By Kanthima Kanthima
In the last decade, Thailand has enjoyed a surge in its tourism industry, constantly finding itself on top of many travel recommendation websites. According to USA Today, the country’s capital was recorded to be the most geo-tagged location on Instagram just two years ago.
With slightly more than 20 percent of the country’s revenue being indirectly affected by tourism, and the industry contributing to 9 percent of the nation’s GDP in 2013, this field is certainly impacting the Land of Smiles in far more ways than simply finances.
Along with financial prosperity, Thailand has also seen her fair share of woes. Recent political instability has shaken the entire nation’s economy, especially so for tourism. Concerned travelers are beginning to rethink if Thailand’s shopping, food and beaches are worth the risk, and CNBC’s 2015 Top Asian Destinations clearly reflects this. On home ground, knowing that tourists pay good money for novelties like elephant rides or a visit to Thailand’s infamous red light districts pushes the ethical boundaries of the locals. Such attitudes on both fronts see Thailand experience the consequences of mass tourism.
With heavy dependence on tourism, these implications may rock the seemingly sturdy boat of Thailand’s tourism industry and, in turn, the entire nation’s economy. Yet, to ensure that this lucrative field holds strong through the storms of the coming years, one ought to look into the concept of sustainable tourism.
Institutions like Tattoo School Thailand are seeing more and more learners enroll in courses to pick up tattooing. What may seem like a secular phenomenon is in fact a form of educational tourism, which the country can look at expanding.
Educational tourism has also seen diving schools offering packages to travelers interested in attaining diving certifications at locally-run resorts. This gives tourists the chance to experience what Thailand’s marine life has to offer while locals earn from offering various services from boat rides to conducting the course. This in addition to countless culinary schools where tourists can enroll in basic courses of Thai culinary -- taking back home with them a lifelong souvenir that can be easily shared at family and social events.
Nonprofit environmental organizations based in many scenic locations of the country have come up with a possible solution: Offering the adventurous an opportunity of a lifetime to experience the raw beauty of Thailand through activities like living in cultural villages, these organizations ensure that these accommodations are constructed with protecting the environment and locals in mind.
These features give the world more reasons to pay a visit to Thailand apart from leisure alone. Not only does it boost the country’s economy, the increasing demand created by medical tourism inevitably attracts more overseas medical practitioners hoping to set up shop in Thailand for a piece of the pie as well.
Image credit: Flickr/Mike Behnken
Kanthima Kanthima is the owner and CEO of a Thailand Tattoo School. Aside from running this tattoo school, she is also constantly contributing to various discussions of sustainability in her hometown of Hua Hin and her country, Thailand.