The potential of Theravada Buddhism to enhance cultural tourism in Pattaya, Thailand
thesisposted on 18.11.2019, 00:00 by Nitinan Srisuwan
This research project aims to investigate the potential for the development of tourism focused on the cultural heritage of Theravada Buddhism in Pattaya, a city in Eastern Thailand, to complement the existing tourism industry in Pattaya. The research also aims to develop an implementation strategy for Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism suitable for incorporation into the Pattaya tourism plan, which as yet does not address the promotion of cultural or religious tourism. Previous research suggests that cultural tourism involving Theravada Buddhism has the potential to attract international tourists and drive economic growth. Significantly, religious tourism is a sustainable and non-commercial form of tourism development which can preserve local identity. Theravada Buddhism is thus an aspect of cultural capital capable of adding value to many tourism destinations in Thailand, including Pattaya. This research adopts a qualitative methodology within an interpretative research paradigm in order to reflect the interests, values and attitudes of local people in Pattaya. Research data was obtained using semi-structured interviews with thirty-three participants selected by means of purposive sampling from key tourism stakeholders in Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism in Pattaya, including Pattaya city hall officials, national government officials with responsibilities involving culture and tourism, tourism business people, monks and lay temple volunteers, and Thai tourism academics with expertise in cultural or religious tourism. Thematic analysis was employed to categorise, analyse, and synthesise the interview data. The research outcomes suggest that the development of Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism would have positive social and economic effects on Pattaya. Such development would represent an additional source of income for Pattaya’s tourism industry, although the income is likely to be modest in comparison to existing forms of tourism such as entertainment since Buddhism is not compatible with excessively commercial development. However, the research suggests Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism could generate sociocultural value and be developed sustainably with low initial investment, yielding long term benefits. These benefits include improving Pattaya’s image as a destination and preserving and promoting local and national cultural heritage and identity. The strategy for the sustainable development of Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism developed on the basis of the research results is focused on addressing six key issues: (1) key stakeholders to be involved in the management of religious tourism; (2) sources of investment funds; (3) suitable sites for development; (4) the development of a Theravada Buddhism cultural learning centre; (5) the creation of creative cultural activities for tourists; and (6) ways of promoting Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism with sensitivity. These issues underpin the following five sub-strategies: (1) cooperation between Pattaya City Hall and government authorities in managing and investing in Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism; (2) the use of temples as cultural tourism sites; (3) establishing learning centres for Theravada Buddhism and Thai culture; (4) creative activities for tourists; and (5) sustainable promotion and development of Theravada Buddhism cultural tourism. Because of the importance of Theravada Buddhism as a central element of Thai culture, these strategies have significance not only for Pattaya but also for many other tourism sites around Thailand.