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RESEARCH & STATISTICS

TOURISTS' MOTIVATIONS IN VISITING THAILAND AGAIN

By
Bongkosh N. Rittichainuwat, Ph.D.
International Program in Hotel & Tourism Management
Siam University

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to describe the motivations of international tourists who visit Thailand in 2009 and compared them to the international tourist motivations described by Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkhonavnit (2007) to assess any changes in tourists’ motivations in visiting Thailand during the two periods.  This should be useful for the Tourism Authority of Thailand and tour operators in designing any promotional campaigns to meet the needs of international tourists.   The results show that the tourists’ motivations during the two periods are not very different.  A good value for money, nature, culture, and the friendliness of Thai people remain the major motivations of international tourists in visiting Thailand.  Unfortunately, tourist motivation to visit Thailand has once again decreased in 2009.  

Key words: international tourists, tourist motivations, Thailand

Introduction

Thailand has been renowned as an international tourist destination because of a variety of natural and cultural tourist attractions, friendly people, and good value for money.  During the financial crises, tourism has been used to boost income to heal the country’s economic suffering, as has been experienced during the Asian financial crisis (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Beck, 2000).  Likewise, during the 2009 world economic crisis, tourism was again expected to generate income for Thailand because Thailand has always been perceived as a good-value-for-money tourist destination (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Brown, 2001). 

This study aims to describe the motivations of international tourists who visited Thailand in 2009 and compared them to the international tourist motivations described by Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkhonvanit (2007), which conducted a similar survey in June 2000 to assess any changes of tourists’ motivations during the two periods.  This should be useful for the Tourism Authority of Thailand and tour operators in designing any promotional campaigns to meet the needs of international tourists.  

Tourist Motivations in Visiting Thailand

Thailand has been perceived as a safe, friendly, and a good-value-for-money tourist destination with a variety of things to do (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Brown, 2001).  Although the major travel barriers of inbound tourists in revisiting Thailand were the deterioration of tourist attractions and pollution (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkonvanit, 2006), most tourists were satisfied with their trips in  Thailand and would recommend their friends and relatives visit Thailand (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkonvanit, 2002).  Likewise, major Asian crises such as SARS, bird flu and the violence in the three southern provinces of Thailand, resulted in a short-term negative impact on international tourist arrivals to Thailand (Rittichainuwat and Chakarborty, 2009).  In contrast, a crisis sometimes becomes an opportunity, as in the case of tsunami-hit Phuket, which became well-known because of free media publicity on the beauty of nature after recovery (Ritichainuwat, 2006, 2008).  Likewise, gain from an advantageous currency exchange was used in promoting Thailand during the financial crisis (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Beck, 2001).  Also, a written crisis management plan has been used as a marketing tool to promote tourism at tsunami-hit destinations (Rittichainuwat, Silcox, Mongkonvanit, and Noypayak, 2008). 

Previous research found that good food value, shopping, and variety of cultural and natural attractions motivated travelers to revisit Thailand (Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkonvanit, 2007).  Have these tourist motivations changed over time?  What continues to motivate international tourists to visit Thailand during financial crisis?  A questionnaire survey was conducted to answer these questions.

Methodology

A self-administered questionnaire survey was conducted on the travel motivations to revisit Thailand.  The questionnaire was derived from the study by Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkonvanit (2007) on the tourist motivations in revisiting Thailand.  The questionnaire contained three sections, including travel behaviors, travel motivations, and travelers’ intention to revisit Thailand, and demographic profiles.  A five-point Likert scale was used to measure the level of tourist agreement on travel motivation attributes that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).  However, one difference was the timing of the survey.  Unlike the survey by Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkonvanit (2007), which was conducted in June 2000, during the raining season, this survey was done in January and February 2009, when tourists visit during Thailand’s cool season to escape their own severe winter.  A sample of 250 international tourists who were waiting for departure flights at the Suwannabhum International Airport in January and February 2009 were asked to participate in the survey. 

Results

Out of 250 distributed questionnaires, 210 completed questionnaires were returned, yielding a response rate of 84%.  Slightly more than half of the respondents were male (53%) and single (52%).  About 39% were between 20- 29 years old, followed by 20% who were between 30-39 years old.  About 25% of the respondents held professional and managerial positions, followed by students (20%).  Most of the respondents were highly educated, with college (56%) and graduate degrees (23%).   The majority of respondents came from China (14%), the United Kingdom (10.5%), the United States (10%), Australia (9.6%), Germany (9%), Scandinavia (9.8%), Japan (8%), Singapore (4.3%), Taiwan (2.9%), France (2.9%), Korea (2.4%), and Hong Kong (2.4%).  

Most tourists were satisfied with their trip in Thailand (82%).  They also would recommend the natural attractions of Thailand to their friends and relatives (82%).  However, a smaller percentage, only 76%, said they would visit Thailand again.  This is a noteworthy difference from a similar study conducted in 2000 by Rittichainuwat, Qu, and Mongkonvanit (2007) which indicated that the majority of the respondents (93.3%) were satisfied with their trip to Thailand and, more especially, most of the them (88.9%) would visit Thailand again. 

