Koh Tao has been voted the number 8 best island in the world for 2013 by Tripadviser.com users in the Travelers Choice 2013 contest.. This is a great success for our island community, as we have always thought Koh Tao is one of the greatest places in the world to live and work. This rating will undoubtedly boost our local economy with more visitors to our island paradise, and also help improve travelers perceptions of Thailand’s holiday destinations. We are very proud to have this rating, and thankful to all the travelers who have voted for us, but what does a rating like this mean for the local environment of Koh Tao?
Being rated the 8th best island travel destination in the world will most likely increase the amount of visitors we receive each year, putting more stress on our already suffering infrastructure and ecosystems. In order to preserve our island’s culture and environment both the locals and the visitors need to take more time to consider the broader effects of their individual actions. Over the past several years we have seen a huge shift away from minimalist backpacker lifestyle to more affluent and resource intensive tourism on our island. It was expected that the ‘quality of the tourists’ would improve with better resorts. But how is ‘quality’ quantified by businesses? Most likely it is purely by the amount of money spent by a traveler during their stay. But, this ‘quality’ instead of ‘quantity’ which has been pushed in the tourism industry for the last decade is actually worse for our environment.
Take for instance room choice, minimalist visitors choose remote, private bungalows in a no-frill resort with a fan and 1-2 lights, usually with a cold shower. ‘Quality’ tourists tend to want air-conditioned rooms with hot water and a TV, located close to the resort restaurant and swimming pool. This means that from a business standpoint the ‘quality’ tourist spends more, and is thus better. But from an environmental standpoint the minimalist tourist uses about 80-90% less energy and water, and produces much less waste. Also take into account the activities the visitors will choice while here, minimalist tourists are happy lounging on the beach and hiking in the mountains, while high-end tourists insist on fishing trips, speedboat trips, and other more environmentally degrading activities.
So, please keep this in mind when you are traveling to Koh Tao, our little island is getting more popular all the time, and with that popularity it is getting harder and harder to preserve the environments we all depend on. Chose your activities wisely, and think about the impact every action you make has, please review this quick list before coming to our island:
- All rubbish and trash goes up to the mountain for dumping, make as little waste as possible
- Plastic bags, foam boxes, and other disposable items should always be avoided
- Water is life, don’t waste a drop
- Electricity is very limited, use only what you really need, waste nothing
- Don’t throw anything into the sea
- Vote with your wallet: only support responsible businesses
- Support local conservation efforts
- Go natural: spend you days in the sea instead of the swimming pool
- Participate in volunteer tourism and contribute to local social and environmental projects such as the Save Koh Tao Community Group, the animal clinic, or the New Heaven Reef Conservation Program.
Think before you act, many tourists assume they don’t have an impact because they are not here for very long, this could not be further from the truth, the visitors make the economy of the island, you have the power to direct what happens here.
Thank you for reading this, and we look forward to having you on our island. We hope that you will have the best experience of your life while on Koh Tao, and hope that you will also help us protect the island for the future.