Multiple Chapters: Tourist Behavior Toward Nature-Based Tourism

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[. . .] The primary concept that is a part of ecotourism is that it entails consciousness and admiration of the Mother Nature and the activities based on it (Fennell, 2001, 2008).

Another concept that is a vital part of ecotourism is pertinent to the regional communal groups like contribution (Ross and Wall, 1999), prospective advantages (Honey, 2008) and authorisation (Scheyvens, 2002). The next concept is related to knowledge (Honey, 2002) and such tourism in which people consider themselves accountable (Fennell and Dowling, 2003). Lastly, ecotourism fosters maintainability (Blamey, 2001; Cole and Sinclair, 2002) and preservation (Wood, 2002).

Although various experts have investigated the definition, influence and shortcomings of ecotourism, comparatively less have discovered the viewpoints and behaviours of players dealing with the supply chain connecting a traveller to the services of ecotourism. This section of the paper is aimed at offering a viewpoint on the supply side of ecotourism through the investigation of the manner in which ecotourism is conceptualized by the operators and the travel agents in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is amongst the largest cities in the north of Thailand and is a very famous tourist spot. Every year, 1.8 million overseas tourists and 3.6 million Thai came to this city in the year 2007 (Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), 2009). Apart from containing various religious, retail and historical places, Chiang Mai, in particular, and northern Thailand, generally act as a hub for both ecotourism based on rafting, meeting with wildlife, specifically elephants and cultural tourism as in visiting the villages of 'hill tribe'(Kontogeorgopoulos and Chulikavit, 2010) .

Many writers have explored tourism in the northern part of Thailand (Nimmonratana, 2000) and have particularly focused on ecotourism (Hayami, 2006). There are, however, merely two researches on this topic. One of them was printed (Cohen, 1989) while the other one was not (Northrop, 2007). These were a part of English literature and discussed the contribution of tour operator and travel agents in providing nature-based trips to the tourists or ecotourism. Moreover, Thai opponents (Shepherd, 2002; Vivanco, 2002) of ecotourism complain that the tourism industry has only used ecotourism as a ploy to attract visitors by showing concern for the environment whereas no one has methodically gathered experimental data to evaluate the manner in which tourism industry in Thailand viewed ecotourism. By employing data collected from surveying 300 tour operators and travel agents, the researcher is in a position to validate that actions related to nature-based tourism constitute a considerable chunk of the tourism industry of Chiang Mai and debates that the concept of ecotourism amongst operators and travel agents is massive, changeable and in various ways paradoxical (Kontogeorgopoulos and Chulikavit, 2010).

Similarly, in Phuket after a long time period, ecotourism has appeared after the formation of a traditional tourism industry. Apart from exhibiting the manner in which the nature of tourism has undergone a change in a place like southern Thailand in relation to the varying inclinations of the tourists, the last historical occurrence of ecotourism opposes the shared evolutionary notions that rules out the probability of particular types of 'alternative' tourism involving ecotourism to grow with their corresponding types of tourism (Cazes, 1987; Pearce, 1989). The latest appearance of ecotourism in Phuket is the recent most phase of a splendid path of progress seen by the local tourism industry. As soon as Phuket progressed towards the global tourism of sea, sand and sun, its conventional contribution as a place for raw materials started to decline during 1970s (Uthoff, 1997). In 1976, one of the first and the largest hotels was constructed in Phuket and till 1979; the Thai government had constructed an international airport. It, at the same time, financed additional construction of various hotels in the town of Phuket and over the west coast of Patong Beach (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2004).

Phuket is one of the most favorite places for tourism in Thailand. Because of its attraction for tourists, it enjoys many benefits for its local community development. Though they are not equally qualified, the people living in Phuket enjoy many advantages which are not available to the people living in other parts of Thailand. The workforce in Phuket has grade six education but they deal with tourists effectively. In return, the tourists pay more than double wage to the drivers, cooks and Sea Canoe guides. It is almost 3 times more than the national average wage as earned by sales, services and clerical staff. They also enjoy fringe benefits like life insurance, health insurance, free language, disability allowances, tourism certificate training and paddling (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2004).

