THE STUDY LOCATION: THAILAND AND CHIANG MAI PROVINCE
5.2 CHIANG MAI PROVINCE
5.2.4 Travel and Tourism Settings in Chiang Mai
The following subsection provides the settings of travel and tourism in the province including travel and tourism settings, and tourism products in Chiang Mai.
126.96.36.199 Travel and Tourism Settings in Chiang Mai
Tourism in Chiang Mai was probably first recognised when a rail link from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was built in 1 92 1 . Also important was the official proclamation of Chiang Mai as a province of Thailand in 1 93 3 (Wutdanairaj, 1 992). This brought great change in social, educational and cultural development to the region. Along with this development, there has been promotion of tourism and travel with the foundation of Public Relations of the State Train Department by Prince Khampaeng Petch Ak
kharayothin in 1 924, which was later transferred to the Tourism Office of Thailand (TOT) in 1 959. This organisation was later renamed by the Sarit Thanarat government as the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in 1 976. Tourism has been Chiang Mai's primary industry ever since (Wutdanairaj, 1 992). As with the TAT is responsible for travel and tourism industry throughout the country, the TAT, Northern Office Region was established as the first local office, which takes the responsibility for travel and tourism industry in the northern areas in 1968 (TAT, Northern Office Region, 2000).
According to the statistics from the year 2000, 3,361,764 tourists visited Chiang Mai.
This figure was divided into 1,360,007 international and 2,001,757 domestic travellers.
This represents a 1.27% increase on 1999 tourist arrivals. The revenue generated from this industry was 35,605.46 million Baht (or approximately $US791 million), a 4.5%
increase over 1999. In 2001, the number of tourists reached four million people with the contribution of 37,406 million Baht (or approximately $US831 million) to the local economy (TAT, Northern Office Region, 2000).
188.8.131.52 Tourism Products in Chiang Mai
The wide and fertile valleys on the River Ping provide Chiang Mai with a channel for trade from China and Burma to the Gulf of Siam. For tourists, Chiang Mai owes her existence to the name of the 'Rose of the North' for the abundance of flowers that thrive in the cooler mountain climate. The richness of traditions and cultures has been the pride and joy of the people of Chiang Mai for centuries. The province has grown from her origins as a small northern Lanna capital to become a city representative of modem Thai culture. The people themselves are an unforgettable part of the region. Handicrafts made from silk, silver and wood are local industries. Along with all this, a wide variety of accommodations, restaurants and entertainment establishments all, make Chiang Mai one of Thailand's prime tourist destinations (TAT, Northern Office Region, 2000).
Tourism products in Chiang Mai are characterised by both primary and secondary tourism resources. For example, the potential tourist sites that portray these attributes include Doi Inthanon and National Parks, Doi Suthep - Doi Pui National Park, Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, Orchid and Butterfly Farms, and several hot springs. They are considered as the primary or the main tourism products. Essentially, Chiang Mai is a city built on a strong traditional heritage of over 700 years. Established in 1296 the city
has enjoyed relative indq,endence from the rest of the country. The distinctive culture is called 'Lanna' which literally means 'the kingdom of a million-rice field.' The influence of Lanna traditional culture in Chiang Mai can be seen in the religious architecture and the artistic features of crafts, cuisine, dress, and traditional ceremonies (Nimmonratana, 2000). Thus Chiang Mai provides two types of tourist attractions: the old city and the surrounding outskirts sites (TAT, Northern Office Region, 2001).
Chiang Mai, the second biggest city in Thailand after Bangkok, has been the most popular northern destination for both domestic and foreign tourists for decades. With its bordering provinces, for example, Chiang Rai, and neighbouring southern China, Chiang Mai provides numerous advantageous locations for the tourism industry.
Moreover, the province is 'the main terminus of the northern route of the railway system. Chiang Mai also has an international airport and a network of roads to nearby areas' (Nimmonratana, 2000, p. 71). Therefore, infrastructure and services developed are important factors in boosting the travel and tourism in this region.
Chiang Mai is easily accessible. It can be reached either by air, car or coach, or train.
Several flights daily by the domestic carrier Thai Airways International (THAI) take one hour from Bangkok. Daily coach services from Bangkok is Northern Bus Terminal take nine hours on the Asia Highway travelling from Bangkok to Nakhon Sawan Province, from Nakhon Sawan to Thoen District, Lampang Province, and from Lampang to Chiang Mai City on Highway No. 106. Daily train services from Bangkok are Hua - Lumpong Train Station takes 13 hours and is also good alternatives (TAT, Northern Office Region, 2000).
This chapter has presented the study location, that is, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.
The chapter firstly describes Thailand including the land and its people, followed by tourism settings and the Tourism Authority of Thailand and its responsibility. Also, Chiang Mai has been outlined in terms of a tourist destination including its geographical features, and historical background, people and language, and travel and tourism settings.
In the next chapter the presentation of analysis results and discussions has been presented. It includes the profiles of respondents and the analysis of tourists' perceived attractiveness of the destination.