Monday, 18 August 2008


The tropical island paradise of Koh Samui (Samui Island) is widely noted for its natural charm. It is the kingdom’s third largest island, and ranks among Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations. In 2007, the award-winning island welcomed 1,059,642 visitors — an increase of 2.82 per cent over the previous year.

With ever-growing pressures on its natural resources, the islanders, especially tourism industry stakeholders, have taken a pro-active stance and are leading the charge to restore environmental quality.

Spearheaded by the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, the Thai Hotels Association Southeastern Chapter and Samui Spa Association, with the full support of provincial authorities, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the “Green Island Project – Koh Samui” was officially launched on June 18, 2007. This three-phase conservation initiative aims to protect and preserve the environment in order to ensure long-term sustainability.

Described by its founding members as “an umbrella organization to network and encourage an environmentally aware mindset on Koh Samui,” project implementation will span a period of ten years. Projects in the initial phase are due for completion within three years.

When the Samui-based associations learnt about TAT’s “Seven Greens” environmental conservation pledge — one of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives being launched by the national tourism organization in 2009, they expressed keen interest. Representatives from the local trade associations advised TAT of plans to make Koh Samui, a ‘green island’ and indicated that supporters of the “Green Island Project” were planning to formally pledge support for the pilot project. Both parties were eager to explore possible synergy.

Members explained their rationale for pursuing the project in a founding statement: “We understand that we as humans affect the environment, but we believe this does not have to be destructive. It can be done in a balanced way, to preserve and even enhance the natural world around us.

“We encourage everyone to participate - individuals, businesses, local organizations, government, The Tourism Authority of Thailand, NGOs and even tourists to create awareness and work together, without judgment or prejudice. We encourage everyone on the island to make a contribution to reduce, recycle, re-use and become more aware of what a green jewel Samui still is.”

The founding members seek the active involvement and participation of all tourism stakeholders and volunteers in efforts to restore, rehabilitate, protect and preserve the natural environment, the cultural landscape, traditions and way of life. This includes state agencies, tourism operators, local communities, media representatives as well as visitors/tourists.

Each will play a designated role.
State Agencies: to establish the direction for development and to promote tourism by taking into consideration available resources and refraining from development beyond capacity
Tourism Operators: to strive to achieve sustainable tourism by adopting an environmentally-friendly mindset, by initiating behavioural change, and by refraining from undertaking activities that upset the ecological balance or disrupt ecosystems
Public Service Organizations: to oversee the implementation of various projects by conducting audits, securing funds, and creating mechanisms to support the achievement of environmental goals
Communities: to promote the harmonious integration of local folk wisdom with new technology in order to address environmental issues and preserve the island’s cultural heritage
Media Representatives: to extend support for the project by raising environmental awareness and to complement related efforts
Tourists: to opt for environmentally-friendly products, services and activities and demonstrate an awareness and true appreciation for the cultural aspects of their stays, and to help contribute to the quality of life in local communities

Prior to the official launch, Executive Director of the TAT Product Promotion Department, Ms Sasi-Apha Sukontarat, participated in the “Greening Koh Samui for Sustainable Tourism” conference — a consultative meeting and working session jointly hosted by the provincial authorities and trade associations.

The island community recognizes that in order to succeed in its endeavours, it needs to actively pursue sustainable tourism development.

“Expressed in the simplest terms, sustainable tourism development means making Samui Island a much nicer place for local residents. By doing so, the island naturally becomes a more attractive and appealing destination for tourists and visitors. This in turn generates socio-economic and other benefits for the local community. Furthermore, these benefits will be passed on to future generations,” Executive Director Sasi-Apha explains.

The priority is to focus on the key elements that are critical factors when it comes to marketing and promoting a destination — to ensure cleanliness and good hygiene; safety; customer satisfaction; and success in attracting repeat visitors.

The ‘Green Island Project — Koh Samui’ master plan will be an integrated plan incorporating joint state and private sector plans as well as the guidelines outlined in TAT’s Seven Greens corporate social responsibility project. Once drafted, the master plan will serve as a guideline for the conduct of activities by all parties involved.

To demonstrate unwavering commitment to the shared goals, on 18 June, the day of the official launch, H.E. Mr Weerasak Kowsurat, Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports, and Mrs Phornsiri Manoharn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, joined the founding members and project supporters as they pledged their support for the Green Island Project by signing a declaration.

This intent is reflected in a formal pledge. Individuals and organizations participating in the Green Island Project commit to the following guidelines.

Recognize that all tourism activities affect the environment.
Acknowledge that the tourism industry needs to assume responsibility for the protection and preservation of the environment.
Assuming this responsibility means that whenever tourism-related and other activities are being undertaken, they are conducted with the greatest care to ensure minimal impact on the environment.
Achieve a harmonious balance between tourism and conservation. Both can go hand-in-hand.
Recognize that nature has its limits. Development must be kept within limits and should not exceed the natural threshold or carrying capacity.
Promote a better understanding of the delicate balance between tourism and the environment.
Take into proper consideration quality of life, culture, traditions and folk wisdom.

The Green Island Project will span a ten-year period (2008-2017) and is divided into three key phases: the initial phase, the monitoring phase and the control and development phase. Three key activities will be conducted in each phase namely setting goals and objectives, results monitoring and project evaluation.

The short-term plan consists of projects to be completed within a period of three years, the mid-term plan — projects to be completed within five years, and the long-term plan — projects to be completed over 10 years.

Objectives in the initial three-year phase:

To develop increased awareness and promote a better understanding that environmental conservation can be undertaken hand-in-hand with tourism development
To build a cooperative network of various tourism stakeholders and foster close cooperation in undertaking environmental conservation efforts along with initiatives to reduce elements that contribute to global warming which in turn affect tourism and the quality of life
To draft an implementation plan for sustainable tourism. Once drafted, this master plan will serve as a guideline for the conduct of activities by all parties involved.
To decide on an appropriate product positioning and brand image for Koh Samui and jointly pledge commitment to the implementation of The Green Island Project
To launch a full scale destination marketing/tourism promotion campaign featuring the “True Green Koh Samui” theme


January - April

Meeting to set direction and policies on ways to restore and maintain environmental quality over a period of 10 years

April - May

Select and assign projects to volunteer organizations

May - July

Commence implementation of various projects according to set goals and steps


First project evaluation

September – October

Analysis of issues, problems and obstacles arising and identification of a new course of action for further development. This will be undertaken in consultation with national agencies.


Second project evaluation
Draw conclusions
Continue with project implementation


Participating organizations renew their pledge to ensure project success as a tribute presented in honour of His Majesty the King of Thailand

With the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MOTS) in 2002, the new scope of work for Thailand’s national tourism organization now focuses exclusively on marketing and promoting destinations around Thailand and the promotion of the multi-billion baht Thai tourism industry, domestically and worldwide. This is achieved through the conduct of destination marketing campaigns, advertising and public relations, marketing and sales promotions, and participation in international travel trade shows.

In participating in the Green Island Project — Koh Samui, TAT is extending support in line with its marketing and PR mandate.

The MOTS’ Office of Tourism Development assumes duties and responsibilities related to the development of service standard for tourist attractions or sites and tourism products and services offered by the Thai tourism industry. This includes the support of standards for tour businesses and tour guides, in order to achieve sustainable tourism development and generate economic, social and cultural benefits for local communities and the country as a whole.

The Green Island Project – Koh Samui
Web site:

Related article:
The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s “Seven Greens” concept