The revenue generated through tourism is spent on the local development of Phuket. In this way, Phuket enjoys much of its development expense on its own. The specialized equipment which includes inflatable canoes are imported from USA, rest of the cost is incurred locally which makes it around 98% of the total cost. The total revenue is distributed among very few heads of workers' wage and shared with the owners of escort boats. The total earning is around two million baht equivalent to USD 46,500 out of which USD 15,500 are given away as workers' wages. There are two freelance and three contracted escort boats whose owners get collectively around three to four thousand baht. The entrepreneurs for tourism in Phuket accept the fact that they charge higher than many other tourism firms serving in Thailand. They quote high wage rates and costs as the reason for higher charges (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2004). A daytrip in Phuket is charged around USD70 to USD90.

Furthermore, Siam Safari and Sea Canoe enjoy the portion of eminence because of natural beauty which is the most cited component found in the definitions of ecotourism. There are certain characteristics which distinguish Siam Safari and Sea Canoe from many other tourism companies. The other companies are labeled as mass while ecotourism enjoy its spatial nature which is the point of special attention (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2004).

Overall, nature-oriented tourism has been the focus of many tourists in the past. Many of them also enjoy visiting wild life spots. Yet, it is observed that a huge number of tourists are attracted by the mass attention places like urban centers and hotel complexes. Particularly speaking about Phuket, this trend is increasing (see Kontogeorgopoulos, 1998). If the hotel complexes are situated near the natural beauty, the companies like Siam Safari and Sea Canoe offer much more attractive tourism packages. The tourists can enjoy both the natural beauty and the places of mass attraction in a single trip. The straight route between the two places adds to the beauty of travelling and the tourists do not feel exhausted or uncomfortable because of long journeys (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2004). The two most famous areas of recreation in Phuket are Patong beach and Ko Phanak. There is only the distance of 8 miles between these two points. Ko Phanak is an island satisfying the thirst for natural beauty while Patong is the most developed resort area in Phuket.

There is a negative point associated with the fact that in Phuket both natural beauty and developed resorts are situated close to each other. It does not satisfy the concerns of those tourists who are interested in geography or are at Phuket for its comparison with other regions of the world or even Thailand (Dearden, 1991). This point is important to ponder as the basic definition of ecotourism given by Ceballos-Lascurain (1988, p. 2) is about visiting natural and undisturbed areas. This visit can be for the specific purpose of studying and enjoying the natural beauty, wild life and cultural manifestations. It is quite impossible to demarcate 'undisturbed 'and 'disturbed' areas on the basis of activity prevalent in those areas and the specific criteria used for it. In other words, it is difficult to assess the extent to which an enclosed landscape can be considered 'uncontaminated' or 'undisturbed'. However, it is highly probable that an area like Ao Phangnga would be considered as uncontaminated or undisturbed with its fishing trawlers and constantly flooding tourists along the coasts through the long-tail boats and speed boats present in the open seas of the bay. The rain forest areas with Siam Safari and Sea Canoe operating in them, lagoons and caves are all regarded as tranquil, uninhabited and 'natural' areas. However, all these micro-environments are a part of landscapes surrounded by heavy human activity and form an integral part of mass tourism environments (Kontogeorgopoulos, 2004).

Adventure Tourism

Thailand caters the tourists with authentic and adventurous experiences and is thus considered as a destination for adventurers. Cohen believes that the highlanders' visit provide a cultural and thrilling adventure experience to the change-seeking tourists (Cohen, 1983). The tribal people who have secluded themselves from the modern western world are highly visited by tourists through jungle trekking tours which take them to the tribal villages. The local tour companies were specialists in organizing 'jungle tour' and hence they played a great role in the image formulation… [END OF PREVIEW]

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