Thailand

THAILAND INTERVIEWS

Brief Country Background
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy boasting as the only Southeast Asian country to never have been colonized by European powers. The country gained popularity as a rest and relaxation destination for the US military during the Vietnam War in the 1970s.1 Thailand has a sophisticated tourism infrastructure and is also a gateway to other Southeast Asian destinations.

However, since the ouster of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra by a military coup in 2006, the country has experienced political instability that has directly contributed to the periodic dip in tourism traffic for Thailand and its neighbors. In late 2008, protestors (Yellow Shirts) took over Bangkok airport and stranded more than 230,000 travelers, disrupted trade flows and caused massive damage to Thailand’s vital tourism industry.2

While one of the premier tourist destinations in the world, Thailand relies on tourism to provide only 7% of its GDP or 550 billion Baht (nearly USD 16 billion).3 However, tourism is still a major source of foreign exchange, job creation, wages, and government revenues.4

Summary of Interviews
Majority of the locals interviewed said the benefits of tourism for them were economic opportunities but their main concern was seeing their culture influenced and changed by the increase in tourism. Interviews were conducted in Bangkok and Chiang Mai in December 2009 and February 2010. Below are a few sample full-length interviews.

Bangkok

Kate, an university student from Burma talks about tourism in her home country.
Dec. 6, 2009

People from the outside say, “Oh, we support Burma” and some say don’t go to Burma but I say, “Yeah, you should go and explore the local community, why not?” You can go to the street shops and have street food and have conversations with local people. You don’t have to talk about politics; you can talk about other stuff and exchange knowledge.
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Bangkok

May, restaurant and cooking school owner and chef
Dec. 6, 2009

Yeah, from the first year (1988), I didn’t see that many tourists because there wasn’t much on Khao San Road, you know? There were a few travel agencies and shops but it was very quiet. There weren’t a lot of buildings, only 1 floored ones, not very tall nor were there a lot of guesthouses. After about 5, 6 years later, things changed with more tourists coming every year.
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Bangkok

Bird, artist & t-shirt vendor on Khao San Road
Feb. 2, 2010

It’s (Khao San Road) changed now, you know. It’s not just young people who come here now. It’s different than before and different kinds of people. Some good, some bad. Yeah, I mean, tourism is good for business here. For sure, I work here and that means I need tourists to come here.
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Chiang Mai

Mr. Thaworn, Hilltribe museum representative
Dec. 9, 2009

No, we don’t train them (ethnic hill tribes) on how to run a business but just give them suggestions on what they should do in their villages. Or if they want to show something good to the tourists, we give suggestions on how to do it. Because I told them (villagers), don’t think of the money or income as the priority because if you think of that than you’ve failed from the beginning. But if you make like a learning center for your people and for your village, you’ll have something good in your village and the tourists will come.
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Chiang Mai

Max, Internet cafe owner
Dec. 10, 2009

Right now, things in Chiang Mai looks like it’s going smoothly, local people don’t fight farangs and farangs don’t complain too much about the local people because it’s in the nature of Chiang Mai people to be polite.
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Sources:
1Alex Da Silva, Thailand’s Tourism Industry | http://bosp.kcc.hawaii.edu/Horizons/Horizons2002/Thailand_tourindusty.html
2Reuters, Police to question Thai “yellow shirts” over airport siege, July 5, 2009 |http://in.reuters.com/article/2009/07/05/idINIndia-40813320090705
3Tourism Authority of Thailand | http://www.tourismthailand.org/about-thailand/fast-facts/
4UNWTO | http://asiapacific.unwto.org/en/news/2011-02-22/thailand-still-amazing

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