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Bamboo Straws Poolside at Anantara Golden Triangle (Credit: unknown via Mark Thomson)

Anantara and AVANI Hotels & Resorts are proud to announce the decision to end the use of plastic drinking straws at all hotels and resorts in Asia from 1 January 2018. The first major hotel brands to announce a companywide decision to eradicate plastic straws at every single property across the Asia region with a view to extend the roll out to properties in Australasia, Europe and the Middle East by the end of the year.

In the serene mountainous region of Northern Thailand, Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort is working with a local artist, Khamchan Yano, who was shown by the village elders a fast growing wild bamboo, indigenous to the surrounds. Together they have perfected a way to keep the bamboo strong whilst also ensuring it is hygienic and reusable.

Read the full article on the initiative here.

By Mark Thomson on LinkedIn.

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Bangkok’s Fight Against Plastic Waste

Categories: Blog Posts, Southeast, Waste
Comments Off on Bangkok’s Fight Against Plastic Waste

by Juliane Little, Account Executive, Precious Plastics Bangkok

 

 

 

 

Did you know that plastic doesn’t actually decompose? Over time it’ll start to break down into smaller pieces called microplastics; however, it’ll never fully be removed from our planet.

So how do we expect to tackle this ever-growing issue about plastic waste? While there is no short or easy answer, there are steps we can begin to take towards a brighter, better future.

Let me first introduce myself… My name is Juliane Little and I’m an expat, who has lived in Thailand for just over 2 years now. It was my love for adventure, the ocean, and beauty that brought me all the way from the USA to this beautiful country. Within a short few months, I started to notice there is a huge issue with plastic consumption and recycling in Thailand. This plastic waste comes in all shapes and sizes and is used by teachers, construction workers, people on holiday and even by myself.

Plastic is the ultimate convenience. It’s cheap to make and buy, it’s extremely versatile, and it’s strong. All of these benefits make it easy to forget the potential harm one straw or bottle cap can actually do. We assume that once we dispose if it, it magically disappears. However, we are starting to realize the harsh truth and it’s coming back to bite us (quite literally). Our oceans and lands are being overrun with waste, and animals have turned to plastic as a source of food. There are already traces of plastic in the fish that we are consuming. Scientists have even predicted that by the year 2050 – there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish (by weight).

Ocean Marina, Pattaya, Thailand

After some random web searching, I came across a plastic recycling project, which I immediately thought, “this is what Bangkok needs, this is what the world needs.” I’ve found that many people don’t get involved in volunteer work or conservation efforts, because they don’t know where to start. Trust me – it’s hard, especially living in a foreign country!

Thanks to Dave Hakkens, that is about to change.

Precious Plastics is a project created by Dave Hakkens, which helps people around the world set up their own local plastic workshops. Hakkens’ open source website gives A to Z instructions on how to build all the machines needed to break down plastic and turn it into something new. The possibilities are endless and the creativity doesn’t end on their website. The hope of this project is to encourage upcycling and provide an educational work place for the community.

I have decided to tackle the project and create a Previous Plastics workshop here in Bangkok. Our mission for the Bangkok workshop is to educate the community on plastic waste and consumption. We would achieve this by holding workshops around how to properly use our recycling machines and turn plastic back it back into raw material. This can then be used to create new tools and objects for use and even to sell. During these workshops we will provide tips on avoiding one-time use plastic and lowering your plastic waste footprint! Once you are properly trained on safety and usage, you’ll have free access to the workshop where you are able to upcycle whatever you can think of.

While this project is in its initial stages, we have already had a lot of positive feedback from the community and people who are eager to support in anyway possible. Our next step is to build the machines and find them a temporary home.

If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to me personally or follow us on Facebook! What we need the most are people who are passionate about saving the planet and reducing plastic pollution. There are many steps we need to take to get this project off the ground and I would love to have you join our team. Feel free to follow the page for updates on our project and also tips to becoming more eco-friendly.

Through the Precious Plastic’s Bangkok Project, I hope to spread more awareness of plastic pollution and give back to the community. Join our cause and let’s get one step closer to a greener, healthier planet.

