Saturday, February 11, 2006

Eco Tours in Thailand: Interview with a specialist in the field (Part 1)

Eco Tourism Thailand KrabiAn eco-tourist at heart, Duncan Worthington's first impressions of Krabi, on the Andaman coast of southern Thailand, was that of an idyllic coastal retreat of outstanding beauty.

In short, he found the stunning vistas, virgin rainforest, easily accessible caves and healthy mangroves, just perfect for eco-tourism.

Worthington, managing director of Ensign Media, first came to Thailand in 1997 to work for Siam Safari, an international award-winning eco-tour company based in Phuket.

However, he was sent to work in Krabi to set up and operate one-day safari tours for Scandinavian tourists. After seven months in Krabi, he moved to Phuket, but in a marketing role. ''I spent a lot of time working with overseas tour company representatives, training them on our eco-tour programmes.

''And in Phuket I learned that it was not a place for eco-tourists. Mass tourism is already too established, what operators and tourist associations need to do now is look more closely at a sustainable tourism model for Phuket,'' he said.

After spending over a year in Phuket with Siam Safari in Chalong, Worthington made a subtle career shift moving from eco-tourism to managing design and photography for ifArtAsia, a Phuket magazine.

In his two years working with the magazine, his highligh is a photo shoot in the Butang Group of islands in south Thailand. What could beat a week on a beautiful boat, snorkelling, exploring islands, all in the name of photography.

What is your idea of a perfect vacation? Any suggestions on how to improve eco-tourism in Thailand.

My ideal vacation would involve nature. It may simply be snorkelling off shallow reefs or something more strenuous such as trekking. I plan one day to visit Nepal and trek on elephant back to see rhinos.

I don't think Thailand should focus on eco-tours. It should look more to promote sustainable tourism. It doesn't have to be nature-based. I think the country has so much to offer in terms of culture, not just temple tours but local communities, local life, religions and festivals. Most tourism products are for the mass market and seriously lacking in innovation. Thailand needs to look more to its strengths.

How adventurous are you as a traveller. Tell us about a few exciting experiences you have encountered in Thailand and abroad?

In the last few years, I have toned my adventurous spirit down, choosing to spend more time developing my publishing business. However, I have been on many trekking trips in southern Thailand and visited a whole variety of national parks. My favourites were probably a three-day trek in the North and a two-day rafting excursion in Pai, north of Chiang Mai.

Parachuting in northern Thailand is hardly glamorous, but it gave me a great adrenalin rush. I look forward to trying that again next time. source: Bangkok Post

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