Ecotourism and Mass Tourism in Southern Thailand :Spatial interdependence, structural connections, and staged authenticity
Definition of EcotourismEcotourism is "Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." (TIES, 1990)Principles of Ecotourism:Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainabletravel. This means that those who implement and participate inecotourism activities should follow the following ecotourism principles:• Minimize impact.• Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.• Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.• Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.• Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people & etc.
Definition of Mass tourismMass tourism is the act of visiting a destination with large amounts of tourists at one time. The mass tourism could only have developed with the improvements in technology, allowing the transport of large numbers of people in a short space of time to places of leisure interest, so that greater numbers of people could begin to enjoy the benefits of leisure time. According to, large numbers of tourists so, this kind of tourism leads many positive and negative impacts within the areas where tourism take place.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketEcotourism in Phuket emerged long after the establishment ofconventional tourism industry. Aside from illustrating how quicklythe nature of tourism in location such as southern Thailand canchange according to shifting tourist preferences, the latetemporal emergence of ecotourism contradicts common evolutionaryconceptions that preclude the possibility of specific forms of‘alternative’ tourism.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketThe past fifteen years have seen no abatement in the growth of touristarrivals, in spite of the Gulf War in 1991. By 2001, international touristarrivals had reached 2.7 million, an increase of 8.9% from the yearbefore. A fifteen-fold increase in the number of international arrivals injust fifteen years has led to an explosion in the number and variety ofaccommodations, tourist activities, and companies. Although many ofthe recreational opportunities currently available to mass tourists inPhuket relate to entertainment, shopping, or beach-relatedactivities, there are also several ecotourism options related toexperiencing the natural environment of Phuket and surroundingprovinces.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketDetermining the exact number of ecotourism companies in Phuket maybe tricky, but there is no doubt about the origins of ecotourism inPhuket. In particular, Sea Canoe and Siam Safari, both founded in1989. Sea Canoe is a marine ecotourism company that offers seakayaking trips. Siam Safari is land based and offers daytrips thatinclude elephant hill treks, river canoeing, mountain biking, andnature trail walking.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketBoth Sea Canoe and Siam Safari have won several domestic andinternational awards for their efforts to promote sustainable formsof tourism. Sea Canoe and Siam Safari make great efforts to educatetheir customers on the ecology of the areas that are visited and, in thecast of Siam Safari; this education extends to informing tourists ofthe plight of the endangered Asian elephant and raising money forelephant conservation through the Elephant Help Project (EHP).Sea Canoe guides receive environmental education through Thai andEnglish language informational materials, which are augmented withinformal, ongoing lessons on natural history, geology, flora, and fauna.Similarly, Sian Safari educates its employees about the wildlife, botany,and geology of Thailand.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketSustainability is another feature of ecotourism promoted in thepractices of Sea Canoe and Siam Safari. Both companies strictlylimit group sizes and scatter tours throughout different times of theday in order to disperse the overall number of tourists. Similarly, thesmall percentage of land in Phuket still covered by rainforest serves as anatural limit to endless expansion of trekking companies and, thus, mayhelp to sustain the activity.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketEcotourism in Phuket provides local benefits and contributes tocommunity development. Sea Canoe employees receive manybenefits, including health and life insurance, disability allowances, andfree language, paddling, and tourism certification training. Sea Canoeand Siam Safari not only promote local ownership and management, butalso ensure that benefits remain in locals hands. With daytrips that costbetween UU$70 and US$ 90, Sea Canoe and Siam Safari both chargeprices that are high in comparison to most other tours in Thailand, butmanagers in both companies point out that the need to charge theserates stems from costs related to high staff wages and benefits.
The Emergence of Ecotourism in PhuketThe final, component of ecotourism definitions, namely the importance of“natural areas”, is a key feature of the activities of Sea Canoe and SiamSafari.
Spatial Overlaps and ConnectionsBetween Ecotourism and Mass TourismThe spatial overlaps between ecotourism and mass tourism inPhuket is more than just coincidental. Without working with masstourism, companies such as Sea Canoe and Siam Safari would failto survive financially. The spatial proximity of natural areas tobeach resort locations allows ecotourism companies in Phuket tocapitalize on 3 components of mass tourism.
3 Components of Mass Tourismare Capitalize by Ecotourism CompaniesThe clientele of ecotourism companiesThe way in which ecotourism in Phuket is spatially dependent on mass tourismTourism infrastructure, the flow of business transactions among ecotourism companies
Spatial Overlaps and ConnectionsBetween Ecotourism and Mass TourismEcotourism companies that operate in areas associated with masstourism enjoy access to the tour wholesalers, tour operators,and travel agents that steer the purchasing choices of largenumbers of customers. It is clear that ecotourism enjoys itsgreatest chances for success not in remote areas, but adjacent to“mass” destination such as Phuket.
Communicative Staging of Natural AuthenticityThe small amount of time and space that it takes to bring tourists frombuilt - up resort landscapes to uninhabited natural setting makes suchsetting less than pristine. Therefore, there are operating in natural areasand utilizing natural resources. According to the settings in naturalareas, ecotourism operators in Phuket must work to prevent thepsychological effect of spatial proximity between ecotourism sitesand areas of mass tourists concentrations found throughout island.In order to reduce the perceptual impact of this spatial proximity,ecotourism operators in Phuket attended to create a mental sense ofdistance between built-up and natural areas among tourists. This issucceeded by the staging of authenticity.
Communicative Staging of Natural AuthenticityThe staging of natural authenticity in Phuket is done by not only local“native” residents hoping to cash in on touristic notions of culturalpurity and authenticity, but rather by the owners, managers, andemployees of ecotourism companies.In Phuket, the close proximity between mass tourism and ecotourismsites such as Ao Phangnga and small forest tracts in central Phuketcomplicates efforts to communicate geographical remoteness, butoperators succeed both in fostering a sense of isolation from othertourists, and in communicating the natural authenticity of primitive,pristine, and unspoiled locations far from mass tourist.
ConclusionMost definitions of ecotourism and mass tourism imply that the 2 types of tourism are separated by virtue of the natural, pristine, or uncontaminated locations (clean area where there is no destroying environment by tourism) in which ecotourism must occur.However, the example of Phuket in southern Thailand illustrates that overlaps between ecotourism and mass tourism are not only possible, but also vital in cases where ecotourism companies must draw on the tourist markets and channels of mass tourism in order to survive financially.
ConclusionFor ecotourism purists who advocate spatial and conceptual exclusivity, the coming together of ecotourism and mass tourism in Phuket would surely lead a negative reaction.Spatial overlaps and connections between ecotourism and mass tourism are therefore beneficial in that they allow the latter to survive. Mass tourism also benefits from a spatial association with ecotourism because greater demand for nature-based activities has the potential to “green” the mass tourism industry.
ConclusionTherefore, the spatial relationship between ecotourism and mass tourism in southern Thailand illustrates mutual interdependence and benefit which means both of them benefit each other.