Chiang Rai

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    I’ve spent a couple of years living in Chiang Rai, Thailand and travelling around parts of South-East Asia. After meeting other travellers and seeing many places brimming with touristic activity it got me thinking about the consequences of mass tourism. Travel should always be about enjoyment and new experiences, not fighting over the best i-Pad photo or trampling over precious sandstone. This was where ‘sustainability’ became a real focus for me personally. Tourists and tour operators have to be responsible and preserve the right for others to visit in years to come.

    I decided to learn more about the concept so naturally I came back to Scotland where there’s already an impressive relationship with tourism. Having moved from one exotic location to another I’m now midway through my sustainable tourism master’s degree in Dumfries.

    In the tourism industry there are the ‘three pillars’ of sustainable tourism. Careful consideration should always be given to economic prosperity, social inclusion and environmental impacts. According to the latest figures (UNWTO) there are now over 1 billion international tourist arrivals every year compared with 435 million in 1990. These figures are putting extreme pressure on the natural environment and using up valuable energy resources in the process. Tourism is a growth industry and concerns have grown over increased carbon emissions from travel. The focus from the industry isn’t always on limiting numbers as tourism is extremely valuable and contributes towards 9% of global GDP. Instead there’s a focus on dispersion away from mass tourist locations along with alternative technology and transportation. There should always be a balance maintained between economic success, inclusion of local communities and respect for the environment.

    Sustainability is often seen as a distant or long term prospect but it doesn’t have to be viewed with such expanse. Even if we can’t all control corporate responsibility we can still make changes that have significant impacts. Recycling, reusing shopping bags and cycling to work are just some of the ways sustainability is improving our society. We must make real choices to protect our natural landscape and reserve the right for others to use it in the future.

    Please share your thoughts on what sustainability means to you along with your top 5 tips on how to be more sustainable. Maybe your company has introduced an energy efficiency scheme or perhaps you’ve just stopped buying bottled water. Whatever it is we want to know!

    Dave Hunter

    GMIH Beneficiary

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