Thailand: Alternative Tourism

Thailand banner - April 24 to My 6, 2018

The Program

Explore new trends in tourism, specifically focusing on voluntourism and ecotourism alongside other students, a UTM staff member and our partners from Operations Groundswell


  • Journey from the bustling capital to the cultural mecca of northern Thailand and through tiny hill tribe villages, examining a variety of diverse tourism initiatives, asking and attempting to answer the question: “how does this contribute to Thailand’s economic growth and what is its social impact?”;
  • Try incomparable pad thai and visit sacred spaces;
  • Get up close and personal to the endangered Asian elephant as we talk eco-tourism with the volunteers and staff at Elephant Nature Park.


  • Dates: Tuesday, April 24 to Sunday, May 6, 2018
  • Estimated Cost: TBD

Important Dates

Participants must be available on the dates specified below for the pre departure and post-departure sessions as a requirement of participation in this experience. Plus, participation in the pre departure sessions and reflection after the experience will get the experience recognized on the Co-Curricular Record!

Date Description
Monday, September 11 to Monday, October 2 Application Period
November - exact date to be determined Pre Departure Orientation: Creating Connections
March - exact date to be determined Pre Departure Session: A World of Opportunity
April - exact date to be determined Saturday approximately 9 am to 12 pm Pre Departure Session: Experiential Day
March and April - exact dates to be determined Safety Abroad Mandatory Session at UTM (students can also participate in sessions offered at St George) 
Tuesday, April 24 to Sunday, May 6, 2018 Travel Dates
May - exact date to be determined Saturday approximately 9 am to 12 pm Post Trip Session: The good, the bad and the travel bug


Our partners at Operations Groundswell will lead you through a truly immersive 15 day experience filled with planned daily excursions, educational programming and opportunities to interact with the local community.

Day 1-3

Location: Bangkok

Description: Our group will acclimatize to the sights, sounds, smells, and smiles of the region while getting a crash course in Thailand’s economic, social, and political context from the Tourism Authority of Thailand. After hearing a macro perspective, our group will meet with Sikha, an organization working in the Klong Toey slum, for an insightful discussion on how voluntourism affects their work with marginalized groups in the capital. Between the forgotten outskirts and the tourist mecca of Kao San Road, our team will gain a variety of perspectives in their first two days on the ground.

Days 3-4

Location: Chiang Mai

Description: Our group will head north to Chiang Mai, a ten hour trip that brings us to one of the most culturally significant cities in the country! We’ll talk shop with the staff at Elephant Nature Park, learning about one of the most successful rescue and conservation initiatives in Southeast Asia and why they work within a volunteer model. We will learn about the ethical implications of elephant trekking and eco-tourism and how they have dealt with the growing supply of international volunteers.

We’ll also spend our time in this cultural mecca visiting glittering spiritual sites, sitting down and talking with monks, learning about Theravada Buddhism, and of course, trying our hand at the art of Thai cooking!

Day 5-6

Location: Chiang Rai City

Description: Our group will then journey four hours north to the remote hills of northern Thailand. The city of Chiang Rai is known for its night bazaar and fantastic cuisine, but here also lies the basecamp of the Mirror Foundation. Mirror is one of the most reputable NGOs in Thailand, working with marginalized hill tribes to maintain their local traditions while transitioning to meet the challenges of modernity in future generations. We will have the opportunity to speak with the founders to uncover the challenges they have faced and get to know the communities they work with.

Day 6-12

Location: Chiang Rai

Description: Hiking through the surrounding slopes and valleys into tropical forests and past rice fields, our team will bask in a landscape of a million shades of green. Tucked away in remote villages, we will get a firsthand look at the Mirror Foundation’s projects while hearing the stories behind them from the volunteers and villagers they work with. We will have a chance to fully immerse ourselves in the cultures and customs of the hill tribe people through carefully planned homestays. The amenities will be basic, but will give us a real glimpse into the everyday life of a hill tribe village. Our work will depend on their needs at the time, but in the past we have assisted in a water tank project, rebuilt homes and other infrastructure, created community toilets, and worked on other initiatives that help to create a promising future for the next generation in these villages.

Day 13-14

Location: Bangkok

Description: Following our final night in Chiang Rai, we will conclude our adventure where it all started in Bangkok. Reflecting back on our incredible journey, we will discuss lessons learned and assess our impact.

Day 15

Location: Bangkok

Description: From there, we head directly to the international airport to catch flights home and say our fond farewells!

Applications for this experience will open on Monday, September 11, 2017. 

 "This trip made me never want to travel in the traditional touristy way again. My favourite part of the trip was the amazing bonds we made and the goofy memories we share. I didn't realize how much this trip would change the way I live my life."