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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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Do you have an appetite for a BUFFET?

BUFFET, the Building an Understanding For Food Excess in Tourism Campaign, is a PATA-led industry initiative to curb food waste in the tourism and hospitality industry in our region.



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The UN has designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development (IY2017) in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In recognition, PATA has developed the BUFFET Campaign to raise awareness of and support the shift towards more sustainable business practices in the tourism and hospitality sector, as it relates to food waste.

With increasing concern of the world for climate change, food waste has come increasingly under attention in recent years and for good reason:

Right now 842 million people do not have enough to eat and with an estimated world population of 9.8 billion people by 2050, resources will be limited and more people will be hungry.

When food gets thrown away and rots it releases methane, which is (21 times) more devastating to the environment than carbon dioxide, but that is not all: every time food is wasted, all the money, packaging, manpower, and water are wasted too, all along the supply chain.

This problem is especially visible in the hospitality industry as, for example, 611 million meals are served per year to tourists in restaurants and hotels in the UK (WRAP). Also according to WRAP, in the UK, food waste in hotels can cost up to £0.52 (US$0.68) per meal, and that 75% of the wasted food can be repurposed. Also, the average hotel guest produces 1kg of waste per night. The impact in this sector is immense, but that also means that we can make a big positive change in this industry. Reducing food waste will reduce the cost for operators in the industry while benefiting the environment at the same time. (Read more about the business case for reducing food loss and waste).

The BUFFET Initiative addresses two of the five key areas that IY2017 has identified to promote tourism’s role:

  • Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction – Encouraging employment in the sustainable agriculture sector; addressing poverty by providing quality excess food to those in need
  • Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change – Reducing food waste by encouraging better menu planning and other tactics; protecting the environment by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill

IY2017 supports the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its endeavor to address poverty, protect the planet, promote peace and prosperity by 2030.

[logo] Goal 2: Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

[logo] Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

[logo] Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption & production patterns

[logo] Goal 13: Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

[logo] Goal 14: Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

[logo] Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


The BUFFET Campaign is about bringing together a coalition of industry partners and PATA members to create and implement a campaign that challenges our industry, particularly the hospitality sector, to divert food waste to landfill.

It is about showing our industry the impact food waste reduction can make in business costs, climate change, and providing tools to reduce food excess and reduce wasted resources.


This campaign will run now through mid-2018.

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The Challenge



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The Solution



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Thesis Award


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PATA launches new thematic ‘How Far Will You Go?’ video in collaboration with GLP Films, at #PAS2017.

Take a moment to reflect on your inspirations for travel as well as aspirations for the Asia Pacific tourism industry.




Raise your Hands to Support Soap Recycling

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Ever wondered what happens to soap used by hotel guests? Ugandan-born social entrepreneur Derreck Kayongo of the Global Soap Project has created a clever solution that diverts soap scraps from landfills and improves the quality of life in regions suffering from ill health caused by poor levels of hygiene.

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Clean the World distributes Hygiene Kits (source: Clean the World)

Easily prevented by proper handwashing, diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections are significant causes of death in developing countries. By partnering with major hotel chains, airlines and corporations the Global Soap Project, which has joined forces with Clean the World, collects and recycles soap scraps and donates them to those in need. This project helps to encourage better hygiene and reduce occurrences of these diseases.

This is not an initiative that’s confined to the hospitality industry. Indeed, anyone can help.

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A Clean the World recycling centre (source: Clean the World)

So, why not start a ‘soap drive’ at your place of work? Scraps collected can be donated to Clean the World or other recycling organisations (see our list below). You may also recycle the soap (step-by-step guide) and distribute it to worthy causes such as local homeless shelters, orphanages and schools. It’s a simple yet significant project that your company’s Green Team can adopt. Don’t have a Green Team yet? Read our tips on how to form one here!

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Kids in Bago, Myanmar with recycled soap blocks. (source: Sundara Fund)

Recycling your own soap at home is a great step towards a sustainable lifestyle. And it saves you money! What are you waiting for? Check out Good Housekeeping’s 10 Simple Ways to Recycle Soap Slivers Into Something Useful and start recycling today!

Soap recycling organisations and their locations:


November MGM Sustainability News (2016)

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We all know energy doesn’t come for free; but even more importantly it also costs the earth more than we think. Most of the energy sources we depend on for our daily lives, like coal and natural gas, can’t be replaced – once we use them up, they’re gone forever. Another issue is that most forms of energy create pollution, with their associated greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming and climate change.

Conserving precious natural resources, and creating a better, more sustainable world, is a core company philosophy- with our energy management program reducing MGM’s energy consumption and carbon footprint by over a quarter since our company’s inception.  

Recognition for leadership in energy management

On October 18, it was announced that MGM is recipient once again of the ASHRAE Regional Technology Award for 2016, one of three winners in the Asia-Pacific region highlighted for best practice and innovation in energy management. Since 2008, MGM has reduced energy consumption by 28%, even despite high visitor numbers and an increasingly warming climate. MGM’s energy management program is characterized by investing is the best available technology in energy efficiency, as well as real-time monitoring through advanced systems that allow MGM to identify opportunities for energy saving right away.

