure, and the condition of the destination’s conservation and environmental management. So far, six areas of Thailand have been identified and various measures have been taken to make these destinations more sustainable. The six areas are Koh Chang and vicinity, Pattaya City and vicinity, the Historical Parks of Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet, Loei town, Nan’s old town and the Chiang Mai Night Safari.
Examples of DASTA’s work to promote sustainable tourism are undertaking projects that support community-based tourism and supporting local administrative organizations in staging traditional events, such as the annual Lanna Boat Races in Nan. DASTA has a budget that it can make available for any projects that benefit the local community through tourism. In the islands around Koh Chang, particularly Koh Mak, waste-water management and energy efficiency are helping to create a low-carbon destination. By identifying indicators that could increase local income based on the way of life, art and culture or history, DASTA found that three pilot communities (Salak Khok, Nam Chiao and Laem Klat) all significantly increased their monthly income.
DASTA is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and is constantly looking for innovative ways to enhance Thailand’s reputation as a sustainable tourism destination. In January 2019, Thaweepong Wichaidit, the Director General of DASTA, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with UNESCO to widen their efforts to benefit historic cities such as Nan and Uthong. In May 2019, DASTA committed 21 million baht to community upgrades to Nan, Suphan Buri and Sukhothai, which will be submitted as entrants in UNESCO’s annual Creative Cities competition. Nan is famed for its textiles, Sukhothai for its ceramics and Suphan Buri for its music. Khun Thaweepong said, “The core identity of these provinces comes from authentic and creative local lifestyles, customs and culture, which can be enhanced and presented as UNESCO Creative Cities.”