¶ … Tourist Behavior Toward Nature-Based Tourism Activities
For most of the developing countries tourism industry is playing a very important role in boosting their economies. In 2004, it was found out that Asia Pacific was one of the fastest growing tourism regions (Cruey, 2005). According to WTO, up to 3% of world's tourism market is made up of Thailand, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. It was in 1970's that the development of Thai international tourism started (Mcdowall and Wang, 2007). Tourism industry accounts for 5.1% of Thailand's National Gross Domestic Product (Tourism Authority of Thailand, 2009). For the purpose of providing a proper development direction, the National Economics and Social Development Plan (NESDP) served as a guide (Mcdowall and Wang, 2007). The result of the survey which was conducted by the Universities of USA and Thailand, showed that Thailand stood on the first place as best hospital city for all the visitors. Not only this, it is also ranked as the first country with greatest value for money; in terms of shopping. Moreover, Thailand is also ranked on the first position as the tourism capital of Asia, with 34%. China and Japan, with 17% and 13% stood at the second and the third position, respectively, in this category (as cited in Chaiboonsri and Chaitipa, 2008). This survey was conducted in 30 countries, where 121 people were questioned through e-questionnaires. Thailand is considered as a safe destination for the visitors. It has many other features like, scenic beauty, nice hotels, healthy cuisines, adventure activities and most importantly good shopping facilities. These features according to Rittichainuwat et al. (2006), attract most of the tourists. Ryan, Qu and Tavitiyaman (2007) found out that Thailand's image as tourist spot is still positive and is in competition with other countries. Visitors still have a strong liking for Thailand because of its hospitality, its unique culture, its restaurants, hotels and services (Chaiboonsri and Chaitipa, 2008).
The government of Thai took many initiatives in order to promote the tourism industry of Thailand. Government launched a project for the year of 1998 and 1999 with the name of "Amazing Thailand." For 2003 and 2004, a project by the name of "Unseen in Thailand" was introduced. "Thailand Happiness on Earth" and "Unforgettable Thailand" was the two projects which were launched in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Tourism industry needs to continue its development to enable Thailand reach its peak. Major focus is to be laid on the tourist destinations of Thailand so that a greater number of visitors are attracted (Yau and Chan (1990), Rittichainuwat et al. (2008), Tavitiyaman, Qu and Ryan (2007)). According to the design of the research the tourist target places must include three parts; which are; tourism product itself, its attribute and its management. If continuous development of these three parts take place and that also as per the demand of the tourists then it would be highly likely that the tourists would not only be attracted towards the place once but would be more than willing to revisit the place (Yau and Chan (1990), Rittichainuwat et al. (2008), Tavitiyaman, Qu and Ryan (2007), Mcdowall and Wang, 2007)). This study thus focuses on an outlook analysis of domestic tourist behavior toward nature-based tourism activities.
Nature-based tourism, adventure travel and ecotourism are the names given to the travelling which takes place to those areas which conserve the environment. This article would be making use of the term nature-based tourism to define the travel or to refer the activities of the residents and the visitors who make use of resources sustainably (Rennicks, 1997).
Under nature-based tourism (and also ecotourism), parks play a very important role. Whatever earning is made through these parks is first taken up by the governing agencies and very less amount reaches the protected area in the end. The tourist's revisits and the quality of the service tend to suffer when the rate of return from the total collected income is less. Most of the governments take ecotourism as vital...
But sadly, these governments spend less on infrastructure and on training of their personnel and even on other essential resources of the tourism industry. Less expenditure in these essential areas leads to ruining of the protected areas (Costencu, 2008).
No proper figures have been disclosed by the national agencies about ecotourism, therefore we cannot exactly quote the impact of this tourism on the country's economy. Many studies are found with regards to ecotourism, and most of the studies are on the basis of the data which is collected from individual parks (Costencu, 2008).
Through the comparative data which was obtained from Canada and USA, we get to know that parks are playing a very important role in terms of economy. Despite of the benefits and the impressive figures that the parks were generating for the countries, the governments of these countries were reluctant to invest more in the functioning of the parks. Figures showed that increased attention towards the parks may bring an increase in the amount of income. The research work which took place in USA, Canada and Australia also demonstrated the importance of parks on the borders. This fact cannot be denied that proper and complete information with regards to the parks is not available. A continuous flow of information is required to get a complete know-how about the economic impact that similar functions in Thailand would result in. It is recommended to carry out work on it at least once a year. If trimestrial studies are performed then that would become more profitable, but if Thai government bodies and agents are not in favor of trimestrial studies then they should go for the other option (Costencu, 2008).
When the term nature-based tourism was initiated, the travelers were not responsible at all rather they used to disturb the lives of the civilians and even damaged the resources. In 1970's, Stanley Selengut, a New York-based developer took some initiative and started building Harmony. It was a resort on St. John's Island which looked into the matters of environmental sensitivity, responsive usage of resources and human comfort. According to Selengut, the target of harmony is to reveal that a balance of ecotourism can be maintained between culture and nature, in fact if efforts are made then enhancement could also take place (Rennicks, 1997).
Nature-based tourism is attracting the mass tourists, who build in themselves the experience of nature as a secondary activity during their vacations. On the other hand there are ecotourism specialists who are attracted towards nature for their research activities. A number of natural resources are seen in South Carolina. Quite a many nature based activities can also take place in this region, like; hiking on mountains, watching birds on rice fields, paddling in white water, fishing etc. (Rennicks, 1997). Though the actions change considerably, a sustainable tourism sector based on nature demands the approval and exercise of various main philosophies:
Offering an experience of partaking and information gathering;
Preserving the natural reserve base;
Fostering thoughtfulness and collaboration amongst various players;
Informing everyone like industry, governmental groups, visitors and communities; and Promoting ethical and moral duties and attitude in the direction of cultural and natural atmosphere (Rennicks, 1997)
Rennicks (1997) is of the opinion that nature-based tourism is a rapidly advancing sector. As per American Traveller Survey carried out in 1995-96 by Plog Research Inc., there was observed a sudden rise in the nature-based tourism. This increase was considerable when compared with the previous data as it was 7.5% of the travelling people in 1994 while in 1995, it rose to 13.5%. This phenomenal increase in nature-based tourism can be accredited to the progress in the field of speciality travel and the rising consciousness about the environment. The Bureau of Economic & Business Research at the University of Utah carried out a survey, according to which 78% of the American population regard themselves as ecologists. It is not a surprising fact that most of these people enthusiastically take part in the nature-based actions for vacation and leisure. In reality, the survey named American Traveller Survey conducted in 1995-96 shows that more than 34 million Americans made plans about going and some of them did g o to a nature-based vacation trip (Rennicks, 1997).
The nature-based tourism market has been initiated as a modification and replacement for the conventional tourism markets. It has been of great benefit to the rural areas through
Fostering the expansion of infrastructure,
Developing the need for regional services and goods,
Modification of regional economies,
Fostering the economic steadiness in the future and Expanding the conventional season of tourism (Rennicks, 1997).
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