Pattaya has a substantial stake in seeing the Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism (DASTA) promote its cause before the arrival of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. Pattaya has submitted a request for 16-billion baht related to DASTA; the bid is under review by the Thai government on the expectation that tourist numbers and revenues will triple in the next five years.
DASTA fears that small and medium sized enterprises could go out of business or be swallowed by bigger players. New tourism models will be put in place following the free market and communities will easily lose their unique identities, according to Nalikatibhag Sangsnit, DASTA director general.
The arrival of AEC will intensify competition in the tourism sector and Thailand will need to carve out a clear position and cease to be concerned only with increasing numbers. The country will compete with the other nine AEC countries, some of which are cheaper than Thailand and offer more varied attractions or pristine beaches.
DASTA believes that Thailand should stop being obsessed with overall visitor numbers and instead concentrate on getting these tourists to stay longer and spend more. The hidden cost of rising tourist numbers is environmental damage. Nalikatibhag believes that tourism money spent in the community should be used to build and strengthen local structures rather than being siphoned off to other areas.
The director general told a two-day conference that DASTA would work on several key areas to promote sustainability, in particular low-carbon tourism. He said that the tourism industry was partly to blame for climate change due to greenhouse-gas emissions. Operators must recognize this fact and create awareness programmes to go with their businesses, for example organizing cycling or mountain climbing and organizing garbage collection.