Two tourist attractions in Thailand’s Sukhothai province have won Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Awards 2012. The first PATA Gold Award-winning project is the Organic Agriculture Project at Sukhothai Airport, which won in the Environment-Ecotourism category.The second PATA Gold Award-winning project is the Na Ton Chan Community in Si Satchanalai District, which won in the Heritage and Culture category.
“Winning these two gold awards is tremendous recognition of the TAT’s focus on encouraging more environmentally-responsible tourism and the development of community-based tourism that allows visitors to experience Thai culture up close while providing direct benefits to communities in Thailand,” said Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Suraphon Svetasreni.
Judged by a panel of tourism experts, the PATA Gold Awards set industry standards for excellence and innovation. The winners will receive their awards in a ceremony at the PATA Annual Meeting, which this year will take place in Putrajaya, Malaysia from 20-23 April 2012.
The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a non-profit membership association that acts as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism within the Asia-Pacific region. This year, PATA is proud to celebrate 60 dynamic years of developing responsible tourism. In partnership with private and public sector members, PATA enhances the sustainable growth, value and quality of travel and tourism to, from and within the region. The Association provides leadership and counsel on an individual and collective basis to over 80 government, state and city tourism bodies; nearly 50 international airlines, airports and cruise lines and many hundreds of travel industry companies across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
PATA Gold Award 2012 on Environment Ecotourism: Sukhothai Airport
The Organic Agriculture Project at Sukhothai Airport was initiated in 2003 and has developed to cover over 150 acres with another 150 being anticipated over the next few years. Natural Rice is the owner of the project. It aims to promote agricultural practices for better health and to promote a respect for nature. The project produces organic rice, vegetables and fruits to supply companies such as Bangkok Airways, the Sukhothai Heritage Resort and Bangkok Air Catering. The project offers visitors a chance to experience first-hand the lives of millions of farmers who grow rice without chemicals, artificial colouring and genetically-modified organisms.
Various activities are available for visitors, from short half-day visits to three days of intensive training. Tourists can enjoy activities such as an overview presentation of the project, a ride on a farm truck with a local guide, lessons in cooking easy Thai dishes using local farm products, the early morning collection of duck eggs, riding buffalos the traditional way, working in the farm and doing craft work.
The PATA Judging Committee’s comment: “It is an excellent project. It achieves its purpose of raising awareness of environmental issues while increasing the number of visitors. The local community also benefits from better environmental practices as well as revenues from responsible tourism.”
PATA Gold Award 2012 on Heritage: Ban Na Ton Chang Community
The Ban Na Thon Chan Community is located in Sukhothai province and was established more than 200 years ago. Most of the people are descendants from the ancient Lanna kingdom. The villagers here believe that “humans are a part of nature and, therefore, everything should go to maintain a balance between humans and nature.”
The villagers of Ban Na Ton Chan formed the Career Development Fund and Ban Na Ton Chan Homestay Tourism Community with participation in management by all villagers. The Ban Na Ton Chan Homestay Project has 20 member families and can accommodate up to 70 people.
The “Elephant Sanctuary” is a house providing safely and rehabilitation for tortured and neglected elephants. It is located around 2 km from the community. Villagers show tourists how to cook Thai food and provide knowledge on how to prepare herbs and vegetables grown locally.
All members of the Ban Na Ton Chan Homestay Group share the responsibility to take visitors to stay at their houses. The host family leads tours of the village. The benefits from the sales of products such as woven cloth and other items are divided equally among the members. All the members bring their products to store at the exhibition building of the community. The marketing department is in charge of selling them and dividing the profits among the members. Ten per cent of the income is deducted to be the costs of maintaining the environment and tourist attractions in the community. Some of the amount is spent on training to educate the members and the youth in the village about tourism, while the rest is kept as a common fund for communal affairs.
The PATA Judging Committee’s comment: “The Ban Na Ton Chan Community programme is a very noteworthy one from the standpoint of heritage.”