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Khok Salung Community-Based Tourism Village: Responsible Tourism from the Youth’s Perspectives

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Location: Khok Salung Village, Lopburi Province, Thailand


Highlight from the story:


Strengthening their community tourism is not just economic stability but also environmental, societal, and cultural assets with all stakeholders’ involvement.


Story:


After the community encountered three significant challenges from modernisation and industrialisation in the late 1990s, Prateep On-Salung and his fellow villagers started to realise that their ‘Thai Berng’ identity should be preserved or otherwise they would forever lose their heritage. As a result, Khok Salung Community-Based Tourism Village, located in Lopburi province, Thailand, was established in response to these challenges. Prateep often stresses that Khok Salung is not only a village that offers community-based tourism, but tourism is used as a tool to learn, preserve, and restore their beloved ‘Thai Berng’ cultural identity.


In Thailand, it is undeniable that many ethnic and cultural groups are slowly losing their own identities because of the national economic development. Migration from the countryside to the city has destroyed the sense of cultural belonging, particularly among the young generation, who find metropolitan with various opportunities rather than their hometown. ‘Thai Berng’ is one of the cultural groups facing the erosion of identity since the youth are migrating to the city to pursue their dreams. However, while economic capital has become a precious asset for the youth, three fresh university graduates, Mim, Mint, and Wan, decided to return to a place they call home at Khok Salung Community to bring out their cultural capital of where they belong.


Even though Mim, Mint, and Wan hold different educational backgrounds in Conservation Biology, Public Relations, and Business Computer, respectively, they have worked together as a ‘Thai Berng Rice Seed,’ meaning a rising new generation of the Thai Berng cultural group. It was not difficult for Mim to return home since her father, Prateep, has been a veteran contributor to the community-based tourism development. However, Mint and Wan found it difficult in the first place to convince their parents to return to the community instead of working in Bangkok. Wan’s family gave her a year to prove that working in community tourism was worth it, and finally, she did it. After a few years of their youth’s ‘Rice Seed’ group, they have used their knowledge and skills to raise funds and attract Thai and international tourists to drop by this community once affected by the dam construction.


In addition, Mim, Mint, and Wan have also been working with young schoolchildren and teachers in drafting a local curriculum and arranging several activities at schools and community learning centres to raise awareness of their cultural identity and empower youth’s participation in cultural preservation. Furthermore, they have also reached out to their youth fellows to resolve societal concerns, such as drugs or teenage pregnancy. This is because they found that strengthening their community tourism is not just economic stability but also environmental, societal, and cultural assets with all stakeholders’ involvement. Currently, Khok Salung is a village that offers the authentic experiences for tourists with activities, including learning to cook local dishes, create local toys, tailor local tote bags and clothes. Also, tourists will have a chance to stay like locals in homestay and make a morning merit at the Buddhist temple in the neighbourhood.



At the end of our conversations, Mim, Mint, and Wan present that tourism has made all villagers proud of being ‘Thai Berng,’ as everywhere we walk around the village, people wear traditional clothes, use local bags, and speak in their own dialect. More importantly, in order to sustain their community-based tourism, the registration of Khok Salung community-based tourism village as a social enterprise has been approved. Three of them have been appointed to members of the executive board and will be slowly transforming marketing and communication strategies to meet the current trend. Although they all emphasise that it is still a long journey to make their tourism activities a responsible and sustainable one, their contribution to the place their identity belongs will never be stopped.




Note: The informal interviews with Prateep, Mim, Mint, and Wan were conducted on 25 March 2023 at Khok Salung Community-Based Tourism Village’s learning centre with their informed consent.


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