Thailand is a beautiful country to travel, yet, there are many cringe-worthy ways in which tourism has had a negative impact on the environment, ethnic groups, and marine life in Thailand.

Animals are exploited for the benefit of tourists, pristine environments have been compromised, local communities have been taken advantage of in the name of tourism, and the nation faces the water and air pollution.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to lessen ur impact on your travels in Thailand, and we are happy to share our advice with you!

 

  1. Seek out seafood that is ethically sourced

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Pad Thai Goong (Pad Thai with shrimp), a fresh grilled fish and other seafood dishes are delicious- but a significant amount of the seafood produced in Thailand is unethically sourced, especially when it comes to shrimp. Unethical fishing is the result of overfishing and slave labor.

The main issue faced by the fishing industry in Thailand is drastic overfishing. Fishing methods employed have destroyed surrounding environments. For example, one method employed sends electronic pulses into the water, which kills fish in that area and sends them to the surface. This means that many fish that aren’t even eaten are killed. The vibrations also cause other the fish affected to become sterile.

Furthermore, our country is troubled by the seafood industry’s practice of forced labor and human trafficking of migrant workers. Back in 2014, human rights organizations exposed that migrant workers had been enslaved, forced to work 20-hour shifts, were tortured and witnessed execution-style killings.

For these reasons, we encourage you to consciously eat seafood and support restaurants that advertise sustainable fishing practices.

 

2. Be wary of Elephant “sanctuaries”

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Our national animal, the elephant, is a popular attraction to many visitors to Thailand, and with good reason! They are beautiful, gentle creatures, that most of us never have the opportunity to get close to.

It is becoming more well-known that riding elephants is incredibly harmful to the animals, and fewer people are participating in the practice while in Thailand, which is wonderful. As a result, many ‘elephant sanctuaries’ have appeared in Chiang May, and many people are choosing to visit them instead, with the impression that these facilities offer rehabilitation for elephants, and are not simply used for tourism.

The problem is that some business owners have taken note of this demand, and transitioned their elephant camps to sanctuaries in pursuit of money without really changing the way the elephants are treated.

What you can do:

  1. Don’t go elephant riding. At all!
  2. Do your own research of elephant sanctuaries. Check out reviews and read up on their practices. If they are vague, that can be a good indicator that they aren’t truly a sanctuary. Check out the vetted companies on Visit.org, the world’s leading platform for social impact travel experiences.
  3. Book your elephant experience in advance, as the good sanctuaries only allow a small number of visitors per day and they fill up fast.
  4. Share YOUR experience. If you noticed bad things happening at the ‘sanctuary’ you visited, write a review or email the organization. Mistakes happen, and you may have unintentionally supported a company that is more concerned about money than the animals’ wellbeing.

More information on animal tourism: Elephants aren’t the only animals being mistreated. While traveling in Thailand, you’ll likely see advertisements to pet tigers and watch monkeys jump through fire rings. Our advice is to avoid animal encounters in Thailand unless it is a true sanctuary or rehabilitation center.

 

3. Think before visiting Hill Tribes

 

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It is incredibly eye-opening to experience a culture different from your own, and here in Thailand, we have many exotic, ethnic groups that have migrated to our lands over centuries and established their unique communities.

There are many tour operators in Chiang Mai, Pai, and other parts of Thailand that sell packages that promise up-close visits with long neck people. It is not wrong, or bad to visit these groups, but there are some ethical concerns regarding this type of tourism.

What you can do:

  1. Choose to encounter the hill tribe communities with reputable companies, such as ourselves! You can learn more about our programmes and excursions at Asian Oasis
  2. Seek out opportunities where you can support hill tribe groups, rather than simply ‘visit’ them.

 

4. Avoid sex tourism

Unfortunately, Thailand is well-known for its sex tourism industry, yet what many visitors are not aware of is that many individuals working in the sex industry are not working voluntarily. By visiting a ping pong show, for example, you are inadvertently supporting the sex industry, which is often intertwined in sex trafficking.

What you can do:

  1. Instead of seeing a ping pong show, consider a cabaret or burlesque show!

 

5. Be careful underwater!

Thailand is a fantastic place to experience the underwater world! Koh Tao is famous for quality yet inexpensive Scuba certification courses and many Thai islands boast wonderful diving and snorkeling sites.

However, with so many tourists putting on masks and fins and jumping in our oceans, it has become more important than ever before to be a responsible diver and snorkeler.

 

What you can do:

  1. Don’t touch or pick up marine life
  2. Don’t touch or stand on coral! It can cause irreplaceable damage. Rather be a passive observer.
  3. Choose dive companies that are eco-conscious. There are many companies to choose from, yet some, such as Wicked Diving, has strict environmental policies.

 

6. Choose tour companies wisely

 

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When booking tours, be sure to do your research- and you can surely book an incredible trip all while supporting local life and environmental responsibility.