Thailand welcomes millions of tourists every day. They all get to enjoy the beautiful culture, food, landscape and friendly people. Every year almost 30 million tourists visit Thailand. Tourism has a great value in the total GDP of Thailand, it is 7 percent of the total GDP. Which is a huge amount. Tourism creates a lot of job opportunities for the Thai population and gives opportunity to invest. But tourism is not as good for Thailand as it seems, there are many hidden costs. Often the poorer countries are not able to benefit from tourism. Thailand gets harmed on different levels, economic, social and environmental. The tourists visiting Thailand should be aware of the fact that they are destroying Thailand, and what harm tourism does. Because when it is continuing this way, Thailand will soon change and not be the great tourist destination as it is now.
There are two issues which are actually in contrary with the only positive fact that occurs from tourism, the higher GDP of Thailand. First of all, there can be said that Thailand is very depended on the tourist industry. Therefore when something happens, like a natural disaster or a political issue which leads to strikes, all of a sudden a big part of the income of Thailand disappears. This can create major problems for Thailand.
Secondly, there is a leakage when it comes to the money that is earned on tourism. A study about the leakage in Thailand researched that 70% of all the money spent by the tourists ends up leaving the country. This money for instance goes to the foreign air companies, international hotel companies and other international companies. Since the headquarters are based in another country, the money earned goes to that country and not to Thailand. A lot of money also goes to the taxes, profits, and wages are paid outside the area and after imports are purchased. Because tourists require their own western standards, a lot of import of good is needed, this costs more money than it delivers. To illustrate the problem of the leakage, of every $100 spend by a tourist in the developing country, only $5 stays in the economy of that same country. The money earned on tourism does not benefit the local community of Thailand, only the big multi nationals.
Another economic issue occurring from the tourism in Thailand is the increase in prices. As explained by the UNEP; increasing demand for basic services and goods from tourists will often cause price hikes that negatively affect local residents whose income does not increase proportionately. Often the prices for the locals rise, while their salary does not. Life for the locals gets more expensive and not affordable.
Moving on to the social issues occurring due to tourism. There are two main problems which are caused by tourism. First of all the enormous sex tourism in Thailand. The sex tourism is huge in Thailand. Proximally 4% of the total population in Thailand is working in the prostitution. Which is a huge number is you compare it for instance to Holland, where prostitution is legal. There it is not even 1%. In Thailand is 40% of all the prostitutes are below 18 years, which is child prostitution. Many children are forced by their parents to work in the sex industry to help their families to survive. Most of the time the prostitutes work long hours, under bad circumstances and do not even get 50% of the money asked to the customers.
Due to the prostitution aids and HIV are widely spread in Thailand. In 2013 440.000 people were infected with HIV. And this number is only growing. Mostly male and transgender sex workers are at a high risk. But as well children, the minors are often not protected and not educated about HIV and aids. Also, with prostitution there comes a lot of violence. The violence happens against the sex workers by drunk customers but also from their so called pimps.
And lastly, it gives Thailand a bad name. A country does not want to be recognized by its prostitution, this attracts the wrong kind of tourists.
All this is the cause of tourism. Because there is so many demand for prostitution coming from western men, many Thai girls see this as the only opportunity to earn money. As long as the tourists create demand for prostitution, Thailand will always supply.
The second social problem happening due to tourism is the loss of the Thai culture. As mentioned before tourists require a certain life style. This lifestyle differs a lot from the Thai lifestyle. For instance the eating habits, living standards and religion. Because of those differences, adjustments are made in Thailand to meet up to the standards of the western tourists. Because of this there are many western restaurants, hotels and shops. The authentic restaurants, hotels and shops are disappearing, simply because the tourists want to maintain their own lifestyle.
The last level on which tourism has an effect on is the environment. First of all tourism causes pollution. There are different types of pollution going on in Thailand. The different types are; air, water and noise. Because of the use of taxi’s, Tuk Tuk’s and scooters by the tourists the air has seriously been polluted. It creates smog, which is very bad for the health of everyone. All those forms of transportation do not only cause smog, but also make a lot of noise. This causes some serious health problems as well for the local community, having to deal with noise every day. The last form of pollution, water pollution is caused by the many boats used by tourists to go from island to island, garbage which is thrown into the sea and coral which has been destroyed because of tourists not swimming and snorkeling carefully in the sea. Not only is the sea damaged by tourism, as well as the rest of nature. A lot of garbage is produced due to tourism. Garbage is laying everywhere on the streets. And all the resorts have a lot of food left, which is wasted. A lot of water is also used at the resorts and hotels. The water used is enormous. Due to all the swimming pools, toilets and showers.
Tourist are damaging the environment in Thailand heavily. They are destroying the beautiful nature of Thailand.
So, wake up!
Being aware of the problems caused by yourself (tourists) is one step. But now action must been taken! Every tourist, hotels, resorts and hostel must start with sustainable tourism. First of all, in Thailand they give you plastic bags with everything. Try to not just accept them but use your own bag. To avoid being a part of the plastic issue. Also try to take shorter showers. This will reduce the amount of water used. As well as unplugging your charger and turn of the lights when leaving your room. Another action which is good for the environment is to stop buying food or products from endangered animals like crocodiles or turtles. And when you want to buy a souvenir buy them at local shops to support the community. You also help the environment when taking the public transport instead of a taxi or tuktuk.
One of the best tips considering preventing cultural loss is doing research about the country where you go to. So you know their ways and values. Respect cultural differences and act modest towards their believes.
When booking a hotel or a tour you can also do research about those companies. Do they compost? Recycle? Have fair labour laws? Have an environmental policy?
All those actions are small adjustments to your holiday which really helps remaining Thailand as it is. So we can all enjoy it for as long as possible.