Want to explore the world but travel ‘better’? Then this blog is for you.
The community-based tourism in Thailand that ETG offers is just one example of responsible travel that is gaining popularity across the world. It denotes a type of excursion that is created in silo with local communities, often in rural areas, where travellers are invited to spend time with the residents in order to experience their way of life. On a recent ETG trip to Thailand, I researched a few of these community-based tourism projects and can say whole-heartedly that these excursions can be extraordinary -enhancing both your understanding and enjoyment of the destination you visit in one go.
A Traveller’s footprint
Over the past few years, we have all become increasingly more aware of our environmental footprint. However, at the same time, more of us are travelling than ever before.
As a sustainable travel company, Experience Travel Group (ETG) has spent a lot of time thinking about how the principles of sustainability can be applied to the holidays we put together. In our view, responsible travel within Thailand doesn’t just encompass high-level issues surrounding energy consumption, waste and pollution – although of course each of these does play a large part. In recent years the Thai government has sadly been forced to take action – by closing popular attractions – due to the damage caused by the millions of tourists flocking to the country’s many stunning natural locations. Sustainable travel in Thailand aims to preserve natural habitats and ecosystems, preventing the need for such emergency action from governing bodies. We also believe that it is incredibly important to travel in a way that is respectful to local communities; we’re conscious that over-tourism can have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods; yes for the better economically, but often for the worse in terms of environmental and cultural degradation.
Community-based tourism in Thailand
For these reasons, over the last few years, ETG has been creating more excursions with the principles of sustainable travel in mind. With sustainable and/or community-based tourism experiences, not only can people feel good about the time that they spend soaking up the local culture and nature, but they also get to see and experience something completely brand new, a million miles away from tired cliches. Instead of a tick box itinerary, you can steer away from the beaten track to discover incredible, unique and authentic Thailand experiences. Not to mention, you can rest in the knowledge that your money is going towards the real people and communities you’re visiting or, at the very least, is not damaging their way of life. Overall, we have found that travelling responsibly in Thailand, and in all our holiday destinations, leads to amazing experiences, and nothing proves this more emphatically than the projects I have just spent time at in Thailand.
Nutty’s Authentic Thailand Experiences
We take pride in our authentic Thailand experiences, even more so now that we have excellent local contacts who share our values and commitment. Our brilliant local partner, Nutty, is passionate about creating incredible Thailand tours that are beneficial to all – the guests, the guides, the local people and the environment. His belief is that local communities in Thailand have a right to contribute to the tours of their area, which means you gain an authentic insight rather than just observe something that has been manufactured for tourists’ eyes. Hear, hear!
That is what I particularly love about this type of Thailand experience; you don’t get the sense that you’re gawping at people or intruding in their lives. Instead, during each experience Nutty guided us through, we felt welcomed and, with Nutty to translate our questions, we were able to make genuine connections with the people we spent time with. Being invited in, you really feel like you’re learning about and connecting with this fascinating and culturally rich corner of the world.
Plus, we were taken to places that we would never have found on our own – even with a guide book in hand. The local Thai villages we visited are by no means on the tourist trail and some barely have any public transport links. But when featured as part of an ETG holiday, these areas didn’t even feel hard to reach; one village we stayed in was just an hour’s drive from popular Chiang Rai and we were transported to and from our destination with ease. So finding something ‘off the beaten track’ doesn’t always have to mean travelling far to find it!
And the best bit? That you find yourself having pretty extraordinary experiences that you wouldn’t have imagined in a million years. In the paddy fields around rural Phayao, we met a man who had invented his own renewable energy source using discarded rice husks (he had even built his own generator using scrap metal – a topic worthy of its own blog – coming soon). We visited a beetle farm, where we watched people dye and weave traditional Thai clothes. At our Thailand homestay, we picked fresh herbs from the garden and helped cook an authentic northern Thai meal. These ended up being some of my favourite moments from the whole trip.
The Benefits of Community-based Tourism
Don’t get us wrong, you don’t have to do an entire ‘community-based’ holiday. If you bookend your days off the beaten track with more luxurious stays, you can dip into an authentic Thailand experience knowing full well you have a comfortable bed waiting for you at the end of the day. Nevertheless, they are fantastic as a way of making connections and experiencing something truly unique to that country. So why not include an excursion or two when planning your next Thailand holiday with ETG?
Yes, community-based tourism contributes to the economic development of local communities. Yes, visiting lesser-known spots helps combat the problems of over-tourism. But this is not just something to do to make you feel smug or worthy.
Instead it’s fun, different and genuinely enriches your holiday. In essence, community-based tourism is a life-enhancing way to step away from the everyday. We couldn’t recommend it more!