 

 

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Dr Amy Khor (left) speaks to Chef Lucas Glanville, director of culinary operations at Grand Hyatt Singapore, beside the Biomax Thermophilic Digester machine which recycles food waste for the hotel. ST PHOTO: TAN SUE-ANN

SINGAPORE – Grand Hyatt, a hotel near Orchard Road, has saved $100,000 a year, just by managing its waste. Instead of throwing food waste into the bin, the hotel staff transfer them into a machine known as the Biomax Thermophilic Digester. This technology recycles food waste such as vegetable, poultry, bones, egg shell, tissue paper and fruit peel from nine in-house restaurants and kitchens. The food waste is then converted into pathogen-free organic fertilisers which are used for the hotel’s landscaping purposes.

Find out more about this technology by reading the full article here.

By Sue-Ann Tan for The Straits Times.

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Credit: Travindy

Singapore, 11 October 2017 – Mandai Park Holdings (MPH) announced today the appointment of Banyan Tree Holdings (Banyan Tree) as the operator of an eco-friendly resort to be located within the new integrated nature and wildlife destination at Mandai. This partnership marks the debut of the award-winning, Singapore-based hospitality company on home ground after its global success.

Integrated with Mandai’s natural surroundings, it is envisioned the eco-friendly resort will provide an immersive stay close to nature, offering unique experiences that inspire care for biodiversity and sustainable behaviour. It will provide, for the first time, the opportunity for visitors to stay over in a full-service accommodation at the doorstep of Singapore’s wildlife parks. Guests will be able to enjoy and explore the precinct’s array of offerings, including its five wildlife parks, nature-themed indoor attraction and public green spaces.

Read the full article on the new destination in Singapore here.

By Travindy.

 

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Cigarette butts pose a risk to beach ecosystems, say Thailand government officials. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

Those caught lighting up could face a year’s imprisonment as the government seeks to end pollution and drain damage on Thai beaches caused by discarded cigarette butts

Thailand is to ban smoking on some of the country’s most popular tourist beaches, with the prospect of up to a year in prison for those caught lighting up, according to reports by local media.

The move follows a recent survey of litter on Patong beach, Phuket – visited by millions of foreign tourists each year – which found an average of 0.76 cigarette butts per square metre in a sample area, which would amount to 101,058 butts on the 2.5km-long stretch of sand.

The survey was undertaken by the country’s department of marine and coastal resources, which described it as a “serious problem”. Discarded cigarette butts accounted for a third of rubbish collected by the department.

Read the full article on Thailand’s plan to ban smoking on some of the country’s most popular tourist beaches here.

By Will Coldwell for The Guardian.

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On October 4th 2017, BIGTrees Project Co-founder Anunta Intra-aksorn and Madeleine Recknagel, of The Sustainable Self initiative, visited the PATA office to share their knowledge on the importance of tree planting, sustainable living, as well as their past and current projects around Bangkok.

Anunta and her colleagues from BIGTrees provided PATA with interesting insights in their engagement in protecting and improving the endangered green spaces in Bangkok, focusing particularly on the protection and planting of trees. Past and current campaigns hosted by BIGTrees, including Urban Tree Care, Save Bangkachao and Mangrove Palm Seeding, have been set up to raise awareness, reconnect people and nature, and call for change. Communal learning has proven to be beneficial to the success of BIGTrees projects. Possibilities to combine leisure activities, such as bicycling, and engaging in environmental activities (e.g. planting) were presented to highlight the importance of ensuring a sustainable environment in the future.

 

Anunta Intra-aksorn speaking for BIGTrees Project

Madeleine encouraged PATA to rethink what is good soil by showing staff the difference between dead and living soil through touch and smell. Good (living) soil allows the healthy growth of produce. Sharing her own experiences, Madeleine emphasized that it doesn’t require a lot of effort and time to produce soil through composting – even when living in a small apartment or condo. Simple actions and rethinking diet towards healthier eating can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle.

Sharing knowledge

Using recycled plant pots, workshop participants were given the opportunity to seed and plant using homemade soil provided by Anunta and Madeleine.

PATA staff learning about planting

 

Getting dirty!

 

PATA staff seeded cucumber in a recycled egg container

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 By Michelle Groothedde, Associate Intern Sustainability & Social Responsibility, Pacific Asia Travel Association.

