Modelling the evolution of spatial and ownership patterns of a peripheral tourism destination : Chiang Mai, Thailand




Paonak, Vinita

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The spatial evolution of control over hotels in Chiang Mai, Upper Northern Thailand is examined using a geographical multiple research strategy and Keller's model of hierarchies of control and capital input. The spatial development pattern of hotels in Chiang Mai during 1960-1992 is portrayed using mapping, mean centre analysis, and spatial clustering analysis. The geographic origin of major share owners of these hotels during the same time period is revealed mainly from an official register records search. Structured and unstructured interviews provide an insight into Chiang Mai’s hotels and tourism development, and the underlying industry control. The spatial evolution of control over the hotels is revealed from a statistical analysis of association measurement of spatial development and development pattern of geographic origin of hotel major share owners. The potential validity of Keller’s model of hierarchy of control and capital input, and of Butler’s model of tourist area life cycle (the model from which Keller’s model is extended) is examined in a Southeast Asian context. Both models prove valid as “theoretical guide posts” or as conceptual frameworks. The models lay out the stages of development of a tourist destination: Butler’s in general evolution, Keller’s in hierarchies of control. Using both models together facilitates the identification of a current development stage of a tourist destination, in this case, Chiang Mai. The label of the hierarchical levels of control over a tourist destination, however, is site-specific depending on the political economy of the region. In a developing country destination like Thailand, the primacy of the capital city is eminent. The hierarchical levels of control thus proceed from the local, to regional, to the capital city, to the national, and the international, consecutively. A spatial model of control over tourism space is proposed, filling the gap that presently exists in the study of geography of tourism and tourism control.