Front cover image for Community-Based Ecotourism in Phuket and Ao Phangnga, Thailand: Partial Victories and Bittersweet Remedies

Peer-reviewed

Community-Based Ecotourism in Phuket and Ao Phangnga, Thailand: Partial Victories and Bittersweet Remedies

By encouraging both ecological sustainability and grassroots development, community- based ecotourism offers hope that the environmental sensitivity and responsibility promoted by ecotourism can also serve the political, economic, and social interests of host communities. However, due to the difficulties of implementing community-based ecotourism in practice, success stories remain rare. This paper explores the feasibility of community-based ecotourism in Phuket andAoPhangnga in southern Thailand. Using the region’s oldest ecotourism company as its case study, this paper argues that community-based ecotourism in southern Thailand is only partially successful, and requires four tradeoffs: success and survival at the expense of ecotourism’s spatial isolation and structural independence; local employment and benefits at the expense of local initiation and control; social status and mobility at the expense of social cohesion and harmony; and incipient environmentalism at the expense of ecological sustainability. Despite these tradeoffs, the benefits of ecotourism in Phuket still outweigh the costs in terms of community development