The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) teams up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a long-term sustainable tourism strategy. The move will pave the way for the Thai tourism industry to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the post-COVID-19 crisis context and make sustainable, inclusive and community-based tourism the “new normal”.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between TAT and the UNDP is signed on the World Environment Day, 5 June 2020, by the UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand, Mr. Renaud Meyer and the TAT Governor, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn. It is one of the highlights of a wider event marking TAT’s 60th anniversary this year.
The MOU provides a platform for collaboration to integrate sustainability as a fundamental principle for tourism in Thailand and share Thailand’s experience in sustainable tourism with other countries, building on UNDP’s presence in 170 countries and territories around the world. The MOU is in line with TAT’s over-arching objective to strengthen confidence in the Thai tourism industry with a series of “Restore and Reform measures”, which include the following objectives:
1. To drive TAT’s operation in accordance with the SDGs.
2. Promote sustainable tourism in accordance with the SDGs across the Thai tourism industry.
3. Share experiences of sustainable tourism management in Thailand with other countries.
4. Exchange knowledge and experts in the dissemination of knowledge of sustainable tourism.
Mr. Yuthasak said, “TAT has always realised the importance of promoting sustainable tourism. Collaborating with the UNDP to align this objective with the SDGs will go a long way towards enhancing the overall quality of the tourism products and services nationwide. It will allow us to broaden our knowledge base and incorporate experiences in sustainable tourism from different angles at the national and international levels.”
He noted that it was especially significant to be advancing this agenda in the year marking the 60th anniversary of TAT, which also marks the start of the “Decade of Action” set to accelerate progress towards the SDGs by all UN member states.
“Thailand is known all over the world for its superb tourism products and services, and the friendliness and hospitality of its people. In future, however, we will have to better balance quantity versus quality, and marketing versus management. This will be our agenda going forward. It will send a strong positive signal right throughout the industry not to lose sight of the long-term objectives of tourism.” added Mr. Yuthasak.
Mr. Renaud Meyer, UNDP Resident Representative in Thailand, said, “Tourism is a critical economic sector in Thailand that provides livelihoods for millions of people. Its value chain extends in many sectors, from virtual online booking platforms to people living in remote communities such as hill tribes in Northern Thailand and ethnic minority groups on the coast. But the COVID-19 crisis has reminded us of the vulnerability of this sector and the need to define a new normal for tourism that has to be based on sustainability, inclusion and ensuring more benefits for the local communities”.
Tourism industry is a key driver for development in Thailand, contributing 17 percent of GDP and providing jobs for 4.4 million people in 2019.
Building on a previous collaboration around the promotion of community-based tourism and the “King’s Wisdom to Sustainable Tourism” project, that received a Grand Award from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), TAT and UNDP will renew their partnership to include a socio-economic impact assessment and recovery plan for the tourism sector from COVID-19 as well as work to promote biodiversity-based tourism.
“Integrating SDGs in tourism will contribute to strengthening the resilience of this industry from external shock, build back better for long-term sustainability and most importantly, leave no one behind in its value chain”.
TAT is undertaking a range of social and environmental initiatives in different industry and economic sectors as part of the strategy to promote ‘Responsible Tourism’. It is also focussing on the promotion of 55 emerging destinations to decongest the already well-known tourist spots, create jobs in the rural areas and reduce income disparities.