Phatthalung residents are embracing the results of several studies as they offer “creative tourism” packages to lure visitors into spending more time in the southern province.
Under this package, visitors can learn local wisdom, see how locals lead their lives and participate in centuries-old activities in this under-explored landlocked area of Thailand.
In designing unique experiences for tourists, the locals were able to draw on research into creative tourism and eco-tourism conducted by a group of Thaksin University lecturers. The researchers examined the potential and guidelines for creative tourism, as well as the behaviour of tourists and their preferences, and were able to pinpoint the services that can help attract and meet the needs of new travellers.
Under the Thailand Research Fund, researchers spent time looking for what exactly will help connect tourists and local communities, and used this to help Phatthalung emerge as a tourist destination.
Phatthalung has long been a “stopover” – where people stopped by for lunch or to pick up a souvenir – before moving on to other traditional tourist destinations, Jiraporn Kongrode explained. She also shared her findings into the needs and behaviour of tourists towards creative tourism in the basin of Klong Pa Phayom-Klong Tha Nae.
“But to promote creative tourism, they will have to go further than they usually do – to see, buy, learn and test [by doing activities],” the university lecturer said.
Tourists will spend more time at a destination if locals can give them something to do, such as learning about village life and participating in local activities. This, in turn, will be good for the local economy, Jiraporn said, adding that the villagers were very interested in the studies because they will help boost their income.
Among the advice the researchers shared with the locals was to design one- or two-day packages that highlight the area’s scenery, gives tourists an opportunity to learn about local traditions and lifestyles, as well as offers them a chance to participate in traditional activities.
The trip created by the villagers includes seeing the first light of day at Klong Pak Pra, Thale Noi, in Khuan Khanun district. This area boasts the last large swamp forest in the province.
Starting just before dawn, tourists can see the sun rise over the horizon before taking a boat down the canal to enjoy traditional fishing with the use of “Yor Yak” or giant fishing nets.
Tourists also get to see lumphu or mangrove apple trees, as well as catch sight of water buffaloes as they wade through the wetlands, waterbirds and lotus blooms.
After the trip down the canal, the tourists will then be taken to a sago palm forest, and taught how to extract sago to make a starchy traditional dessert. They will also learn how to use the palm leaves to make a mat or roof.
During lunchtime, tourists will learn how to make local delicacies before sharing a meal with the villagers.
Visitors will also get to learn how farmers plant and harvest rice from Na Le or semi-flooded rice fields on the upper rim of Songkhla Lake. Seeing Na Le is a rare treat in Pak Pra, as it is one of the renowned and iconic tourist attractions of Songkhla Lake.
The group can then end the day by enjoying the sunset at Thung Chai Rong, a 2000-rai paddy field.