In Doi Inthanon National park, about 90 kilometres from Chiang Mai, in the North of Thailand, two communities, Pha Mon and Mae Klang Luang, both ethnic Karen communities, have worked in community based tourism for 11 and 18 years respectively. On a mini field trip we visited the two villages that are only 30 minutes apart and looked at the differences between them regarding history, product range, management, experience, and target markets. The villages are beautifully located in the mountains surrounded by stunning rice fields. 

The trip was organised in order to learn from CBT in Thailand for the Myanmar CBT Network. The Myanmar Community-Based Tourism Network was set up in March 2016 as a joint initiative of Tourism Transparency and ActionAid and is an informal network that provides a platform of exchange for interested stakeholders, such as travel agents/tour operators, tour guides, NGOs, communities, and government.

 

 

Community based tourism (CBT) means that tourists visit a local community, which is often located in rural and well-preserved areas, to get a rich and engaging experience of a local community’s traditional cultures and way of life. The community benefits from CBT by getting that little bit of extra income that can be used for various things, such as support in education, construction, environmental projects, and medical care. CBT is a real challenge for these communities as they struggle with cultural differences between themselves and tourists, and the changes and fear of losing their culture and identity that tourism brings.

Pha Mon 

Pha Mon is home to about 600 Karen people and earns approximately 1,000,000 Baht per year from CBT. Pha Mon is located 30 minutes off the main road, which makes it secluded. They offer a high value and high price experience. Their main target market are French tourists as they have established a long-term partnership with a French tour operator, Thailande Autrement, who was looking for a local community partner to further develop their cultural programmes. Pha Mon occasionally receives Thai visitors but mostly for day visits.

 

 

The average stay in Pha Mon is 3 day and 2 nights. Tourists arrive at Pha Mon village in the late afternoon, after which they are welcomed by the CBT village coordinator and have dinner. The next day the guide takes them for a walk through the village to learn about the village and its culture. They are taken around the fields, as the main source of income for both villages is agriculture and in both villages, agriculture comes before tourism, especially when it is time to harvest and all farmers are needed on the field. The Royal Project has had quite a big impact on CBT in the village and has helped to provide more income to farmers since it started.

 

 

Tourists have the chance to buy souvenirs in the form of crafted items like woven bags, traditional clothes, and baskets directly from the lady weavers. They can watch the weavers at work and can even have a go at the weaving themselves. They also learn about different food and fruits while visiting the village and villagers often invite tourists to taste and have a look around. At specific times a year the village offers traditional ceremonies performed in their paddies on the hillside during which they carry baskets with bright flowers. This is also an initiative supported by the Royal Project. After the visit to the village, the tourists can then hike to the top of Doi Thenon, which usually lasts about 2-3 hours. On this trail guests can do bird watching as this area is home to many different types of birds. There are also possibilities to do cycling tours on the mountain tracks.

 

 

 

The Pink Bamboo House 

The accommodation Pha Mon offers is called the Pink Bamboo House.

The Pink Bamboo House is located a short distance from the village surrounded by stunning rice fields with the mountains in the background. The community built the Pink Bamboo House itself and did an incredible job. It has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms with a large balcony on the first floor spanning the length of the house, inviting you to relax and enjoy the amazing views. There are beautiful little details visible in the house such as bamboo towel holders (there are many bamboo household items in the house that the construction men weaved in themselves), comfortable Thai mats to relax, and a bamboo hammock on the ground floor and it really shows the level of detail and love put into the construction of this house.

 

 

The Pink Bamboo House offers a high value and high price experience to the tourists. The house is earning the village over 1,000,000 THB per year, which is about US$30,000 and there are approximately 140 families that participated in the construction of it. The villagers mostly offer their labour in exchange for a share. The earnings from the Pink Bamboo House go to a community fund, which is used for education, environmental activities, small construction, house maintenance, and to help people in the village.

 

 

In addition to the extra income, there are more reasons for Pho Mon to engage in CBT practices. First of all, the village wants to show tourists how Karen people live in harmony with the forest and demonstrate their sustainable forest practices. They also want to teach them the local ways and culture of the village and believe it is a way of motivating community members to work together.

 

Lunch is served, all homegrown produce.

The direct benefits from community-based tourism in the village are obvious as it creates more income and more jobs, but what are the challenges?

