Zip-lining is very popular among foreign adventure seeking tourists but in the recent past has been marred by a number of accidents.
Operators in Chiang Mai have thus adopted new procedures to raise safety standards on their own initiative while the Ministry of Tourism and Sports is preparing a draft to introduce new laws to regulate the service.
One of the improved safety measures is the preparatory practice to check the equipment prior to allowing tourists to use them.
This practice is part of the international zip-line standard which the Chiang Mai Zip-Line Club has recently adopted.
These standards have been adopted by all operators in Chiang Mai and are also an effective tool for screening visitors as well.
The new protocols have just been adopted after a series of accidents that have resulted in a number of injuries as well as deaths.
One operator showed the brake system which was improved.
The brake is part of the equipment that has been specified by international zip-lining standards and adopted by operators here in the country.
It provides the direct ability to decelerate and dramatically increases safety levels.
Besides, the new standards make specific requirements on equipment readiness as well as higher levels of operating practices.
The number of slings being used has now been increased as added safety fallback and large tree trunks have been covered in impact absorbent cushions. The degree of incline has now been adjusted and higher operating protocols for all staff have been put in place as well.
Last but not least, the actual number of visitors allowed on a sling at anytime has been reduced and a strict check screening them is now deemed a necessity before they are allowed on the slings.
A Chiang Mai zip-line operator Songsai Mangklad said he has now specified that users must be at least 5 years old.
But he said more importantly can the child’s head fit comfortably into the safety helmets.
A snug fit is important and if they cannot meet this physical requirement then they will not be allowed on the slings even though they passed the age requirement.
“The oldest age we deem as safe is 60 years but we must also ascertain if they are suffering from any life threatening illnesses. Only the healthy ones will be allowed on the slings,” he said.
Meanwhile Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association president Pornchai Jitnawasathien said “If we determine that the operator is at fault be it from defective equipment or negligent staff, we will take immediate legal action. This can be either a 15 day up to 30 day suspension or in the severest situation they may be forced to close permanently.”
Zip-line is becoming ever more popular among adventure tourists and every year there are no less than 300,000 visitors regularly using the 16 facilities spread out throughout Chiang Mai province.
More than half of these are Chinese tourists and although they are aware of the risks of accidents, Chinese tourists are still enthusiastic about the activity.
Most stated that they were confident in the increased safety standards now being put in practice.
The new safety standards that zip-line operators have adopted on their own initiative began to be widely used at the beginning of the year.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sport is drafting a new set of regulations to regulate the activity so as to provide a degree of confidence and safety for all users be they foreign tourists or locals.
In the long-run this will help to make zip-lining in Thailand a very safe activity. This will greatly support the country as a leading destination in the ever booming adventure tourism market, he said.