Making tourism sustainable in any country is a huge challenge, particularly since many tourist activities, especially those related to accommodation and transport, consume vast amounts of energy. For that reason it helps to have an organization that works constantly to ensure that tourist activities do not damage the local environment or culture. In this respect, Thailand is lucky to have the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA).
The association is composed of representatives from six different sectors of the tourism industry—tour operators, accommodation providers, restaurants, tourist guides, local communities and academics. The overriding belief of all members is that the only way to guarantee the sustainability of a country’s tourism is through making responsible and conscientious choices, and avoiding negative impacts on the country’s environment, culture, culture and economy.
The main objectives of the TRTA are to encourage partners, both domestic and international, to cooperate to achieve the goal of truly responsible travel. To succeed in this, they are constantly supporting and developing the concept of responsible tourism (RT) in the industry worldwide. With a strong focus on human resources development, the provision of standardized RT training courses and by providing criteria by which RT practices can be measured, the TRTA is able to provide a bridge from global to local, and to gauge the impact of responsible tourism.
One of the TRTA’s growing list of members, Nutty’s Adventures, which is based in Ayutthaya, offers tours that bring visitors into direct contact with the local community in a way that is not harmful to the environment or the local culture. One such tour focuses on rice culture in Nakhon Pathom Province, during which guests collect eggs from the chicken run and duck pond, explore the village by bicycle or tractor, learn from schoolchildren about organic farming methods, take a boat out on a lotus pond and visit rice fields to learn about the daily work of the rice farmers.
Another member of the TRTA, localalike.com, is an online marketplace that offers curated travel experiences in local communities. An example of its tours in Thailand is the ‘Explore the Lahu Way of Life’ tour in Pu Muen, Chiang Mai Province. Here visitors are taken to watch Lahu people harvesting Assam tea leaves, after which they visit a tea factory and spend time learning about Lahu culture in Pu Muen village in the hills north of Chiang Mai.