Thailand has drawn tourists for decades and remains a top choice for international tourism. Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand, provides plentiful opportunities for tourists to explore cultural, historical, and environmental attractions, which are serviced by key industry stakeholders, ecotourism operators. While ecotourism traditionally is operated in a sustainable manner that respects culture and environment, it can be conducted unsustainably leading to negative social and ecological impacts.

After working with a local Chiang Mai ecotourism operator, the excessive use of ‘eco’ and ‘sustainable’ terminology used to describe their operation led to the question: “To what extent do ecotourism operators observe and practice sustainable tourism in Chiang Mai, Thailand?” Survey questionnaires and interviews, personal discussions, observations of tours, and review of promotional material were used as research methods.

Conclusions were drawn by using a set of sustainable tourism principles developed by the World Wide Fund for Nature as a framework for analysis. While a majority of operators studied observed the concept of sustainable tourism, various operators practiced a range of principles, more notably those favoring environment and community. Limitations hindering the development of sustainable tourism in Chiang Mai were also discovered from additional sources.

The findings are useful to the governing bodies responsible for tourism, local and national organizations engaged in sustainable development/tourism, and operators themselves. In addition, tourists seeking sustainable tourism or those simply wanting to support sustainable operations in everyday life will find this investigation of importance.


Economics | Growth and Development | Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources and Conservation