Thailand will be the first country in the world to implement a pledge for the implementation of a sustainable tourism policy under the auspices of the UNESCO. The pledge involves also OTA Expedia, which renewed at this occasion its cooperation agreement with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
Let’s go out of the frame to tell what I really feel about the evolution of Thailand. With his calm voice, Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, Deputy Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand TAT for Asia and South Pacific, explains how changes have been affecting Thailand tourism over the last decades. “Thailand tourism changed a lot for the best but also for the worst. We are basically a marketing agency and our aim was for many years to simply bring more tourists into our country and made them enjoying their experience in Thailand,” he told.
“However, over the last few years, we have seen problems emerging with the development of our tourism industry: environment issues, disruption of communities’ life, over-tourism. We have been the victims of our own success. The problems need to be addressed as soon as possible and we, as TAT, cannot just only promote our country but also look at monitoring the development of our tourism for the sake of Thai people,” pledged the Deputy Governor.
“We must implement a better management of tourism and we need to work with partners for this purpose,” added Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya.
The renewed partnership for another year with Expedia Group is part of this drive for TAT to balance tourism development. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on Tuesday reflects that Thailand relies heavily on digital bookings to balance traffic flows during off-peak and high seasons,” explained Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya. The promotion of new destinations or attractions, especially the ones outside Thailand major destinations is part of the aim to better balance traffic flows of tourists.
Jean-Philippe Monod, vice-president of government and corporate affairs of Expedia Group, explained that it was of the responsibility of Expedia to bring the right people at the right places. ” We can leverage on technology. Thanks to our sophisticated measurement tools, we have the intelligence to analyse and target the right person to the right destination at the right moment. We can then the possibility to create sustainable growth by promoting a destination for a certain group of people and help to highlight less-visited provinces of Thailand to a selected audience,” he explained.
Second-tier destinations promoted so far on Expedia various online platforms included Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Satun and Trat. New destinations are likely to come this year. Expedia plays a very important role for the promotion of areas. According to Jean-Philippe Monod, Expedia has 750 million monthly hits.
In their drive to target a more environment-conscious, sustainable-minded traveller, both TAT and Expedia will cooperate with UNESCO, which is launching a Sustainability Tourism Pledge with the objective to monitor destinations and build up the awareness of travellers and of travel trade professionals. “Safeguarding and protecting places but also the local culture are among the main tasks of our intra-governmental agency,” told Peter DeBrine, Senior Project Officer Sustainable Tourism Programme and World Heritage Sectors for UNESCO.
Hoteliers but also all the actors in the tourism supply chain can participate. This goes then beyond the reduction of single-use plastics and the use of organic ingredients but also a commitment to involve and help local communities or protect the authenticity of the destination. “Hotels or destinations pledging to sustainable tourism will have to renew their commitment every year and we will monitor how their pledge has been implemented as they will be recognised with a label,” added Peter DeBrine.
“We think that the ones who pledge to be sustainably compatible in tourism will be reviewed by our guests on our Expedia various online platforms. If they are not up to the expectations of the guests, then they will lose their label. It will definitely enhancing awareness of Expedia travellers who want to be sensitive and respectful tourists to their cultural, natural and social environment,” added Jean-Philippe Monod.
Thailand is the first country on UNESCO sustainability pledge but more countries in Southeast Asia will follow in the years to come.