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Posted on April 17th, 2014, by

It goes without saying that the development of tourist industry can be extremely important for a country’s welfare. Sometimes tourism is developing naturally due to the plenty of attractions for the tourist from different corners of the world; sometimes the states the role of tourism for their economic advance, international image and other benefits and thus contribute a lot of efforts to make it sustainable (Crouch and LĆ¼bbren, 2003, p. 101). Still, speaking about the impacts of tourism for local communities different aspects should be approached. The term “impact”¯ generally stands for any influence, either positive or negative, a phenomenon may have on something or someone (Pearce and Butler, 1995, p. 14). The investigation of various aspects of this influence is important for understanding the phenomenon comprehensively. When the consequences of the phenomenon are known and thoroughly analyzed, it is easier to weigh up its advantages and disadvantages and decide what measures to take. The phenomenon may need additional stimulation and encouragement if the positive impacts prevail, whereas in case of overbalance to negative impacts certain preventing measures should be taken and negative impacts should be either prevented or at least controlled (Dana, 1999, p. 60). Tourism consists of a complex system of elements, and all of them need skilful management. There are economic, environmental, political, educational, and socio-cultural impacts of tourism for local communities. The first are predominantly positive, while the second are predominantly negative as natural resources are extremely vulnerable and are often destroyed by great amounts of tourists (Carter and Beeton, 2004, p. 424). Political and educational impacts may vary, but socio-cultural impacts are probably the most controversial and the most understudied. While for Thailand tourism is the leading economic factor, it is rather important to study socio-cultural impacts of various touristic factors on the Thais. This study focuses on the annual Songkran Festival as one of the main tourist attractions in Thailand with the aim to analyse its socio-cultural impacts.

First of all, it seems reasonable to study the role tourist industry plays for Thailand. As Duggs (2012) informs, tourism contributes 6.7% to GDP of the Kingdom of Thailand. The essential growth of tourist activity began in 1960 due to the economic enhancement and political stabilization. Besides, Bangkok, the capital of Thailand since 1782, became a crossroad of international air transportation (Aramberri, 2007, p. 1194). It resulted in rapid expansion of the hotel and retail industries. During the Vietnam War the soldiers from the United States came here for Rest and Recuperation (R&R) programme. Coincidently, the standards of living were rising and technologies were improving (Aramberri, 2007, p. 1194). In 1970 Thailand was one of the major players in Asia to capitalise on Boeing 747. Since that time the number of tourists has grown from 336,000 foreign visitors and 54,000 R&R soldiers to more than 14 million international guests in 2007 (Aramberri, 2007, p. 1194). The profit generated from tourism makes up 547,782 million Thai baht, which is approximately 11 billion euro. Such a success made Thailand the 18th most visited destination, according to the World Tourism rankings. In the list of “Top City Destinations”¯ Bangkok is the third (after London and New York).

It seems significant to note that 55% of the Thai tourists are coming from the Asia Pacific region. The biggest groups are the Japanese and the Malaysians. As for the Western countries, the most contributing are the UK, Germany, the United States, Scandinavia and Australia (See and Lam, 2012). More and more tourists arrive from the former USSR. The total number of foreign tourists anticipated for 2012 was 2 million with about 50 billion baht revenue (See and Lam, 2012). What is more, Thailand takes the second place in the list “Best-value destinations for 2010”¯ (with Iceland being the first). Apart from that, domestic tourism is rather popular among the Thais as well. This branch is estimated to have contributed 187,898 million baht in 1998 with the growth to 380,417 million baht in 2007. As tourism is recognized as the most revenue generating industry in Thailand, it is protected at the state level. There are special tourism police offices in each important point (Aramberri, 2007, p. 1196).

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