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Tourism Review International


International Political Economy


The temporal relationship between mass tourism and alternative tourism has received little attention in the tourism literature. This article seeks to address this gap by exploring how the emergence of "soft ecotourism" in Phuket, southern Thailand's preeminent resort destination, challenges the notion that alternative tourism can only precede but never follow the establishment of mass tourism. Based on survey and interview data collected over a 1-year span, this article argues that while Phuket's tourism growth over the past several decades does confirm existing models of the movement from alternative to mass tourism, the activities of sea kayaking operators also illustrate that mass tourism and alternative tourism can coexist at the same time and in the same destination. Further, certain syncretic or hybrid forms of alternative tourism, such as soft ecotourism, may serve as one of the many reasons for the continuing growth of tourism in Phuket, in spite of natural disasters, national political instability, and ample evidence of unsustainable development.