Measures of Eco-Efficiency in Thailand’s Tourism Industry

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This is the paper I plan to present at the IFRD Conference o be held here in June.

Abstract

Eco-efficiency measures the degree to which an activity, usually a commercial activity, achieves its goals with respect to the negative environmental externalities it creates. This measure is usually operationalized as the equation involving energy input on the one hand and productivity output on the other hand. It is not surprising that this approach is commonly applied to the manufacturing industry and on specific facilities because in these cases it is comparatively easy to quantify both inputs and outputs. However, service industries are also very important in contemporary economies and this is particularly true for the tourism industry in Thailand. Tourism represents, in fact, one of the largest and most significant sectors in Thailand and has the capacity to grow much further in the future. Yet tourism is strongly associated with negative environmental impacts such as long-haul air flight, development of sensitive areas and importing of food and beverages over long distances, in addition to the disneyfication of local cultural products and social relations. It is important, therefore, to have some idea about how to measure the eco-efficiency of such an activity. This paper explores the various approaches to assessing the eco-efficiency of the Thai tourism industry and outlines the data available currently and that which should be collected in the future. A compound measure is proposed that takes account of currently available analysis and is able to be adapted to future changes in the environment and in the industry.

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