Thailand is fortunate in its prime location for tourism in terms of such natural attractions as beaches and mountains, cultural and historical sites which reflect the glories of Thai civilization, and a sophisticated infrastructure, allowing visitors easy access to all these treasures.
The government's policy on tourism for the past years has been gearing towards more and more sustainable tourism development with emphasis on community participation, safety of tourists and non-exploitation. The term “eco-tourism” has been widely used to describe a form of tourism in natural areas that is based on the knowledge about and responsibility towards the ecological system of the area.
At present, the number of real eco-tourism visitors is still minimal. Mostly, those tourists are included in other types of tourism such as nature-based tourism, agro-tourism, cultural and historical tourism and health tourism. Most of such tourism areas are in natural parks and specific historical-cultural areas.
The national parks system in Thailand was previously cited its growing importance to the eco-tourism industry. With most parks easily accessible by road, there exists excellent potential to expand the number of visitors who use them.
In the case of the Maekong River, the nature-based tourism potential particularly applies to Northeast Thailand, an area that the TAT has identified as a priority for tourism development. The national parks in close proximity to the Mekong River include sites of prehistoric, archaeological and natural significance. As the Mekong region increases in its exposure and popularity, these parks will experience an increased number of visitors in search of quality eco-tours.
One marine eco-tourism, the last 30 years saw the country establishing 18 marine national parks as well as more than 70 terrestrial ones. Many of the activities available on and around Thailand's crystal seas are environmentally sound. Sea canoeing, windsurfing biking, walking, swimming, snorkeling and sailing are, when practiced as they should be, perfectly respectful of nature. Diving, the most popular water sport in Thailand, can be just as green.