Friday, 9 April 2010
Of tourists to Thailand, a staggering (some of them literally) 96% visit Bangkok, and 66% go to Kanchanaburi to see the River Kwai. Then of course massive numbers filter out to the beaches and bars of Pattaya, Phuket and Samui. Then there's a steep drop away to places like Chiang Mai. Leaving only a handful of people interested enough to experience the real Thailand further afield.
And this is where the Community Based Tourism Institute (CBTI) of Thailand comes in ...
Want to get further off the beaten track? Want to contribute to community work? Want to learn how the locals really live away from the tourism precincts? Community-based tourism might be for you. 'It's for people looking for authentic, real-life, local, interactive and creative experiences,' says Peter Richards of CBIT, striving for the perfect soundbite.
They work with 50+ local communities to build such tourism experiences. 'The communities develop activities that they are proud to share wih their guests,' he stresses. 'It might be fruit orchards, puppets, homestay or cooking.' In fact, many things ending with -ing (no, not what you're think-ing), as they are experience-oriented tours.
Most that come along for the ride are in their 20's: students, backpackers, volunteers, and families that want their kids to experience real Thai life. Then there's the segment up to 50 years old who might be teachers, grassroots conservationists, etc. Word of mouth plays a huge part in drawing them in, when friends return with tales of time spent among hill tribes, or planting mangroves, or fun times on Koh Chang.
'You see people and environment interacting together,' says Richards, 'and get to the real warmth of this country. You get to understand what community means in Thailand, an incredibly rich experience.'
Yeah, that's all very well, Mr Richards, but do I still get a mint on my pillow at night?