When the pandemic hit, borders closed, businesses shut down, and schools went online, we adapted to the new normal. We stayed at home, sat by our kids as they discovered virtual learning. We ordered takeaway and had our groceries delivered.
Some businesses sadly were forced to shut down, while others found a way to adapt to the restrictions by changing their business model, perhaps for good. Remote work, home delivery services, social distancing and wearing a mask became known to all of us.
In 2020 Thailand saw its international arrivals drop by 83%. The hit that the country’s economy took filled the headlines. In the meantime, nature silently started to reclaim the space from which it had been crowded out. For the first time in 20 years, saw leatherback turtles return to beaches normally overcrowded by sunbathers to lay their eggs. Killer whales and dugongs returned to the Thai seas. The pandemic inadvertently breathed new life onto the ecosystem, giving nature a chance to recuperate from the impact of heavy tourism.
Now that tourism is starting to recover, does it have to happen to the detriment of nature? After all, is it not its beautiful nature, romantic beaches, crystal-clear waters, and spectacular lagoons and that draw us to the land of smiles? Although we may not be able to recover everything, "we still have a relatively hardy natural environment that responds positively to our care and caring. Well-intentioned and well-planned regenerative practices will restore our ecosystems, perhaps not to their former state but to a new state of regained health and enhanced resilience." (The Future We Choose, Christiana Figueres, Tom Rivett-Carnac)
Sustainable travel in Thailand has seen a surge in the recent years. Popular areas of Thailand such as Bangkok, Koh Phangan and Phuket have faced problems with overcrowding due to the large amount of tourist for decades. Thai authorities have acted to reduce overcrowding at popular sites. For instance, the popular Maya Bay was temporarily closes to give the coral and the shark population in the area a chance to recover. It has now been reopened and visitors are expected to follow rules and be respectful of the bay’s natural beauty.
We can all do our bit also. Here are our tips on how to make your stay in Thailand sustainable and enjoyable all around. First and foremost, respect signs and laws. Remember these are in place for a reason. You can give preference to hotels, tour operators that promote sustainability principles. Avoid plastic bottles. Some hotels offer filtered water taps where you can fill up your own bottle. While plastic straws are banned in some establishments they are still widely used in restaurants, bars and cafes. Learn to say no straw please in Thai (mai ao lawd kap or ka). If you are up to it, join a clean-up crew for an early morning beach clean (try Trash Hero or Phuket Clean Up). And one last simple rule of thumb: “Leave it as you would like to find it!”