© 2016 Stephanie Prufer

Tourism on Koh Tao

This weekend, Carmen, Anita and I went to Koh Tao – turtle island. It was absolutely gorgeous: there were beautiful views, the water was crystal clear and skies were a vibrant blue. However, while we were there, I noticed how the tourism industry is run in Thailand. Previously in the week, Carmen, Anita, Kayla and I had prepared a presentation for the GVI volunteers and staff members on the eco-impacts of tourism in Thailand. One of the topics we discussed in the presentation was how lot of the money that is made from tourism doesn’t stay in Thailand because a lot of the tourist companies are owned by foreigners. This was really apparent in Koh Tao. Every add that I saw for a snorkel or dive company stated that the company was reliable because it was owned by foreigners and operated within “western standards.” It is upsetting that foreigners wouldn’t think of going there if it wasn’t owned by westerners, as if that gave the company an extra-boost of reliability. Most of the restaurants and hotels also seemed to be owned by westerners. The only Thais I saw on the island were behind the scenes workers, who worked for the benefit of the westerners such as on the tour boats and as staff members at hotels.

IMG_9856I was also surprised by the amount of trash on the beach – a product of mindless tourism. It’s contradictory that even though a lot of the tourists on Koh Tao come for diving, there is still litter on the beach. One would assume that if a tourist is coming for diving, he/she is more inclined to protect the natural beauty of the ocean. It’s the concept of traveling to a foreign place which makes tourists more likely to be less responsible and mindful than they would normally be. It’s the lack of consciousness of the pressures that tourism puts on countries that have a large amount of natural beauty, like Thailand.

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