Elephant tourism has long been associated with Thailand by travelers from around the globe and helps to attract millions of visitors to the country each year. However, there has been a growing trend away from traditional forms of elephant tourism (such as elephant riding and circus shows) towards ethical elephant tours offering programs that are sustainable and make the well-being of elephants a priority.
Ecotourism values promoting modes of travel with minimal impact on the environment are becoming more widespread, particularly among young people. A growing concern for the environment and for the welfare of animals is changing the landscape of tourism across many tourist destinations throughout the world – a positive change that presents significant opportunities.
A key goal of Elephant Travel Mart 2018 is to provide a venue to bring people together to discuss how the travel industry can continue to adapt to respond to this trend and better meet the shifting demands of travelers.
Lek Chailert suggests that, “If ethical tour operators using environmentally sound practices and tour agencies work together in response to the demand for sustainable ecotourism in Thailand, a mutually beneficial relationship can be achieved that will create widespread benefits for the elephants, the environment, small communities, and the Thai economy.”
The event will begin with a thank you address to the audience by Lek, followed by an opening ceremony, including a performance by the Chiang Mai College of Dramatic Arts. Elephant tour operators and travel agencies will then meet to discuss potential opportunities for working together.
At the event, there will be 30 booths representing the ‘Saddle Off’ projects promoted by Asian Elephant Projects. Each booth will provide details about their project and hand out brochures and souvenirs to visitors. There will also be lucky draw prizes offering free gift vouchers to visit the various ‘Saddle Off’ projects throughout Chiang Mai province.
In the evening, dinner will be served and entertainment provided by various Thai stars including Rose Sirinthip, Baitoey R-SIAM, King The Star, and Bow Benjasiri. The winners of the lucky prize draw will then be announced. The event will end with a closing address by Prof. Prayat Vorapreecha, Honorary Counselor of Save Elephant Foundation.
It is hoped that this event will provide an important opportunity to exchange and develop ideas as well as build relationships between members of the travel industry in order to take full advantage of the growing popularity of ecotourism.
“The success of this event holds the potential to positively impact the welfare of elephants in Thailand, protect and improve the environment, and provide support to local communities,” concludes Ms. Chailert AJW.