Supporting local association for sustainability and energy efficiency

On September 27, MGM MACAU hosted the Macau Chapter inauguration ceremony of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), led by the global ASHRAE President, Mr Tim Wentz. ASHRAE is an international technical society dedicated to promoting sustainability and resource-efficient operations in buildings management, most notably through efforts to reduce energy consumption and improve internal air quality. With over 170 chapters worldwide, ASHRAE has extensive global reach and an impressive network of industry-leading knowledge, something the Macau Chapter will be able to leverage in contributing to Macau’s standing as a center for industry-leading expertise.

November MGM mgmMGM’s Executive Director of Engineering, Mr. Peter Chan, has been elected to be the first President of the Macau Chapter, warmly receiving the official chapter flag to mark the inauguration. “I am proud to have been awarded with this honor. The Chapter is excited about the opportunities for development that ASHRAE will bring in helping to build a platform to showcase and develop leading engineering expertise in Macau”, said Mr. Peter Chan.  


Knowledge sharing

November MGM mgm02In addition to hosting and sponsoring the event, MGM also donated the full set of ASHRAE technical materials as an educational resource to the University of Macau. These standards are often referenced in building codes worldwide, and are considered essential resources for the engineering industry. The materials were formally presented to Professor Pak Kin Wong, the Associate Dean of the University of Macau’s Faculty of Science and Technology, by Mr. Grant Bowie, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of MGM China Holding’s Limited. “One of our core sustainability objectives is to contribute to inspiring and providing the youth of Macau with the resources to become the future leaders of tomorrow; we are delighted to present these materials to the University of Macau’s Faculty of Science and Technology to support their aims to create world-class engineers. We are also proud of Peter’s great achievement in being elected as ASHRAE’s first President, which is testament to the high quality team we have here at MGM”, said Mr. Grant Bowie.

In a separate event, MGM’s Director of Sustainability, Ms. Rebecca Donnellan, also presented on its energy management strategy at the 2016 CSR Asia Summit on September 29 in Hong Kong. The Summit is one of the largest sustainability forums in Asia, attended by hundreds of professionals in the field sharing knowledge and discussing business solutions to complex sustainability problems in today’s society.


Films That Will Spark Your Wanderlust

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Thinking about what to watch this weekend? Here are four films that will deepen your appreciation of the world and inspire you to explore it.


“Four years in the making, this is the earth celebrated as never before.

Scale majestic mountains, explore waterways and caves, starlit deserts and spectacular ice-worlds. See awe-inspiring landscapes from all across the globe and incredible footage of the rarely spotted, almost mythical creatures that live in these habitats. 

The Blue Planet blew audiences away with its footage of the alien-like depths of the ocean. Now track great migrations, witness split-second actions, and watch amazing footage of land-based animals in their natural habitats, whether on a mountain top, in the remotest of deserts, or the darkest depths of the forest floor. 

This is the definitive look at the diversity of our planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. 

Prepare to be overwhelmed by the beauty of Planet Earth.”  (Source:

Note: The sequel, Planet Earth II is coming out soon! Click here for the epic trailer.


“Packed with excitement, revelation and entertainment, this breathtaking ten-part blockbuster relates 130 incredible stories from the frontiers of the natural world.

Life explores the glorious variety of life on Earth and the spectacular and extraordinary tactics animals and plants have developed to stay alive. This is evolution in action, individual creatures under extreme pressure to overcome challenges from adversaries and their environment, pushing the boundaries of behaviour.

Witness unprecedented, astonishingly beautiful sequences: birds running and dancing on the water’s surface in dazzlingly intricate displays of courtship and fidelity, fish outwitting predators by using their fins to take flight, and flies competing in a mesmerising eyeball-inflation contest.

More than four years in the making, filmed over 3,000 days, across every continent and in every habitat, this is life as you’ve never seen it before.” (Source:


“Originally shot in 25 countries on six continents, Baraka brought together a series of stunningly photographed scenes to capture what director Ron Fricke calls “a guided meditation on humanity.” It was a shoot of unprecedented technical, logistical and bureaucratic scope that would take 30 months to complete, including 14 months on location, with a custom-built computerized 65mm camera.

“The goal of the film,” says producer Mark Magidson, “was to reach past language. nationality, religion and politics and speak to the inner viewer.”” (Source:


“Prepare yourself for an unparalleled sensory experience.  SAMSARA reunites director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, whose award-winning films BARAKA and CHRONOS were acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry.  

SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives.  Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders.  By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.” (Source:


A 20-Year-Old Dutch Inventor has Come Up with a Solution to the Ocean’s Plastic Problem

Categories: Planet, Recommended Reading, Sea, Uncategorized, Waste
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Boyan Slat, the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, announced that his company plans to deploy a series of V-shaped floating barriers that would capture trash without harming sea life.

The Ocean Cleanup Organisation will be installing a 328ft-long (100 metre) barrier segment in the summer of 2016 in the North Sea, 14 miles (23km) off the coast of The Netherlands.

By Positive True NewsRead more.



TripAdvisor Halts Ticket Sales to Cruel Wildlife Attractions

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The travel website, which came under pressure earlier this year for promoting and profiting from inhumane tourism activities, also plans to educate users on animal welfare.

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TripAdvisor’s booking company, Viator, will no longer sell tickets to certain activities, including swim-with-the-dolphin experiences, that pose animal welfare and conservation issues.

TripAdvisor, the popular travel review website, and its ticket sales company, Viator, said Tuesday they no longer will sell tickets to hundreds of tourist attractions that are widely accepted as cruel to wild animals, reversing a policy under which the companies had resisted considering the welfare of animals when promoting trips. By Read more for the original article on National Geographic.