Thailand ecotourism standards: dissonance between tourism operators and government agencies in Chiang Mai

N. Phormupatham, Angela Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2004, the Department of Tourism launched the Thailand Tourism Standards (TTS) in order to improve the tourism product in Thailand. Nine of the standards are directly related to ecotourism activities. Chiang Mai is the main tourist destination in northern Thailand and is considered to be the economic and cultural center of the region. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is the government body for promoting tourism and more specifi cally ecotourism in the Chiang Mai region. Both of these government agencies are represented in Chiang Mai. Currently, the quality of ecotourism products and services in the region are inconsistent and therefore, ecotourism development in Chiang Mai needs to move beyond conceptualization to be fully implemented as a high quality product; the TTS are seen as the vehicle for improvement. Delivering this agenda has many challenges for both local ecotourism organizations and government agencies; consequently, the aim of this research is to discuss the dissonance between ecotourism companies and government agencies in respect of ecotourism standards in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This research takes a qualitative case study approach. The methods used were documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews with local government agencies and ecotourism tour operators. Initial analysis suggests: there is a lack of consensus among industry participants concerning the defi nition and scope of ecotourism; government’s role in ecotourism development is unclear; there are diffi culties of demonstrating the effectiveness of ecotourism standards as being cost effective and improving performance between certifi ed and uncertifi ed companies. Moreover, the majority tourism operators are currently choosing to remain uncertifi ed; SME’s indicate that achieving ecotourism TTS is time consuming, confusing and onerous to comply with. Despite this, many of the ecotourism companies have an awareness of environmental conservation and ensuring local community benefi ts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-200
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Asian Tourism Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Sustainable development
  • Ecotourism standards


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