Tourism is currently in a state of global change. The expectations and desires of the average tourist have been gradually evolving over the years, and the tourist industry, although struggling to keep up, has performed brilliantly across sectors (Hamzah & Hampton, 2011). …
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The reality is that record numbers of tourists are choosing to travel internationally, many for extended periods of time. While the traditional short stay vacation of one week in a resort style of facility will likely remain, there has been a tremendous surge in the number of individuals, particularly young people, who choose to take several months off from their existence in their home country to travel around and explore new cultures foreign to their own. Commonly referred to as ‘backpackers’, these travellers are more interested in the local culture and people of the countries they choose to visit, and are less interested in the fancy resorts and holiday destinations that have long been considered the backbone of the tourist industry (Allon, 2004). Backpackers today greatly contribute to the local customs of their country of choice, as they tend to blend into the community life, in many cases choosing to work for a few months, and generally contribute to overall youth tourism market exploding internationally. Perhaps few regions of the world are as notorious for backpacking journeys than the nations of Southeast Asia. The region, having been opened up for tourism in recent decades, is ripe with culture and tradition that attracts young people from around the globe who want to leave behind the Western lifestyle for a time and experience something new. Owing to its openness to foreigners and its relatively carefree lifestyles, Thailand is perhaps the best country to study for this phenomenon. Over the years, the tourism market for backpackers in Thailand has evolved into its own sector of the overall hospitality industry in the country. Backpackers are present in nearly every region of the country, many choosing to say for multiple months, and they have almost become integrated into the overall landscape of the country as well. This study will examine the recent youth tourism movement in Thailand by focusing specifically on backpackers. Current trends and factors driving the growth of the backpacker movement will be analyzed, along with an exploration of various strategic opportunities to further develop the backpacker and working holiday option for the tourism industry in Thailand moving forward. 1.2 Trends in the Global Backpacker Phenomenon The trend of backpacking around the world has gained such momentum, that many tourist agencies are launching campaigns specifically targeting this particular demographic. Research indicates that backpackers tend to spend more money during other traditional types of tourists, largely due to the fact that they stay longer in one region (Hampton, 2013). Backpackers do tend to be more adventurous than other types of travellers, so regions of the world that have a great deal to offer these particular individuals are the ones that typically go after their business. Australia is perhaps the best example of this. New South Wales, in fact, specifically targets backpackers on their website and throughout various industry trade shows around the globe. In doing so, they hope to highlight the numerous cultural and adventure type activities that should attract and lure the average backpacker to spend a considerable amount of time in the area (Allon, 2004). New South Wales, and many other areas around the globe, see considerable advantages in attracting backpackers to their location. While many of these factors will be discussed in Chapter Two, it bears mentioning that the average backpacker does need to be marketed to in a slightly different manner than other types of travellers. To begin, the trend that has been realized recently is that backpackers tend to lean towards budget accommodation. Because of the longevity of their
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