What do government and tourism stakeholders need if they are to develop a resilient tourism policy and plan?
Thailand is considered an idyllic destination by both domestic and international holiday makers. But in this era of emerging and aggravated climate change, it also faces alarming and critical climate hazards and risks including sea level rise, floods, rising temperature, droughts, coral bleaching and more. If these hazards and risks are not dealt with, the local and national economy will inevitably be affected.
Tourism sector accounts for 21% of Thai GDP with more than 35 million international tourists visiting Thailand in 2017. This underlines the key contribution the tourism sector makes to Thailand’s economic development as a whole and the important role it plays in supporting community-level economies, in particular at major tourist destinations across the country.
The aspects of climate change that most affect the country must be addressed and mainstreamed into the national tourism development agenda if suitable adaptation options are to be identified for long-term tourism development. However, prior to that, understanding climate risks and vulnerability and the role of climate and weather service information is a significant step towards defining specific climate hazards, raising awareness and ultimately informing decision making.
Currently, the national government is supporting tourism development through the National Tourism Development Plan 2017-2021, with the focus on tourism dispersal policy. It aims at distributing income from main tourist cities with 4 million tourist arrivals to 55 secondary cities, and has now achieved a 70:30 ratio. However, the challenging new goal of 60:40 is under discussion. The rationale for this policy is to help reduce overload in those main cities and improve carrying capacity while also ensure economic benefits for communities in those 55 secondary cities and tourism destinations.
A select few extracted headlines on climate change impact on tourism
Koh Samui is suffering a severe water shortage
…two of the island’s five filtration plants are set to shut down (Koh Samui News, 2016, Print Publication)
Thailand storm Pabuk
Hundreds of tourists evacuated from holiday islands as storm hits…The Thai Royal Navy was forced to rescue about 500 people from Koh Phi Phi as well as more than 60 people from Koh Racha Yai (Express, 2019)
In response to this, the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Ministry of Tourism and Sports joined with the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) with the support of the Risk-Based National Adaptation Plan (Risk-NAP) project of GIZ Thailand, to establish a learning platform and facilitated knowledge exchange among tourism stakeholders on 4-5 June 2019 in Bangkok. The event brought together representatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Designate Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization), the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau, the Fine Art Department, the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conversation, the Thai Meteorological Department, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), the Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning (DPT) and academic institutes.
“It is obvious that climate impact has increased pressure on tourism and development, for example, high temperatures in Nan province, and coastal erosion and the loss of land in Samutprakarn province. With such impacts, it is now necessary to bring in climate risks and vulnerable assessment methods and tools and to guide policy decisions,” said Mr. Boonserm Kunkeaw, Director of Tourism Sites Development Bureau, Department of Tourism.
In considering climate risk at different scales and locations, top-down and bottom-up approaches must be implemented. Methods and tools to assess vulnerability and risk, for example GIS mapping-based and indicator-based approaches, participatory methods and scenario planning, were demonstrated and discussed through selected case studies by Mr. Janto Hess, a tourism expert.
Dr. Daniel Scott, Executive director, Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change and Dr. Chalump Oonariya, Meteorologist, Thailand Meteorological Department explained the role of climate service information at the global level and the national scale for tourism development, its contribution to the global framework as well as how it can be used for decision making and enabling early action and preparedness. Current tourism development trends and a discussion on tourism dispersal policy and measuring carrying capacity were led by Dr. Jutamas Wisansing. The indicators for climate risk assessment and insights on adaptation pathway were provided by Dr. Susanne Becken of Griffith University.
Mr. Heinrich Gudenus, Director of Risk NAP project, reiterated that to improve sustainable tourism and resilient tourism in Thailand, no matter how light or severe the impacts of climate change might be, no-regret solutions should be part of the tourism development plan. It should yield a win-win result.
This two-day workshop resulted in initial dialogue among organisations in the tourism sector to improve climate service information in Thailand. It is expected that tourism stakeholders will integrate the learned approaches, methods and tools into their tourism development plan and ensure resilient tourism in this era of climate change.