 

Table 1

Tourist Motivations in Visiting Thailand Again

Tourist Motivation in Visiting Thailand AgainNMeanStd. Deviation
Beautiful beaches 209 4.46 0.66
Beautiful temples 210 4.32 0.66
Friendliness of Thai people 209 4.21 0.78
Quality accommodations at reasonable prices 210 4.18 0.81
Seeing people from different cultures 209 4.17 0.71
Good value for money 210 4.11 0.88
A variety of natural attractions 209 4.11 0.76
Interesting culture 210 4.10 0.72
A variety of things to do 209 4.06 0.77
New travel experience 209 4.04 0.84
Different climate than that at home 208 4.01 1.03
Thai food 210 4.00 0.89
Interesting landscape (rice fields, mountains) 209 3.96 0.98
Quality of food and beverage at reasonable prices 210 3.92 0.92
Service-minded people 209 3.86 0.87
Deal on package tours 207 3.84 1.02
Thai boxing 209 3.79 1.01
Safe travel destination 209 3.77 0.88
Shopping 210 3.77 0.85
Visa on arrival 208 3.63 1.01
Health care 208 3.58 1.02
Spa 209 3.51 1.06
Adult entertainment 208 3.50 1.12
Short distance and travel time from home country 209 3.30 1.07
Golfing 208 2.95 1.18
       

 

As can be seen in Table 1, the top twelve reasons that motivated international tourists to visit Thailand again were beautiful beaches, beautiful temples, friendliness of Thai people, quality accommodation at reasonable prices, seeing people from different cultures, good value for money, a variety of natural attractions, interesting culture, a variety of things to do, new travel experience, different climate than that at home, and Thai food.

The result of this study is different from the similar survey conducted in 2000 during the raining season when beaches were not the primary reasons that motivated tourists to revisit Thailand.  This is because tourists were unable to sunbathe on a sunny beach due to the monsoon season.

However, the current study, which was conducted night years later during the cool season, found that beautiful beaches are ranked first as the primary motivation of international tourists in visiting Thailand again. 

Management Implications

This study aimed to assess any changes in tourist motivations in revisiting Thailand by comparing the current study conducted in 2009 with the results of a similar study done in 2000.  It was found that there was a decrease in tourist satisfaction and motivation to revisit Thailand on the 2009 tourist sample.  An intervening factor may be due to the global financial crisis, which makes a long-haul trip from Europe and North American to Asia expensive.  Likewise, the political instability and the closure of airports in 2008 have contributed to a confounding effect on the confidence of inbound tourists to Thailand.  As Rittichainuwat and Chakarborty (2009) noted, perceived risk does not immediately inhibit people from traveling, but the frequency of any crisis does affect tourists’ decisions to travel to a destination in the long run.  This result reflects a negative implication for tourism in Thailand. 

Although Thailand has been successful in promoting itself as the best value for money in the world, and a friendly destination with a variety of natural, and cultural attractions since the 1980s, it seems that existing tourist attractions are not sufficient to attract tourists to visit Thailand again.  Whereas neighboring destinations such as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau have rejuvenated themselves with new man-made attractions such as theme parks and mega resorts on man-made land, Thailand continues to focus on the same themes.  Hence, it is urgent for Thai tourism stakeholders to create man-made attractions rather than using the existing natural and cultural attractions to motivate first-time and repeat tourists to visit Thailand.  It is also time to reconsider current services.  Has there been any service defection? 

References

Rittichainuwat N. B.  (2008).  Responding to Disaster, The Case Study of Phuket, Thailand.  Journal of Travel Research, 46(4), :422-432.

Rittichainuwat N., B.  (2006).  Tsunami Recovery: A Case Study of Tourism in Thailand.  The Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Quarterly, November, Vol. 47 ( 4), 390-404.

Rittichainuwat N., B., & Chakarborty, Goutam.  (2009).  Perceived travel risks regarding terrorism and disease: The case of Thailand.  Tourism Management.   30(3): 410-418.

Rittichainuwat N., B., Qu, H., & Brown, T.  (2001).  “The Image of Thailand as An International Travel Destination.”  Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Quarterly, April, 42(2): 82-95.

Rittichainuwat N., B., Qu, H., & Leong, J.  (2003).  “The Collective Impacts of A Bundle of Travel Determinants on Repeat Visitation.”  Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 27(2): 217-236. 

Rittichainuwat N., B., Qu, & Mongkhonvanit, C.  (2007).  Understanding the motivation of travelers on repeat visits to Thailand.  Journal of Vacation Marketing, 14(1):1-21. 

Rittichainuwat N., B., Qu, & Mongkhonvanit, C.  (2006).  “A Study of  Travel Inhibitors on the Likelihood of Travelers to Revisit Thailand.” Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 21 (1): 77-87.

Rittichainuwat N., B., Qu, & Mongkhonvanit, C.  (2002).  “A Study of the Impact of Travel Satisfaction on The Likelihood of Travelers to Revisit Thailand.”  Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 12 (2).  

Rittichainuwat, N. B., & Silcox, J., Mongkonvanit, C., & Noypayak, W.  (2008). Does Service Providers’ Crisis Management match tourists’ expectation?  In Hwang, Y.H.(ed.), Proceedings of the APTA 2008 Conference , Bangkok, July 9-12, 2008.