Around 100 invited participants in Chiang Mai attended
the 4th meeting of the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Committee on
Sustainable Development of Tourism.
H.E. Sontaya Khunpluem, Minister of Tourism and Sports,
hosted a dinner reception at the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel in honor of the WTO
Committee, with guests from Spain, Greece, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Ghana,
Egypt and Canada. There were also observers from the consular services of
Canada, China, Germany, Peru, South Africa and U.S.A.
the beauty of nature - the home stay village of Ban Mae Kampeng - not easy
to find, but here’s a map...
At the opening session, the committee’s mission and
objectives were presented by WTO Deputy Secretary, Dr. Dawid de Villiers,
from Madrid, Spain, to emphasize that tourism can create a better world by
contributing to the alleviation of poverty, peace, environmental protection
and socio-economic development.
Tourism as a powerful economic force has been constantly
growing since 1950 and has only recently experienced a setback caused by the
Iraq War, SARS and the worldwide uncertainty since the 9/11 incident in New
York. Nevertheless, there is again an optimistic outlook for 2004 and
tourism is expected to double in the next 15 years.
Sirikit Botanical Garden in the scenic Maesa Valley north of Chiang Mai.
It is not surprising that the WTO has recently become a
specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) to focus on sustainability of
tourism development by moving away from mass tourism into a more competitive
and popular trend of eco-tourism.
Asking the Minister of Tourism and Sports about the
zoning of entertainment places and the controversial closing hours of bars
and nightspots in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai, HE Sontaya made
it clear that these considerations are mooted to protect the young
generation in Thailand, but he also admitted that it can be
counterproductive and affect tourism in the long run.
hours drive from Maesa Valley you find the home stay village of Ban Mae
Kampong. Teakwood houses await the tired travelers.
Interesting to note that Thailand will have the chair of
the WTO committee in the 2004-2007 triennium and the vice-chairmanship will
again be taken by Greece.
Dr. Sasithara Pichaichannarong, the Director-General of
the office of Tourism Development in Thailand, Ministry of Tourism and
Sports, gave a presentation on how to link tourism with the One Tambon One
Product (OTOP) project.
Ryuji Yamakawa, Chief of the tourism unit of the Economic
and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) from Bangkok,
mentioned various initiatives centered on human resources management and
inter-regional cooperation such as the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS). To
raise the level of tourism awareness, clear cut policies must be announced
by the respective governments in the future, not to have more tourists, but
more quality tourists.
Under the guidance of Eugenio Yunis, Head of the WTO
Department of Sustainable Tourism, specific indicators of sustainability in
tourism were discussed and developing certification systems recommended.
To follow up the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa, issues such as energy, bio-diversity
and small islands in relation to tourism should be properly addressed. The
WTO secretariat also raised the question to review and update the many
different circulating, often confusing definitions of sustainable tourism,
also now often called responsible tourism.
During the closing session, the representative of the WTO
affiliate members and the Director-General of International Student Travel
Confederation, David Jones from Amsterdam, Netherlands, stressed the need to
educate tourists and travelers alike on sustainable tourism and not just put
the ball in the court of the suppliers of tourism products.
As a practical contribution to sustainable tourism, the
active support by Germany was mentioned within the GMS country of Laos, to
develop eco-tourism planning and management activities in Luang Nam Tha
Province, given by the German government agency GTZ. The German volunteer
agency DED has also been working with the Phou Khao Khouai National
Bio-Diversity Conservation Area to promote wildlife viewing opportunities
and eco-tourism services around Vientiane and along the Mekong River.
Finally, there was a visit around Chiang Mai to highlight
the potentials of eco-tourism in Northern Thailand and to see Sai Nam Pueng
Orchid and Butterfly Farm, Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, Pongyang Angdoi
Restaurant, Ban Kampong home-stay village and Ban Tawai handicraft village
as an example of a community based local showcase of sustainable tourism.
It became evident for all the participants that
sustainable tourism is really making sure the visitor understands and
appreciates, the places they are actually visiting. Everyone is looking
forward to the 5th meeting of the committee likely to be held in Madrid in
March 2005. For further information, please contact GMS Media Travel
Consultant Reinhard Hohler, email [email protected]