Closer to home, the government of
But are budget travelers not worth attention by the Bhutanese and Malaysian governments? Carl Parkes, author of Thailand Handbook by Moon Publications, wrote an interesting topic, “Tourist or Traveler?” in his book. His comparison of relative merit of budget travelers and big spending tourists can surprise many of you. I now reproduce this topic here…
Tourist or Travelers?
Tourist offices, resort owners, and visitors alike often debate the relative merit of conventional tourists, who tend to patronize high-cost accommodations and activities, versus independent travelers, who are usually on a more moderate budget. Who spends the most money? Who puts more money into local economies? Which group causes the least cultural and environmental damage? Some very interesting answers were provided in the 1994 Quarterly Review from the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).
The survey showed
But the most revealing section of the survey discussed the concept of “tourist” versus “traveler.” Tourism in
Everyone wants quality, but no one can agree on what constitutes the ideal visitor. As you might expect, representatives from the Thai Hotel Association assert that quality tourists are the big spenders – those who stay in international chain hotels, ride in chauffeur-driven limousines, and dine at expensive restaurants.
Others argue that true quality tourists are those who most affect income distribution. Under this socioeconomic definition, the ideal visitor stays in locally owned hotels or guesthouses, eats at local foodstalls, and rides around town in a tuk tuk.
Academic studies conducted by TRDI and several travel specialists conclude that money from big spenders tends to leak outside the country through franchise royalties and remitted dividends to end up on the
But who spends the most? The Quarterly Report of TRDI states that although daily expenditures of typical guesthouse visitors are below those of hotel patrons, they ultimately spend more due to their longer stays in the country. Plus, they do more to help the average Thai by patronizing local guesthouses and cafes.
Finally, the report concludes that independent travelers generally cause less cultural and environmental damage than the tourist who stays in international hotels and meets only bellhops and bartenders. Guesthouses, local cafes, and public transportation cause far less environmental damage than the big, international hotels which chew up natural resources and require enormous amounts of energy for air-conditioned rooms, heated swimming pools, and the like. Finally, on a social level, TRDI felt genuine contact with ordinary people is more worthwhile and rewarding than brief superficial encounters with hotel employees and restaurant wine stewards.
[Note: TAT = Tourism Authority of
I will add one more point to the arguments given above. Independent travelers are often the best promoters of the countries they visited. Both Carl Parkes and Joe Cummings of Lonely Planet started out as independent travelers. I went to
Governments who are wooing the big-spending tourists at the expense of budget travelers need to review their strategies.