Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Impacts of Tourism in Thailand
Urban and rural tourism in Thailand accounts for around 7% of the total GDP. There are various factors, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors which affect the tourism industry in Thailand. Also, the rural tourism in Thailand needs more work. This report has some strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of Thailand's tourism industry. In the end, recommendations are given on how to improve the tourism industry in Thailand.
Tourism in Thailand
Impact of Environmental, Economical, Social and Cultural Factors on Tourism in Thailand
Tourism is one of the world's fastest growing industries, and this industry has been identified as a means of generating national income (Pender, & Sharpley, 2005). Thailand, a beautiful country at the heart of Southeast Asia, has borders with different countries like Cambodia and Malaysia. Tourism industry contributes around 7% to the GDP. With cool and dry weathers both, Thailand is never without tourists. In this report, there is a brief introduction to the country and its tourism activities. After that, the various social, economical, and cultural effects of tourism in Thailand has been discussed, the positive as well as the negative points. Next, the strategy that could be used in order to minimize the negative impacts has been discussed. Also, the rural tourism has been discussed and the SWOT Analysis has also been done on Thailand tourism.
The Kingdom of Thailand is located at the heart of Southeast Asia, and when looking at its map, a rough shape of an elephant's head can be seen. The head and ears reveal a border to the north with Burma and Laos and to the east by Laos and Cambodia and the trunk extends between the South by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia and the west by the Andaman Sea, providing Thailand with beaches and islands along opposing shores. It's the 50th largest country in the world in terms of area, and its population is 67.8 billion and it is the 21st most populous country in the world. It has 76 provinces and its largest city is Bangkok which is also the center of all commercial and industrial activities (Vogt & Wittayakorn, 1998).
The economy is the second largest in Southeast Asia and relies on its tourism to provide only 7% of its GDP. The GDP of Thailand is around $263.9 billion and 3,940 per capital of U.S.$ and has a share of 0.77 to the world's total GDP (PPP). Their total exports amount to $178.4 billion and their total imports amounted to $179 billion according to the 2008 estimate (Schwab, 2010).
Tourism in Thailand:
The tourism in many countries has undergone a completer change. The industry is now more focused on needs and wants of the tourists. Many tourism policies have been implemented to attract more and more tourists every year in the country. The tourism in Thailand took large dips due to the SARS epidemic in 2002-03 and after the Tsunami at the end of 2004, when global recession hit the country at the end of 2008, and many political disturbances in 2009 and 2010. The worldwide recession reduced the desire to travel among many people and the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport on 26 November, 2008, due to the carrying out of demonstrations by anti-government protestors who stormed the building and left more than 3,000 passengers stranded also created a lag between the flow of passengers travelling to Thailand, which in turn created some serious political and country risks as well. One more event like this was a "red shirt mob" marching into the East Asia Summit in Pattaya on 11 April, 2009, which was followed by angry riots the next day. Then the swine flu cases in the months of March and April in 2009, created a health risk of H1N1 infection in the country which further made tourists flee the country (Schwab, 2010).
Even after all the above mentioned disturbances, the tourism travels were mildly disturbed and there was an important turn of +28% in the last quarter of 2009. The first quarter of 2010 passed well, but due to the demonstrations in April and May created some hurdles for the tourism industry in the second quarter. The arrival increased in the third and fourth quarter (Thaiwebsites, 2011).
The international visitors spent more than 547 billion baht, close to $16 billion, in Thailand and their average length of stay is around 9 days. Thailand's tourism doesn't just depend on foreign visitors coming to the country but also on the domestic tourists seeking the many sceneries and sites available in Thailand, though their trips are much shorter, and adds more revenue to the total GDP. According to 2008 data, around 53% of the tourists were from East Asia (Malaysia and Japan). Europeans provided 4 million in 2008, while 700,000 Australians visiting Thailand according to 2008 data (Thaiwebsites, 2011).
The different tourist destinations in Thailand include the islands of Phuket and Ko Samui. Phuket is the island located approximately 862 km south of Bangkok, with plenty of accommodation and facilities. Phuket is a peaceful island, with diverse ethnic groups, culture and architectural influence, and fine cuisine. Its' sea, sand, sky beach, forest and world renowned diving sites make it a very popular site for tourist attraction. It is divided into three administrative districts: Amphoe Muend, Amphoe Thaland and Amphoe Kathu and is the perfect destination if one wants to relax and enjoy. Ko Samui is the second most popular and third largest island in Thailand is located in the Gulf of Thailand and roughly 700km south of Bangkok. It has spectacular beaches, great dining and many activities and also many 5-star resorts. Thailand also has many other numerous historical attractions as well as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and spectacular forests, waterfalls, and beaches. Thailand uses many types of tourism such as Business Travel, Beach Tourism, Rural tourism, Nature Tourism and Cultural Tourism. Even large cities like Yangon and Mandalay have major attractions that reflect the cultural heritage of Thailand (Peleggi, 1996).
Impact of Environmental, Economical, Social and Cultural Factors of Tourism on Thailand:
It is no doubt that tourism can help the overall economy of the country as it brings foreign currency in the country, local businesses and tradesmen thrive on foreign tourist traffic, the agriculture industry is also transformed into a modern service industry. It also shows a positive image of the country. If a tourist will get positive response and good care from the citizens of the country, they will relate it to the people of their own country as well. That's what creates a positive image of the country. But tourism in Thailand has some economical, social, and cultural impacts as well (Elliot, 1983).
The quality of the environment, both natural and manmade, is essential to tourism. However the complexity of the tourists' relationship with the environment needs to be understood (Parnwell, Hitchcock, & King, 1993). When the level of visitors in the country increase more than its ability to cope or when the uncontrolled conventional tourism poses potential threats to many natural areas around the world, it puts a humongous pressure on the Ministry of the country in question. The loss of natural habitat due to the trekking and camping of various tourists, discharges into sea, noise pollution and over-usage of water resources in various hotels puts a strain on the already less resources (Tananone, 1991).
Usually the various resorts and hotels belong to investors in the city or even sometimes foreign investors, so the profit from tourism goes into their pockets and the rural communities do not get the revenues. For many years, the rural communities have not been benefiting from the trend in increased tourists. Also, the foreigners employ the local labor at very cheap rates so the employment opportunities are not good either (Chon, Singh, & Mikula, 1993).
Poorly planned tourism can have a huge effect on the country. The social impacts of tourism include: Change in the demographics, prostitution and economic disparity. The higher standard of living of people in urban tourist destinations has caused many rural natives to transfer to the urban areas, where they can earn a better living (Forsyth, 2002). Also, the prostitution in Thailand is illegal but still, there is big market for this. It has been existing sinxe the Ayuddya period (1350-1767). It's a part of Thai's society. Prostitution in Thailand has grown as an occupation. In fact the Thais actually depend on foreign tourists for revenues. In fact, 10% of tourist money is spent on sex. No other country has its tourist industry linked so much with the prostitutions than Thailand. This industry feeds on rural population, male entrepreneurship and overlapping governmental and economic interests to ensure its success.