Partnering for a Strong and Sustainable Tourism Industry
Tourism is one of Thailand’s leading industries, contributing directly to at least 9% of the country’s GDP and offering considerable opportunities for local communities to increase their income and employment prospects. Though many regions in Thailand have capitalized on their natural beauty during the past several decades, there remains room for less developed communities to also benefit from the growing tourism market.
Bordering the scenic Gulf of Thailand, Surat Thani is one of the country’s most visited provinces, with islands like Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists yearly. While the mainland coastal communities of Surat Thani possess many of the same natural resources, they are often overlooked or simply unknown to travelers. There is a huge potential for those communities to increase their economic growth, job opportunities, and quality of life by taking full advantage of their tourism potential.
As part of their commitment to promoting economic growth and prosperity in the communities where they operate, Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd. partnered with Kenan to launch the Chevron Sustainable Tourism in Mainland Surat Thani Communities project in June, 2015. The project’s goal is to improve the local economic capacity of coastal mainland Surat Thani by growing its tourism industry, which is one of the best sectors for providing income and employment opportunities to local community members. As Mrs. Hatairat Articharte, Manager, Policy, Government, and Public Affairs, Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Ltd., explains, “Such collaboration between the government and private sectors aims to develop a strategy for sustainable local community tourism and raise the bar of local community tourism management, which will not only generate more income, but also strengthen the local economy.”
In support of this, Chevron and Kenan recently signed a collaborative agreement, or MOU, with eight local partners, including the Surat Thani Governor’s office, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Ministry of Tourism and Sports, the Surat Thani Provincial Administrative Organization, the Surat Thani Hotel and Tourism Association, Prince of Songkhla University, Surat Thani Rajabhat University, and the Surat Thani Professional Guides Association. Together, these partners are working to develop and build the capacity of 10 community-based tourism (CBT) groups, enabling their communities to become sustainable and quality tourist destinations.
By working with local tourism stakeholders to improve the entrepreneurial and business skills of community members, the project will build a unified tourism strategy supported by the community, the government, and the private sector. Speaking at the MOU signing, Mr. Suphawat Sakda, Vice Governor of Surat Thani Province, said, “This collaboration will not only be advantageous for coastal communities, it will also help to reinforce Surat Thani’s vision as the leader in quality tourism.”
The project’s trainings will emphasize a sustainable approach to both CBT group management and the overall tourism industry. By focusing on utilizing natural resources, knowledge, and skills, CBT groups will attract tourists without disrupting the environment or local way of life. This approach is essential to creating truly sustainable tourism that benefits all stakeholders. Mr. Chakrit Engchuan, Acting Chief of Tourism and Sports Bureau Surat Thani, reinforced this idea at the MOU signing. “I am convinced,” he said, “that community-based tourism will become more widely known and attract more tourists. In the future, the communities participating in this project will serve as excellent examples of self-sufficient local economies.”
In all, the project will train over 250 community-based tourism group members, benefiting approximately 4,500 community members and building a foundation for sustainable tourism. Kenan will conduct 12 workshops and provide comprehensive mentorship to 10 communities-based tourism groups. Overall, the project will help to increase tourism-related jobs in mainland coastal Surat Thani 3% by project completion, as well as increase the number of tourists and improve communities’ quality of life.