Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

The State of Tourist Attractions in the Mun River Basin

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

The State of Tourist Attractions in the Mun River Basin

Article excerpt

Abstract

This is a qualitative research that uses interviews and focus group discussions to assess the state of tourist attractions in five provinces along the Mun River in North-eastern Thailand. Fifteen tourist attractions are examined in seven categories: transportation, food, accommodation, souvenirs, information services, activities and marketing. Both cultural and natural attractions have similar problems. The attractions have poor access roads, weak identities, a lack of information and inadequate services. A set of suggestions are made to combat the problems that can be summarised as five general solutions to combat obstacles to cultural tourism and ecotourism in the area. Firstly, management must place greater emphasis on cultural heritage. Secondly, local institutions must provide more sponsorship. Thirdly, community participation must be increased. Fourthly, attractions must be systematically regulated. Finally, information and education must be prioritised.

Keywords: tourist attractions, Mun River Basin, cultural tourism, ecotourism, Thailand

1. Introduction

Thailand has an ancient and varied culture that includes unique language, literature, art, dance, music, architecture, artefacts and customs. Thai culture is a large part of everyday life (Ministry of Culture, 2002). Consequently, conservation of this culture improves the quality of local life and adds value to the economy by boosting tourism (Chuchat et al., 2001). For this reason, cultural conservation on a local and regional scale is a way to propel national growth and must be considered of huge importance.

The Mun River is a large tributary of the Mekong River that flows through five provinces in North-eastern Thailand: Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Surin, Sisaket and Ubon Ratchatani. The Mun River is an important irrigation source for the famous rice growing region, Tung Kula Rong Hai and excavations in the area have found evidence that the river was important to the Dvaravati, Khmer and Ayutthaya Civilizations (Boonsiri, 2008). Moreover, in a fifteen kilometre radius from the main trunk of the river, there are traces of prehistoric communities, including skeletons, earthenware pots, metals and cave paintings (Chantachon, 2006b). These findings are at excavation sites such as Ban Prasat in Nakhon Ratchasima and Pa Taem in Ubon Ratchatani. They show that the Mun River has been a vital natural resource to humans for over 3,500 years.

Having been the lifeblood of local communities over the course of history, the Mun River is proving a valuable asset to national tourism (Peleggi, 1996). Different historical civilizations made their own fine and elaborate architectural imprints on the landscape, which are now hotspots of cultural tourism (Jaroomanee, 2001). Prasat Hin Pimai in Nakhon Ratchasima, Prasat Sra Kamphaeng Yai and Sra Kamphaeng Noi in Sisaket, Prasat Nangbuatum in Surin and Wat Tung Sri Mueang in Ubon Ratchatani are all examples of historical architectural sites that have been adapted to accommodate cultural tourism in the Mun River Basin. In addition, the Mun River is a source of growing ecotourism in the North-eastern region of Thailand (Boonsiri, 2008). Given the appeal of the region, the research team conducted this investigation to assess the state of cultural and natural tourist attractions in the Mun River Basin and suggest areas for improvement.

2. Literature Review

Defining tourism is a tricky task. There are now dozens of categories of tourism from domestic to international, adventure to heritage (Pender & Sharpley, 2005). This investigation covers cultural tourist attractions and natural tourist attractions, so by extension cultural heritage tourism and ecotourism (Goeldner & Brent Ritchie, 2009; White, 1996). It is possible, as Songkoon Chantachon (2006b) has done, to bracket natural attractions under the heading of cultural attractions. Indeed, using the Heritage Canada Foundation definition of a cultural landscape as the relationship between people, nature and history, then it is highly accurate (Heritage Canada Foundation, 2001). …

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