Saturday, February 11, 2006

Eco Tours in Thailand: Interview with a specialist in the field (Part 2)

Which three places would you recommend eco-tourists to visit in Thailand and why?

One trip to appreciate nature would be a road trip around Trang Province. There are so many fascinating caves, including Tham Thale which you have to access by boat and then at certain points lie flat with your nose almost kissing the cave's low ceiling.

Also, the scenery on the mainland and nearby islands is spectacular. I would also recommend Khao Sok dam and spending a few nights on floating bamboo rafts.

Lastly, I'd recommend Mae Hong Son. Just get there, rent a motorbike and go driving anywhere. The surrounds are stunning with many natural secrets waiting to be found. Beware of the Burmese border though: I ended up crossing to Burmese side purely by accident.

You have visited several provinces in Thailand. What in your opinion makes the Kingdom such a big hit among foreigners?

It's a cliche, but if there is one thing that needs mention it has to be the people. Overseas holiday brochures promote beaches, temples, shopping and low prices. But when tourists come here they depart saying the people were the high point. I also think the variety of activities and locations, and the diversity of natural attractions are a huge plus.

The latter I think hasn't been properly exploited. Then again, maybe it shouldn't be?I have enjoyed spending my free time with local folks around southern Thailand.

Share a couple of your personal travelling tips with our readers?

If exploring nature, take a bottle of water (or two) with you, good for you if you get lost. And take lots of sun cream. Respect the people you will meet and they will respond in kind. That way you will enjoy your time in Thailand all the more.

Any concern you would like to pass on to the Tourism Authority of Thailand as part of its drive to promote the country?

Stop focussing on the number of tourists. Spending power and where the money is spent is what matters. Most of the money is centered in a few prime tourists hotspots, little reaches other provinces and communities.

What are three things you can't live without on your leisure travels?

A good guidebook (if it's a place I've never been to before), a good novel to read in my spare time and my watch.

How do you mix business with pleasure on work-related trips?

If meeting clients, I try to do so in a formal atmosphere so we can discuss the serious issues, and then follow with a more social atmosphere in the evening drinks or dinner. If attending an exhibition, -then I try to extend my trip a few days so I can enjoy the city and the people.

Your company Ensign Media has grown and now has offices in Bangkok, Phuket and Samui. Just how competitive is the publishing industry?

The publishing industry is very competitive. There are in the region of 700+ titles sold in shops, and even more free tourist guides. Tourist guides aside, there are not many English language publications (which is where we focus) and there are even fewer I would consider to be of decent quality.

We focus on niche products, such as a publication for the property industry, and as a result, I spend a lot of my time with clients, keeping up-to-date with industry movements.

I used to call Phuket my base, but that is now changing as I divide my time between the three offices.

What does it take to succeed in the publishing business here; any advice for newcomers?

A lot of perseverance. I started very small and grew slowly. I advise newcomers to first think carefully about why they want to go into publishing.

It's not quick, easy money like many people think. And I would also like to advise them to focus o nniche products.

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