Conventional Tourism and Ecotourism in Phuket, Thailand: Conflicting Paradigms or Symbiotic Partners?

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Journal of Ecotourism


International Political Economy


This paper examines the ways in which conventional tourism and ecotourism are conceptually, operationally, and spatially linked in Phuket and surrounding provinces in southern Thailand. Phuket's two oldest and most prominent ecotourism companies are used as case studies to illustrate how the principles of ecotourism are implemented in practice even as structural connections to the existing conventional tourism industry are maintained. The collective number of ecotourism customers, the packaged nature of ecotourists' holidays, the marketing strategies employed by Phuket's ecotourism companies, the close proximity of ecotourism activities to conventional tourism areas, and the nature and structure of daily ecotourism operations all bind ecotourism in southern Thailand to more conventional tourism in the region. However, despite such strong connections to conventional tourism, Phuket's ecotourism companies nevertheless continue to promote the most prominent principles found in definitions of ecotourism: nature-based activity; conservation; sustainability; ethical management; local-orientation in terms of control, benefits, and scale; and environmental education.