 

Overcoming the different opinions and fears about CBT and to decide if the village wants to invite tourists to their village was the initial problem and will probably remain an issue for some time. CBT inevitably brings changes and especially the older generation is worried that their traditional culture and way of living will change in a negative way or even disappear completely. Because of the extra income CBT generates for the village, the younger generation now attends school and often university in Chiang Mai. After their studies, young adults are encouraged to come back to the village but often find it hard to find their way in the old lifestyle again. They bring modernisation to the village and the older generation doesn’t know how to manage or deal with that and believes that tourism just accelerates the problem.

 

Tomatoes grown at the village

 

Then there are some problems with communication to outside parties and organisations they work with, or that have an influence on CBT in the village. These include the national park, the government, the Royal Project, tour operators, tourists, and the Community Development Organisation. The community’s culture is the initial reason the village attracts tourists and that is what they want to display but it is sometimes difficult for the village to make outside organisations understand their norms, values and way of living. Tourists are often unaware of their expected behaviour in the village, for example, about dress code when outside the house. Villagers were often shocked when visitors would wear revealing clothes and sunbathe on the balcony. The inappropriateness of this can be difficult to communicate because of language barriers. 

 

Our tour guide for the day: local tour guide Surasit

 

The CBT village committee tries to counteract these challenges through communication and activities that help to mitigate these challenges, such as educating local guides, tourists, and villagers about different cultures and raising awareness on both sides.

 

Mae Klang Luang

 

Mae Klang Luang has a population of approximately 700 people and earns about the same amount of money per year as Pha Mon, but only by accepting larger groups at a cheaper price. Annually, an estimated 10,000 people visit the village; about 70% of them are day visitors, only 30% stay overnight and then mostly during winter season. It is noticeable that 95% of the visitors are Thai. More and more Thai students spend a night or two in the CBT village, enjoying the peace and quiet of their surroundings and the scenic environment outside the village. Mae Klang Luang is located at the entrance of Doi Intanon National Park close to the main road, which facilitates visitor flows in comparison with the more secluded Pha Mon.

 

One of the CBT houses in Mae Klang Luang.

 

For 18 years, Mae Klang Luang has been inviting tourists to stay in their community. Initially 20 villagers were involved in the CBT project and it has now developed to 80 people being involved, including people from outside communities investing in the project. The village has 11 homestay houses that are part of the CBT group, and there are also some independent houses for private homestay. Like Pha Mon, the money derived from CBT is mostly used within the village. All the CBT houses have similar prices, although the independent houses have set their own.

Tourist activities include a walk through the village, taking pictures in the new bamboo hut (specifically constructed to accommodate tourists who want to get a closer look at the rice paddies without destroying them), do a coffee tasting and then have the chance to buy the coffee. They also visit the women’s group that works together in custom weaving and tourists can buy those products as well. Mae Klang Luang is also known for its walking trail through beautiful scenery to a scenic waterfall.

 

The new bamboo hut constructed to avoid damaging the rice paddies.

 

What are the challenges in Mae Klang Luang?

 

The biggest challenge here is the same as in Pha Mon, namely, changes in culture. There have been significant changes in the village because of CBT and people in the village have different opinions on CBT and are sometimes struggling to manage it. Mae Klang Luang is different to Pha Mon because of its location and accessibility, and therefore CBT in Mae Klang Luang has grown rapidly and continues to grow. While Pha Mon only accommodates a small number of tourists, Mae Klang Luang offers a range of different accommodations and accommodates mainly day visitors. Therefore, CBT has a bigger and more visible impact in this village and is more dependent on tourism.

 

Another big challenge that Mae Klang Luang may face in the future is the competition between the private homestays and the CBT group. Initially, the independent houses were working well together with the CBT houses, but that is changing. There are more often conflicts between the two parties because the independent houses set their own prices. Managing two different systems like this is difficult. While the CBT group has clear rules and regulations and aims to contribute to the community through its community fund, independent homestays apparently tend to reduce their contribution due to the high individual cost. This complicates fairly and easily distributing benefits arising from tourism.

 

The chief of Mae Klang Luang is telling us about CBT in the village, Surasit is translating from Thai to English. 

 

Finding a balance

Pha Mon and Mae Klang Luang face both similar and different challenges doing community based tourism in the villages while having similar ways to address these challenges.

