Is Sustainable Agricultural Tourism in Thailand a Viable Choice?
Tourism has been a part of a country’s economy for a very long time. Even before it had a name, people were already traveling the world, either in attempts to find new land, adventure or even just to see how people from a different part of the world lives. As traveling becomes easier in time, the world tends to become (as the cliché would put it) smaller with more and more people touring the world for pleasure. Thailand is no exception to this event. Of course, this event does have certain backlashes, the comings and goings of people, after all, always leaves a trace (UNWTO, 1995).
This in turn has led to the fruition of ecotourism and agricultural tourism, both of which focus on natural rural areas untouched by man. The purpose of both kinds of tourism is not only entertaining the tourist of a certain country, but also preserving the area and also building up environmental or agricultural awareness in the person visiting. Agri-tourism, as part of the tourism activities of Thailand, is a great way for the government to not only make money, but also promote the agricultural products of the country. Started out in 1995, agricultural tourism in Thailand mostly involves tours around the countryside, participation in community based activities that are part of the daily way of life of the said community and observation of modern and traditional ways of agriculture of the country (Na Songkhla & Somboonsuke, 2013)(Tourism Authority of Thailand, 2013).
As the country is essentially one large fertile land, the division of management of each event and community is given to the local government of the province. To be clear, these provinces are divided depending on which part of the country they are in. These divisions are the North, Central Plains, East, Northeast and South (Tourism Authority of Thailand, 2013). To give a precise example, management of the tourism events in the North are handled by different tourism centers held by the Tourism Authority of Thailand such as the Ban Mae Klang Luang Agro-tourism Centre (Tourism Authority of Thailand, 2013).
As of June 2013, Bangkok is now the most visited city on the planet (Quan, 2013). While this may not seem relevant to this research for the moment, this still begs the question: do these people who visit Bangkok stay in Bangkok? Additionally, it also begs the question: if they do leave Bangkok and stray into the country, is the Tourism Authority of Thailand ready for that inflow of visitors? The question that this paper wishes to address is whether or not Thailand has enough management skills to sustain the agricultural tourism and environment of Thailand?
- What makes Thailand a good place to apply agricultural tourism?
The answer tends to vary here as they would come from not only people in and out of the county, but the question is rather biased by itself. Thus, to answer it will require not only questioning people, but also looking at the layout of the land, the mineral and environmental wealth of the country, etc.
2. What are the problems that the tourism of the country could face?
Again, this question is broad in itself as the problems are not always general in nature but also specific to the product being planted and harvested, the location, the community and so on. This again would require the use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Take for instance, in general, the question could be first asked, and answered by different centers from different locations. Lists and graphs are then made to find which problems are the most diverse and which are more specific before solutions of these problems can be found (Sakolnakorn & Kroeksakul, 2013)(Lerkplien, Rodhetbhai & Keeratiboorana, 2013).
- Are the management skills of each Center up to par?
Yet again, different research methods can either answer this in their own way, or come up with a more comprehensive answer by using them both simultaneously. Such as in this case, finding out first what is the standard in management skills in the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)? Then using the data gathered, and comparing them to one another to find which sectors are doing well and which are falling behind.
- What are the needed resources to keep the agricultural activities of the TAT afloat?
Again, asking each sector, finding out which are common, which are specific, how much is needed, when and how the resources can get there will be better answered by using both qualitative and quantitative research methods (Lerkplien, Rodhetbhai & Keeratiboorana, 2013).
Limitations of the Study
Like any other research, there are certain things that this paper will either not be able to answer, or might miss by accident. The first of which is the vastness of the country. As stated in the introduction of this proposal, the country is (if not literally) essentially one large land ripe with agricultural potential. While this “problem” has already been solved with the Centers and other government agencies set up, what is being highlighted here is the fact that there will be some small issues and problems which are either internal in nature or specific to one location alone that may be overlooked by this research.
Additionally, there are also outside forces and factors that may change the way that this paper works. Take for instance, climate change. Thailand’s agriculture has been, and is still recovering from the damages of climate change (NNT, 2013). This is a problem that can be classified as a problem for the sustainability of the environment, economy, agriculture and subsequently, the tourism of Thailand. Again, while this factor can be looked into, this is a problem that cannot be solved internally by the country and by this paper alone as the problem of climate change is a global one . It should be noted however, that there are certain solutions already being looked into by the government of Thailand to solving the problem that the climate has on its agriculture (Marks, 2011), (UNDP, 2012).
Significance of the Study
Despite the limitations of this study, there are still a few impacts that this research can leave behind. If the research goes well, all data accounted for, all problems identified and all possible solutions thought of, then it will be easier to identify if agricultural tourism is actually making a dent in bringing the problems of agriculture to light within the setting of Thailand. Of course, this can be done by many other researchers, but hopefully this research will be able to not only identify the problems and supply practical solutions, but also answer whether or not environmental sustainability can still be attained even with the practice of agricultural tourism in Thailand.
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