Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Culture and Ecotourism Management of Dams in North-Eastern Thailand

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Culture and Ecotourism Management of Dams in North-Eastern Thailand

Article excerpt

Abstract

This qualitative research examines the culture and ecotourism management of three North-eastern Thai dams. Using methods of survey, observation and interview, the research team identifies ten areas of ecotourism management in the area: food, location, administration, transportation, souvenirs, surrounding environment, waste disposal, customs, sports and safety. Although efforts are being made to manage waste and tourist activities, the research finds that five principal problems remain with management of the surrounding environment: deforestation, litter, construction, traffic, and water contamination. Additionally, there are problems with inadequate tourist facilities and insufficient staffing during the high festival seasons. To address the five problems with the park areas, there are five individual solutions: reforestation, stronger waste disposal management, more control of building, regulation of noise and emissions from vehicles and monitoring of dam water quality.

Keywords: dam, management, Isan, ecotourism, Thailand

1. Introduction

The Tourism Authority of Thailand revealed that Thailand was the most visited ASEAN country in 2008. Income generated from foreign tourism for the Thai economy was valued at 574,521 million baht. In 2009, income increased to 715,985.18 million baht and comprised 7.91% of the total Thai economy. This value was generated from 14,149,180 tourists. At the time of this investigation, it was estimated that the 2013 figure for foreign tourists entering Thailand would reach 20 million (Department of Tourism, 2013). Factors increasing Thailand's popularity among foreign tourists are both internal and external.

Internally, Thailand has a rich natural and cultural heritage to showcase, which is both original and accessible. Externally, global communications are improving and connecting the Indochinese Peninsular with even more countries, while the global economic crisis is making cheap Thai prices very attractive. This is reflected in the Eleventh National Economic and Social Development Plan (Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, 2011), which emphasizes using self-sufficient economic policy as a method for developing the country.

The plan places particular importance on the sustainable employment of local knowledge and the surrounding environment to promote tourism. Given the importance of tourism to the Thai economy and the introduction of government policies to support the industry, there has also been greater emphasis placed on public involvement and community participation in managing local tourism, especially ecotourism.

The Thai authorities and private sector have been made aware of the attraction of Thai culture, environment and nature to foreign tourists by the results of surveys, such as those conducted by Travel and Leisure Magazine, which named Bangkok as 'The World's Best City' for four consecutive years from 2003 to 2006 (Daily News, 2013). Accordingly, government institutions and private businesses have shifted management focus of tourist attractions to the surrounding environmental resources in order to meet the recommendations of the development plan and satisfy tourist demand (Chachakoon, 2011).

One such example is the management of Thai dams. There are 33 large dams, 367 medium-sized reservoirs and 4000 small reservoirs to be found across Thailand (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, 2010). The North-eastern region of the country, colloquially known as Isan is particularly suitable for agriculture and the principal occupation of Isan residents is farming, an occupation that by nature requires water. In order to assist with irrigation, dams were constructed throughout the region. The collection of water at dams and reservoirs has caused the natural environment in the surrounding area to flourish. This abundance of nature has led to the emergence of new tourist attractions, which generate income for the local economy through the provision of hotels, restaurants, car parking, souvenir shops, toilet facilities and local land and water transport. …

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