Pha Mon village is an ethnic Karen community of 580 inhabitants in Doi Inthanon National Park, about 90km from Chiang Mai city. Exploring the opportunity to develop sustainable tourism, in 2005 the community was assisted by the Thailand Research Fund Regional Office to research aspects of their community, including local culture, livelihoods and indigenous knowledge about sustainable forest management.
They used the resulting body of knowledge to develop CBT programmes and to propose a blueprint for a CBT management model appropriate for their culture and location within the National Park. The results of their year of community-based research (CBR) were presented in the village to the Thailand Research Fund, Doi Inthanon National Park, and regional officials.
Thailande Autrement, a French tour operator founded in 2005, learned of Pha Mon village, and that the community were interested to find a tour operator partner committed to community benefits and reducing negative impacts.
Manager, Mr. Ben Lefetey was invited by the community to discuss partnership and product development. The company proposed small groups of tourists visiting the community for two to three nights, in a purpose-built lodge. To retain autonomy, the village insisted that it be responsible for building the lodge and own it, with the company financing the fittings and furniture to ensure the standards needed by their clients. Thailande Autrement provided an interest-free loan of 26,000THB (about US$850) to the community (now completely repaid) to purchase building materials. The company also provided guide and guesthouse management training for all the staff. Thailande Autrement focused marketing the CBT program to French families, seeking a comfortable but deep cultural insight. In February 2006, the community welcomed their first clients to the “Bamboo Pink House”.
This partnership has been particularly successful due to the well-matched expectations of the stakeholders, and regular meetings and communication. In addition, the community had a solid foundation of planning and preparation before tourism activities began, and was clear about its goals for tourism and the impacts it wanted to provide. This was a major value added by involvement of the Thailand Research Fund and the ‘community-based research’ process. Interestingly, though the community and Thailande Autrement signed an agreement for building the lodge, no additional contract was signed formally establishing price arrangements and payment schedules.
In 2010, Pha Mon village received 235 visitors, netting the community about US$14,600 directly through food purchases, salaries, transportation and contributions to the village fund. Of this, the majority was spent on accommodation and food (29% and 25%) respectively, followed by salaries and local guides/bicycles/music performances. It is estimated that of all the income coming in through tourism, 66% stays directly in the community, particularly through employment, accommodation and the village fee. This does not include donations made by visitors, which amounted to an additional US$ 950 in 2010, as well as spending by the tourists in the grocery shops in the village, buying weaving products directly from women, and tips.
Contributions to the CBT Community Fund (0ver US$1500 in 2009) have paid for youth environmental activities, garbage clean ups, scholarships for local students and assistance for a local handicapped man. Funds were managed and distributed by the community themselves. The results of their work were reported to Thailande Autrement to add value to future tours. The process of researching, planning and managing CBT in partnership with a committed responsible tourism operator, including solving problems along the way, has educated, empowered and built the capacity of local villagers, allowing them to confidently and profitably share their inspiring life and culture with guests.
Total income to the community from tourism since the start of the CBT project
Working with Thailande Autrement started tourism in Pha Mon. However, the community members now also welcome other groups of cultural tourists, students, and study tours. Annual total income oer year since the start of the project was:
2006/07 = 934 640 THB (over $31,000 USD)
2008 = 641 940 THB (over $21,000 USD)
2009 = 652 500 THB (over $21,000 USD)
2010 = 667 800 THB (over $22,000 USD)
TOTAL = 2 896 880 THB (over $96,000 USD) since the start of tourism (Feb 06).