Sustainable Tourism or Sustainable Development? Financial Crisis, Ecotourism, and the 'Amazing Thailand' Campaign

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Current Issues in Tourism


International Political Economy


Although the issues of sustainable tourism and sustainable development are receiving increasing attention from tourists, government planners and scholars, few studies have examined their overlap, tensions and complex linkages in practice. In southern Thailand, the sustainability of tourism, defined as the ongoing growth and survival of the tourism industry, has compromised the ecological sustainability of key tourism destinations sites. The recent financial crisis has forced the Thai government to sacrifice long-term sustainability for the sake of quick, and desperately needed foreign exchange. The 'Amazing Thailand' promotional campaign, which aims to attract 17 million tourists over 1998 and 1999, promises to exacerbate further the environmental degradation of tourism destinations in southern Thailand by pushing for enhanced tourist numbers. Ironically, by changing the composition of tourist arrivals (and in particular, attracting more European and North American tourists) the currency devaluations associated with the Asian financial crisis may simultaneously boost demand for nature-based tourist activities in southern Thailand while also adding stress to ecologically deteriorating destinations.