Thailand 2000

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Overview Of Ecotourism

Ecotourism an Aussie View

Draft Ecotourism Strategy

Surveys And Marketing

Workshop in Action (42k)

Group Photo (34k)

As a result of a call from fellow Goldman Prize winner, Ms TuenjaiDeetes, of Thailand, John Sinclair was invited to Thailand to helpfacilitate the development of an ecotourism strategy for hill tribe villages in the Chiang Rai area.

Tuenjai Deetes is the founder and Executive Director of the Hill AreaDevelopment Foundation, (HADF) a very busy and effective NGO which aims at the social and economic development of the hill tribes in the

northern part of Chiang Rai Province and to help ptotect the environment. The hill tribes are some of the most economically and politically disadvntaged people in Thailand and Tuenjai is the first and only Thai to win the Goldman Environmental Prize.

John Sinclair was invited both because of his personal friendship with Tuenjai established at previous meetings and because of his experience gained over 30 years in helping to pioneer ecotourism in Australia and particularly because of his experience over the past decade in developing ecotourism in Aboriginal communities.

 

Background

The Hill Area Development Foundation (HADF) in Chiang Rai provided the following background to the workshop held by on 14-15 January 2000. It was titled "Ecotourism A solution to increase income and conserve nature" Community based Ecotourism: Is this the solution to economic development and conservation?

In the past , small groups of people visited the hill tribe villages. In groups of one or two, they would walk into the village, carrying their own bags. They would stay in the village for a few days and live,

work and play with the villagers while they were there. The stay was an exchange between two groups; villagers would learn about other areas in Thailand or other countries, while the tourist would learn about hill tribe village life. Now tourists go to a village in large groups, arriving in minivans or buses. They stay in the village about 20 minutes, walk around the village, peer into people's houses, take photos and then leave. There is no exchange between the villagers and the tourists. The villagers rarely profit from the visit. They feel exploited and unhappy with this situation, but they can see the potential of tourists visiting their village.

With an increased awareness around the world of conservation and the environment, a new type of tourist has developed. These tourists prefer to travel to natural areas in a styles with minimum impact on the local environment. They are interested in visiting local cultures, meeting people, communing with nature and keen to share experiences. This kind of tourism is termed Ecotourism.

Hill tribe villagers and development agencies in Northern Thailand are interested in exploring the potential of ecotourism. Ecotourism is one strategy to assist in community forestry. The villagers can use this

participatory approach to manage the forest both for conservation and for economic development. The new opportunities for income sources provided by ecotourism can decrease the villagers dependency on harvesting forest products.

 

Workshop Objectives

* To explore the meaning of ecotourism.

* To provide a forum for sharing ideas on ecotourism development between

villagers and development workers in Northern Thailand.

* To identify key issues regarding the implementation of ecotourism in

highland areas of Northern Thailand.

* To discuss the impact of current tourism on hill tribe people.

 

Our Visit 11 to 15 January, 2000

Our visit occurred in January, 2000 and was focussed around a two day workshop in Chiang Rai on 14-15 January. It was also involved two field excursions into the HADF hill tribe area to experience the potential for ecotourism and to assess the situation as it currently exists from the perspective ofmany villages from those near the main tourist routes to those which are remote from the tourist routes and which see very few ecotourists. During that time we visited the villages of four different hill tribes, Lisu, Lahu, Yaoand Akha as well as the Chinese centre of Mae Salong.

We were guests at the second day of an Akha wedding and had dinner at the house of the groom's parents, we saw Lisu women weaving and sewing, participated in a wonderful dinner at the Lisu village of Heyko and enjoyed their music and dance and had a very comprehensive overview of ecotourism in the area. The HADF runs the ACCU Centre for literacy a few kilometres from Mae Salong on the top of a mountain with commanding views of the majestic mountain scenery on all sides. We were privileged to stay there for one night and to watch the sun set behind the many folds of mountains with a green flash. We observed many facets of village life and the hillside culture although our time did not allow us time to walk in the fields or the forests, we did get a feeling for the traditional culture. This was enhanced by visiting the morning market in Mae Salong. In all we had a comprehensive and most wonderful experience of the village life and hill tribe culture.

January was the chosen date because it fitted in between our safari schedules in Australia and coincided with scholl vacations. While John and Sharan were working on the ecotourism strategy, Andrés was working as a volunteer for HADF. His program included a four day drama workshop in Chiang Mai, the main city in Northern Thailand as well as some time in the hill tribe villages.The weather during our stay was some of the balmiest and most pleasant climates we have experienced. It was both the winter and the dry season. It did not rain during the whole period of our 14 day stay. During our first 7 we did not see a single cloud in the sky.

 

The Ecotourism Strategy

The strategy we drafted and the papers delivered are attached

Overview Of Ecotourism

Ecotourism an Aussie View

Draft Ecotourism Strategy

Surveys And Marketing

John Sinclair Home Page