Term Paper: Evolution of International Tourism

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Evolution of International Tourism Citation

Thailand Tourism: negative environmental and social impact of tourism

Thailand has become one of the top tourist destinations in the world. There were approximately ten million visitors to the country in 1999. (the benefits and problems of mass tourism) Recent studies also indicate that this figure is increasing. Last year Thailand attracted "...15 million overseas visitors...contributing more than 6% of the national economy..." (Smale W.) source:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5362924.stm

The main attractions of this area for tourism are related to the natural beauty and cultural interest of the country. This includes the pristine rainforests and islands and other natural facets of the region.

One of the central tourist attractions is the unique culture and heritage of the Thai population. Therefore it is obvious that the rich diversify of Thailand and the main reason for its high rate of tourism is linked to the natural and social environment that if has to offer. It follows from this that these two central aspects of the county must be managed and developed and not allowed to degrade, as this would have a negative impact on the important tourist industry in the country.

However, negative environmental and social aspects have been noted in the case of Thailand. The recent tsunami which devastated certain areas has served to highlight many of these environmental concerns. Other aspects such as the SARS virus scare and bird flu, as well, as the increase in HIV infections, are also aspects that have had a negative impact on tourism figures. Nature, "... is not always predictable, and can sometimes cause unexpected and disastrous impacts... recently... SARS and bird flu negatively affected tourism in a number of countries, and the unprecedented tsunami devastated beach resort tourism on the Andaman coast in southern Thailand." (Seenprachawong U.)

At the same time it must be noted that all indications are that these factors have not had an overly detrimental effect on the Thai tourism industry to date. However, there is a high potential for environmental as well as social aspects to degrade and consequently impact on the tourist industry. The following discussion will attempt to provide an overview of the various aspects affecting tourism in Thailand, as an example of the important need to preserve and maintain both environmental and cultural aspects of the area and the society.

The central contention that this paper will present is that environmental and cultural aspects of a tourist regions can very easily become degraded due to various factors.

While some of these factors such as natural disasters and tsunamis are never entirely preventable, yet there are many aspects that can be addressed to prevent a decline in the tourist industry.

2. Negative environmental and social factors

It is a well - known fact that the quality and preservation of the environment is an essential aspect of tourism, especially in regions like Thailand with its diverse and beautiful natural attractions. However the very nature of tourism can lead to adverse consequences for both the social and natural environments.

The negative impacts of tourism development can gradually destroy the environmental resources on which it depends..." (ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS of TOURISM) the negative impact of tourism can usually be seen when "... The level of visitor use is greater than the environment's ability to cope with this use within the acceptable limits of change." "(ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS of TOURISM) large influx of tourists, as has been the case on Thailand, can therefore lead to negative effects on the environment. This includes aspects such as soil erosion; increased pollution, discharges into the sea; natural habitat loss; increased pressure on endangered species and heightened vulnerability to forest fires. (ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS of TOURISM)

Another aspect that can have severe consequences for tourism and the local population is the impact on available water resources. This in turn can have a negative affect on the social and culture environment, where the local inhabitants have to compete for resources that have been made scarce by tourism. Consequently this can affect the social and cultural stability of the regions on which much of the tourist attraction depends. For example, this aspect has been noted in studies on the use of water and golf courses in Thailand.

Furthermore, golf courses are often situated near protected and vulnerable environmental areas. "An average golf course in a tropical country such as Thailand needs 1500kg of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers." (ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS of TOURISM)

Other negative aspects that should be taken into consideration in the analysis of a region include the following.

Tourism can create great pressure on local resources like energy, food, and other raw materials that may already be in short supply.

Greater extraction and transport of these resources exacerbates the physical impacts associated with their exploitation.

A high demand is placed upon these resources to meet the high expectations tourists often have (proper heating, hot water, etc.).

Pollution: tourism can create many forms of environmental pollution, which can degrade the attraction and viability of an area.

Aesthetic Pollution: The influence of tourists can lead to building and construction that does not integrate with the natural enlistment and "....A lack of land-use planning and building regulations in many destinations has facilitated sprawling developments along coastlines, valleys and scenic routes. "(ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS of TOURISM)

There are many other negative aspects that could be mentioned, such as marina developments and deforestation. In essence it is essential that a balance is maintained between the use of natural resources by tourism and the requirements of the local population - as well as the balance between tourism and the direct impact on the natural environment.

3. An assessment of negative factors impacting on the Thai tourism industry

Many of the above factors can be related to the case of Thailand. The sheer mass of visitors to this region and the fact that their stay is on average fairly lengthy, can have a profound effect on the environment. In addition, "...tourism may require infrastructure, transportation and other facilities which can cause environmental distortion." (Rural Tourism - the Impact on Rural Communities II. Thailand)

An example of this is the reduction of the number of elephants in the region. A century ago there were at least 100,000 elephants in Thailand. However this figure has declined to "...about 5,000 (2,000 in the wild and 3,000 in captivity) and the population is still estimated to be falling at over 3% a year.

Something must be done to stop this decline or there will be very few elephants left in the future." (Phuket Travel Information, Thailand) Another related factor is that there has been a significant loss of natural habitat in the country. While approximately sixty percent of the country was covered with forest fifty years ago, the present figure of forestation is below twenty percent. This drop has been ascribed to, "...illegal logging and encroachment." (Phuket Travel Information, Thailand)

One of the main affects of tourism in the country has been seen in terms of the socio-cultural impact on the local population. As one study notes;

Poorly planned tourism can mean that villages are invaded by foreign visitors with different values, disrupting rural culture. A decline in participation in rural traditional and cultural practices follows. Traditional houses are replaced by modern buildings, as the local culture is eroded. The agriculture which was the basis of traditional life is replaced by, and becomes secondary to, tourism. Coconut cultivation in Koh Samui, a popular tourist island in the south of Thailand, and traditional farming practices in Ayutthaya, a well-known historic capital, have both decreased in recent years.

Rural Tourism - the Impact on Rural Communities II. Thailand)

Coupled with the above example is that fact that tourist designations in the country mean more work and a higher standard of living for the inhabitants and this has resulted in considerable emigration for local villages, which has changed the population demographics to a certain degree.

A controversial aspect that has impacted on the cultural and social heritage of the Thai people is the increase of "sex tourism" and prostitution. "Another important issue related to tourism in Thailand is prostitution and the growth of the sex trade to satisfy foreign travelers, many of whom come to Thailand on sex tour package trips..." (Tourism in Thailand) This has resulted in an increase in the population of sexually transmitted diseases and particularly HIV / AIDS.

The World Health Organization estimated that between 45, 000 to 50, 000 Thais had AIDS in 1989, and that possibly one out of every two prostitutes in the Northern region was infected with the disease. (Tourism in Thailand)

Figure 2. HIV rates in Thailand

Source: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN the HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS and the ACQUIRED IMMUNODEFICIENCY SYNDROME) fact that is clearly noted in the literature is that the Thailand tourism industry is susceptible to unexpected events.

Unexpected events such as natural disaster and disease outbreaks have proven to be substantial factors affecting Thailand's tourism negatively in the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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