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Home Our Understanding of 'Ecotourism' On a typical 'Hilltribe Tour'

On a typical 'Hilltribe Tour'

On a typical 'Hilltribe Tour' tourists go to a village in large groups, arriving in minivans or buses. Some villages receive up to 15 tours of large groups of people each day during the high season. These groups stay in the village for about 20 minutes, walk around the village, peer into people’s houses, take photos and then leave. The guides of these tours are mostly lowland Thai people, who do not know the details of the different Hill Tribe cultures. Information and messages therefore given by these people are often incorrect, lacking in details or not up to date. Lack of ability to speak the varying Hill Tribe languages prevents effective communication between the guide/visitors and villagers, particularly village elders. Guides, who often get commission from goods sold at stalls at tourist centres, will discourage their clients from buying souvenirs in a Hill Tribe village. The average income per family from the sale of handicrafts is approximately 1780B (US$40) per year. They receive no other income such as entry fee or village donations from the tour groups which visit their village.

Trekking tours have a similar result. These tours, some purported to be ecotours, again use Thai guides. On the tours, the group will spend up to 4-5 hours walking in the forest. At each village stop, they will either stay in the school or in a particular villagers house. The Thai guides cook the food. There is no exchange between the villagers and the tourists and little opportunity to learn about the culture of the Hill Tribe. In many cases, these tourists are dressed inappropriately in sleeveless shirts and skimpy shorts. In return for accommodation and rice, the village is lucky to be paid 30B (US$0.75) per head.

Many people on these tours have good intentions, however they are often inappropriate. Boiled lollies are met with delight from the children. By throwing the lollies up into the air or onto the ground, children are encouraged to scrabble and fight over them. A repercussion of this is that the children eat increasing amounts of sugar, but are not taught correct dental care, resulting in bad tooth decay and other dental hygiene problems.

There is no exchange between the villagers and the tourists. The villagers rarely benefit from the visit. They often feel exploited and unhappy with this situation, but can see the potential of tourists visiting their village. This is where Natural Focus fits in.

To read about the effects of mass-tourism and globalization on the lives of Hill Tribe villages, click here.

Last Updated (Friday, 20 May 2011 23:33)

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