First of all, both villages have a management system in place, which is led by an elected group of people that organise every aspect of CBT in the villages. The idea is that CBT brings benefits to the overall community. The group has a coordinator who acts as a spokesperson and functions as a link between the village and outside organisations. Both villages hold monthly or 2-monthly meetings and all issues that may arise are addressed. Anybody in the village can raise concerns and the issues are then dealt with. In Pha Mon, profit is distributed as a set percentage system. Mae Klang Luang has a similar system and committee. This management system helps to keep track of all activities and income related to CBT and aims to distribute income fairly and equally.

 

 

There is now an excellent communication system, both internal and external, which makes the CBT experience better for everybody. Key to the long-term success of CBT in these villages is that the villagers themselves hold all control. There are many organisations trying to pressure and influence CBT activities but in the end all decisions go through the CBT management group in the village. The strength of the village is their united front as every member of the community counts and have a voice. Issues are addressed and discussed and they decide on the best possible solution by compromising. These villages are a best practice example of CBT that benefits both community and tourist. Tourism improves living standards of the community in the village while maintaining their culture and the natural environment. Tourists benefit from the environmental and cultural activities the village offers to give them a rich and deep understanding of the village’s culture in a responsible way.

 

Learning about CBT in Mae Klang Luang.

 

In a way they are stuck between authenticity and development and the key is to find a balance between the two to benefit from it and move forward, without losing their identity. It was hard for some people to accept CBT but the true values of the villages are still very evident and treasured, which is what makes them so special. Tourism can have a destructing effect on destinations after their discovery because of increased popularity but by controlling each and every decision based on integrity instead of monetary benefits, the effect of tourism in these villages is minimal, which benefits the village as well as the tourist as they can continue to experience a true and authentic Thai village in the mountains.

 

If you are interested in visiting either Pha Mon or Mae Klang Luang, or want to know more about the CBT network, click on the links. Learn more about the people on this field trip by clicking the links below: 

 

From left to right: Surasit Donjaipraiwan from Inthanon Dek Doi, local guide who is ex-coordinator of the Phamon CBT group Peter Richards, co-founder of the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-I), Michelle Groothedde, PATA Associate Intern Sustainability & Social Responsibility, Barbara Schott, Tourism Transparency, and Potjana Suansri,  former CBT-I director, CBT pioneer in Thailand, volunteering on this field trip.

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Credit: Michelle Groothedde, PATA

 

There has been much recent speculation and discussion about elephant welfare in tourist elephant camps. With ill-informed media coverage in the West showing the apparent mistreatment of elephants many camps are out of business – leaving a great number of elephants, mahouts, and communities without a source of income.

 

Media and lobby groups have placed considerable focus upon the welfare of the animals without giving due consideration to other factors. These tips will help you to be better informed.

 

Make sure you are well-informed before visiting the elephant camp

Elephants are wild animals and can therefore be dangerous. Read the information provided on the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of interacting with elephants and listen closely to the mahouts’ advice.

 

Elephant welfare

Sometimes it is obvious to see if an elephant has been mistreated. Look for marks on their skin and check that the skin is dark. Look at the condition of their feet and nails? Are the elephants too fat or too skinny? Sometimes using a hook is necessary for a safe handling of the elephant but this should not be abused.

 

Signs of a purple ointment used for healing wounds may give a hint as to whether an animal has been abused. If you see any abuse or mistreatment, report this to the camp management. View more examples of other things to look at are the price of an elephant camp, appropriate use of chains, and water and food supply.

 

Elephant riding

Despite all the activism against this topic, it is important to respect different positions regarding riding or not riding. However, all riding should only be performed responsibly under strict guidance and rules. If elephant rides are offered, for how long? Where do they go? How are riders sitting on the elephant? Is there a weight limit? Read about responsible elephant riding here.

 

Consider culture

Keep in mind that working and living with elephants has been part of Asian cultures for thousands of years. They are effective working animals because of their intelligence and ability to build special relationships with humans.

 

Elephants are generally admired in these cultures and are a valued part of Asian civilisation and it is, therefore, in a community’s best interest that elephant attractions are well managed – taking in account the welfare of the elephants and the communities in which they operate. If presented well, these attractions may be very educational and informative. Read more about the elephant’s role in Asian culture and communities.

