Chiang Mai to Host UNWTO Green Tourism Meeting in May 2012

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Chiang Mai, 30  March 2012:  The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has chosen Chiang Mai as the host of a Regional Conference on Green Tourism on 3 May 2012, which is being billed as a “warm-up” event in preparation for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June.

Delegates attending the conference will also get their first opportunity to visit one of His Majesty the King’s Royal Projects, the uai HongH Khrai Royal Development Study Centre.

The seniority of participation will be further strengthened by two meetings that will be held immediately after the conference on 4-5 May: the 24th Joint Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific and the UNWTO Commission for South Asia.

At this joint commission meeting, one of the most important events in the UNWTO Asia Pacific calendar for 2012, the UNWTO will present the analysis of its long-term forecast for international tourism, i.e. Tourism Towards 2030. Special emphasis will be placed on the latest findings in the Asia-Pacific region.

In his letter of invitation to UNWTO members in the Asia-Pacific, UNWTO Secretary-General Dr Taleb Rifai said, “The theme of our conference for this year has been selected to reflect contemporary issues of global as well as regional interests.

“The steady growth of travel and tourism is set to continue as our 2020 forecast has proved year after year. With the 980 million record of 2011, international tourist arrivals are sure to cross the 1 billion threshold by the end of this year.”

Dr Rifai said that the development and rapid growth of both international and domestic travel and tourism come with some significant challenges. Energy-intensive transportation is increasing the non-renewable energy dependence of tourism and is contributing 5% of global greenhouse emissions. Nevertheless, he added, “It is noteworthy that if tourism adds to environmentally-related problems, it can, fortunately, also make a significant contribution to the solution.

“This can be achieved through the greening of tourism as it involves efficiency improvements in energy, water and waste. But there is more to green tourism than just the reduction of the cost of energy and waste management, and this is the bedrock on which the theme of our conference rests.”

Dr Rifai said the conference has been structured to provide ample opportunity for discussions designed “to provide insights into why we see green tourism as the way to go if we are to contain the climate change threat and protect our environment from unsustainable practices.”

He added, “The conference on green tourism will be akin to a warming-up exercise and an opportunity for us to advance the green economy agenda as the world prepares for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro next June.”

TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni said he was very encouraged by the choice of Chiang Mai as the meeting venue. “One of the most important aspects of this meeting will be the opportunity for the delegates to visit the Huai Hong Khrai Royal Development Study Centre so that they can better understand the extensive contribution of His Majesty the King to the cause of sustainability.”

He said it also fits in perfectly with the national tourism strategy to promote provincial destinations and create more jobs and income in the provinces.

Chiang Mai is the economic, communications, cultural and tourism centre of Northern Thailand. In recent years, it has undergone considerable economic development but still retains its historic heritage.

It is also becoming increasingly well-known as a centre of traditional Thai massage, meditation, spas, health and wellness. The accommodation sector is vastly improved, with new properties ranging from specialist boutique hotels to health and wellness retreats to deluxe resorts.

As of the March – October 2012 winter season aviation timetable, Chiang Mai is served by twelve airlines, including Thai Airways International, Silk Air, Orient Thai Airlines, Korean Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Nok Air, Thai Air Asia, Lao Airlines, Business Air, Kan Air, China Eastern Airlines and Air Bagan.

According to the Airports of Thailand, during January – February 2012, international passengers disembarking at Chiang Mai International Airport totalled 50,494, up 47.65% over the same period of 2011.