Success Factors in Community-Based Tourism in Thailand: The Role of Luck, External Support, and Local Leadership

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Tourism Planning & Development


International Political Economy


The dominant narrative regarding tourism in Thailand centers on the various negative social and environmental consequences of rapid growth, but in the midst of this explosive expansion of conventional tourism, a less recognized story has recently emerged. Due to the efforts of researchers, environmental activists, non-governmental organizations, and public officials, community-based tourism (CBT) has become in the past decade an important component of the domestic tourism market, and signifies trends that are more encouraging than those associated with more conventional forms of tourism in Thailand. While it is true that some rural communities in Thailand struggle to plan, initiate, and sustain CBT projects, it is nevertheless possible, with the right combination of circumstances, to pursue successful CBT. The paper explores the emergence of CBT in Thailand, and examines the case study of Mae Kampong, a village in the Northern Thai province of Chiang Mai that is renowned nationally as a showcase CBT community. Using data and observations gathered during more than 30 research or study-tour visits to Mae Kampong, this paper argues that fortunate geographical conditions, external support, and transformational leadership represent the most important determinants of success for CBT in Thailand.