Understand the know-how of developing community-based tourism in Trat Province, Thailand

Situated closely to the Cambodian border, Trat is the easternmost province of Thailand, more than 300 km far from Bangkok city. This place has a unique landscape with over 50 islands and long beaches with beautiful coral reefs; mixed with mangrove forests, orchards…What’s more, Trat inhabitants have created community-based tourism products by cleverly combining the picturesque landscapes and unique local cultural features. When visitors arrive, they discover and experience the way in which local communities organize, manage and operate the tourist products here. It is a rewarding experience because everything goes in a well-managed order, but it comes very naturally as if there were no forced preparations involved. Visitors will have a chance to expose into the inhabitants’ life, like guests being warmly and hospitably welcomed by the hosts.

Having an opportunity to understand about the model of community-based tourism (CBT) at the Community College located in Trat province, we understand that every single experience of visitors is the result of a meticulous process of instructing, building and empowering between local authorities, experts and the communities; of the share, coordination and cooperation backed by the mutual understandings between individuals in the community who have the same belief, respect and support for each other. They are community-based tourism villages in Trat Province.

du lich ca mau tai Thai LanThe introductory session about the model of community based tourism at Community College in Trat Province

The experts share that the process of building a community-based tourism product consists of 10 steps: Identify potentials of the destinations; Study the feasibility of collaborating with local communities to develop tourism; Determine the vision and goals to choose the best developmental methods; Plan to prepare the community for the management over tourism; Establish the guidance to instruct the community in organizing and operating tours; Design tour itineraries; Train  local tourist guides; Train the skills of promoting and advertising tourist products; Pilot; Monitor and evaluate to accumulate the experiences for the next plan.

The community tourist attractions in Trat province are established quite naturally based on the long-standing habits local residents. It can be the Baan Huai Raeng Community in Muang district where the inhabitants live along the Huai Raeng, one of the world’s most fertile canals, with three ecosystems: fresh, brackish and saltwater. It can also be a fishing village along the coast on the southern edge of Salak Khok Bay, on the beautiful Koh Chang Island. And if you want to experience the unique religious culture, the peaceful coexistence of Buddhism and Islam, then you should go to the Baan Nam Chieo community, in Lam Ngob district, which also has unique natural landscapes of fertile mangrove forests.

du lich ca mau tai Thai Lan 2Visiting mangrove forest in Trat Province

According to the experts from Thailand Community Based Tourism Network Coordination Center, in order for tourists to have the most authentic experiences as well as to guarantee the livelihoods of the communities, the daily production are maintained normally together with tourism activities in a vibrant and parallel manner. Even, tourism modestly accounts for a small proportion of the economic revenue here. The communities want to welcome and host a reasonable number of guests to ensure the best experience for the guests without interfering economic activities, as well as eliminating any possible hazards to traditional cultural and religious values of the communities. This is necessary to ensure that the income of the communities does not depend on tourism, given the fact that tourism is very sensitive under the impact of social environments such as the economic crisis, epidemics… which may occur and affect the number of visitors to the place.

du lich ca mau tai Thai Lan 3Mr. Tran Hieu Hung, Director of Ca Mau Province Department of Culture, Sports and tourism, the crew’s leader was giving a photo of Ca Mau to Trat Province

Noticeably, community-based tourist attractions in Trat province belong to the CBT system of Thailand with many subdivisions such as North, South, Central and Northeast. Thailand Community Based Tourism Network Coordination Center (CBT-N-CC) is the governing body of CBT sites, promoting and acting as the focal point for business cooperation with travel agencies. To become a partner, tour operators contact and provide necessary information about their needs before CBT-N-CC recommends the most appropriate community products based on their requirements. The parties agree to go through cooperative terms on the roles and responsibilities of each party, ensuring that the process of exploiting the tours satisfies sustainable development conditions for the sake of companies and still maintains the values ​​of the local community.

 

du lich ca mau tai Thai Lan 4Signing the memorandum of understanding between Trat Province Department of Tourism and Sports and Ca Mau Province Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism

It is definitely community-based tourism, the kind of tourism that ensures the sustainability for the environment, society and culture. It is managed and possessed by communities, for communities, for the purpose of allowing visitors to enhance their awareness and understandings about the local community and their way of life. Community-based tourism in Trat contributes significantly to the sustainable development of social, political and cultural conditions; ecological environment; and the economy of local people of the province in particular and the whole Thailand in general./.

From 06/3/2018 to 13/3/2018, Ca Mau Provincial People’s Committee organized an exploration crew to survey, exchange and learn the experiences of community-based tourism development in Trat province – Thailand, led by Mr. Tran Hieu Hung, Director of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Trat province has similar conditions for tourism development to Ca Mau province. However, the province has successfully developed community-based tourism thanks to the effective and conscientious organization through management boards of each community in assigning specific tasks (transportation, service guidance, product development, etc.) and appropriate sharing benefits to the community. Every year, Trat receives over 1.7 million tourists, mainly international visitors.

Article: Thy Dieu. Photo: Khanh Vy

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