 

‘Be a mahout for a day’

Tourism experiences with elephants have made a general shift from old-fashioned circus activities to a more interactive experience that brings you closer to the elephant. Try being ‘a mahout for a day,’ an experience where the tourist spends a day with the mahout and his elephant to learn more about their day-to-day life at the camps.

 

Be wary of media reports

Western perspective on elephant welfare has been highly influenced by stakeholder groups such as media channels and animal welfare organisations but one very important stakeholder group – the Mahouts – rarely have an opportunity to express their views. Mahouts develop a very special relationship with their elephants as they usually stay together for a lifetime. Unfortunately there are some camps that hire mahouts without any experience and they all too frequently resort to force to control their elephants.

 

Control of the elephant

For safety reasons, hooks and chains are sometimes needed to control the elephant. Read about the dangers of free-roaming here. Read the article about the ‘human cost of elephant camps’ to get more information on the sometimes necessary use of chains and hooks.

 

By: PATA Associate Intern Michelle Groothedde

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Mahouts rest as their elephants eat fruit in Chiang Mai. Credit: The Antlantic

While Western activists focus on the animals, their handlers are often treated as expendable.

Mahouts today are caught in a catch-22. Tourists have come to believe that traditional tools like chains and bullhooks are inherently unethical, but still want to be able to have up-close-and-personal interactions with elephants. “I use a bullhook because some elephants we cannot control with our hands,” one mahout explained. “Humans are small. Elephants spook easily and are dangerous. If elephants get scared, they kill people.”

“By working with mahouts to improve their treatment of elephants while also acknowledging the difficult lives mahouts often live themselves, we can positively impact the captive elephant situation as a whole. Criticizing a culture that is not your own does not help change it.”

There are many more aspects to consider that outsiders tend to forget when thinking about elephant welfare. Read the full article to see things from a different perspective considering culture, habitat, and elephant welfare.

By Hilary Cadigan for The Atlantic.

 

 

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Credit: Shutterstock

Although Macao is often referred to as the ‘Las Vegas of Asia’ it has much more to offer than casinos. Macao retains its Portuguese colonial legacy with European architecture and cuisine still evident throughout the city.

 

With the annual PATA Travel Mart taking place in Macao next week we share with you some tips to ensure a responsible and enjoyable visit to this fascinating part of north east Asia.

 

Enjoy local foods

 

Enjoying authentic fare will be easy in Macao as there are some amazing street food markets that offer local food. Explore the Red Market, where you can try many local snacks and Macanese specialties. Visit Coloane Market which offers all kinds of healthy and organic options. Check out the Food Street at Broadway Macao, located on a traditional Macanese hawker-style street market that offers many Asian and local specialties. Make sure you try the famous Portuguese egg tarts and other signature dishes.

 

Buy local souvenirs

 

Get your souvenirs at local shops, and try to ‘spread the wealth’ by shopping in different places. Remember, do not buy any souvenirs made from endangered species, which can be illegal to export. Download the Wild Witness app that enables tourists to report illegal wildlife trade by taking a picture of a product and sharing its location. Common products from endangered species include ivory, tortoiseshell, reptile skins, furs, corals and seashells.

 

Sleep green

 

More ‘green’ hotels are popping up in Macao. Make sure that you book a hotel that meets the appropriate sustainability standards by looking for the Macao Green Hotel Award label. You could choose one of these five Sands hotels that are Gold category winners: Sands Macao, The Venetian Macao, Conrad, Sheraton Grand and Holiday Inn Macao.

 

Use public transport or walk

 

Try to avoid taking taxis and use public transport or walk. The Macao peninsula and the islands are easy to explore on foot. The bus system might be difficult for foreigners that do not speak the local dialects but most hotels offer free shuttle-bus services to take you to tourist attractions and casinos.

 

Enjoy nature

 

Macao has an impressive nature scene. Go cycling on Taipa Island and be rewarded with some amazing views. The larger island of Coloane, formerly a haven for pirates, is popular for hiking and cycling. Macao is also known for its gardens including the Lou Lim Loc Garden on the peninsula. Camoes Garden is also popular with locals and tourists.

 

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