In recent years, a significant shift has been underway in Asia’s tourism industry. Beyond the bustling cities and ancient temples, a new movement is emerging — one that emphasizes sustainability, community engagement, and environmental conservation. As travelers become increasingly conscious of their ecological footprint, countries across Asia are stepping up to lead the charge in sustainable tourism practices. This is the first of a two-part series where we explore how Asia is embracing this green revolution through real-world examples.
Thailand’s Eco-Resorts: Balancing Luxury and Sustainability
Thailand, known for its picturesque beaches and lush jungles, has been at the forefront of sustainable tourism. The country’s eco-resorts are setting a shining example. Take Six Senses Yao Noi, located in Phang Nga Bay. This luxury resort combines opulence with environmental responsibility. It utilizes renewable energy sources, minimizes waste through recycling and composting, and supports the local community by sourcing food locally. Visitors at Yao Noi can enjoy stunning views while treading lightly on the planet.
- In 2022, Thailand was ranked as the most sustainable tourist destination in Southeast Asia by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
- The country is home to over 100 GSTC-certified hotels and resorts, including Six Senses Yao Noi.
- Six Senses Yao Noi has won numerous awards for its sustainability practices, including the GSTC Sustainable Tourism Award for Best Hotel in Asia in 2021.
India’s Wildlife Conservation Efforts
India’s rich biodiversity and vibrant wildlife have long been a draw for travelers. Today, the country is working diligently to protect its natural heritage through various conservation programs. In Kaziranga National Park, Assam, where the endangered one-horned rhinoceros roams, eco-tourism initiatives support conservation efforts. Sustainable practices, such as responsible wildlife viewing and community involvement, are helping preserve these majestic creatures.
- India is home to 12% of the world’s biodiversity, including over 700 species of mammals and 1,300 species of birds.
- The country has a network of over 500 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, including Kaziranga National Park.
- Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, with over 2,600 individuals.
- In recent years, India has made significant progress in conserving its wildlife, including through eco-tourism initiatives. For example, in 2019, the number of tiger sightings in Kaziranga National Park increased by 14%.
Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index
Bhutan, the land of happiness, is renowned for its unique approach to measuring national prosperity — the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. This philosophy extends to tourism. Bhutan restricts the number of tourists and charges a daily fee that covers accommodations, meals, and sustainable tourism initiatives. This model ensures that travelers contribute positively to the country’s economy while minimizing environmental impact.
- Bhutan is the only country in the world that measures its national prosperity using the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, which takes into account factors such as environmental well-being, cultural preservation, and social equity.
- Tourism in Bhutan is strictly regulated, with a daily fee of US$250 per person that covers accommodations, meals, and sustainable tourism initiatives.
- In 2022, Bhutan received over 37,000 international tourists, generating over US$90 million in revenue for the country.
Sustainable tourism is not just a buzzword in Asia; it’s a movement that is shaping the future of travel. As travelers become more conscientious about their choices, the tourism industry in Asia is responding with innovative solutions that protect the planet and empower local communities. As we journey into the future, one thing is clear: the path to greener, more responsible tourism is paved with the promise of a brighter and more sustainable tomorrow.