The Research Problem, the Gap, and the Objectives
Starting from the 1980s Thailand has been considered as a country of tourism destination. The healthy growth of tourism made this industry a major economic factor in Thailand. Being for years one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, Thailand has now faced considerable challenges as far as its tourism industry is concerned. The present and future development of this industry appear to be dependent on the political situation in the country. Political instability is always a factor that influences the tourism industry and the current research is aimed at revealing the relationship between political instability and tourists’ motivation to visit a destination by the example of Thailand.
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Prior studies (Fesenmaier & Jeng, 2000; Jeng & Fesenmaier, 2002; Moutinho, 1987) identified that tourists’ motivation to travel goes along with numerous sub-decisions (such as extent and nature of information search, travel budget, etc.) Studies have singled out that there exist such groups of risk that influence the tourist motivation to visit this or that country: financial, performance, physical, social, psychological, satisfaction, and others (Cheron & Ritchie, 1982; Mitra, Reiss, & Capella, 1999; Stone & Gronhaug, 1993; Stone & Mason, 1995). The current work is concerned with political instability risk as this dimension is crucial for understanding the problem under consideration (McCleary & Whitney, 1994; Seddighi, Nuttall, & Theocharous, 2001; Sonmez & Graefe, 1998b).
A gap exists as there is no direct assessment of the effects of the political instability within Thailand on the tourist industry. Essentially, there is no comprehensive study that addresses the percentage of decline within the overall numbers of tourists who are deterred from visiting Thailand as a direct result of the political instability. Vietnam Net Bridge (2007) estimates the decline of Vietnam visitors to Thailand to be approximately 20% over the course of the past year. It is evident that there is a need for information such as this on a global scale.
In order to attract visitors, the Thailand Authority of Tourism and the Thai government should be aware of the impacts of political instability and elaborate a system of actions that will help to cope with the effects of political instability on the tourism industry. The current research is expected to throw light on the problem and suggests concrete ways of solving it.
For this five objectives are set. They are defined according to the funnel approach: starting from the general overview of the problem leading to concrete recommendations. The objectives are set from the broad to the most focused ones and they are as follows:
- To provide an overview of the effects of political instability on tourism in Thailand;
- To examine how political instability affects tourists’ motivations to visit Thailand;
- To compare the effects of different types of political instability on tourists motivations;
- To examine the link between personal demographic characteristics and the effects of political instability on motivation to visit Thailand;
- To formulate recommendations for the Thailand Authority of Tourism and the Thai government on how to cope with the effects of political instability on the tourism industry.
The Research Methodology
The Research Philosophy
Going by Saunder’s methodology we admit that there are three views about the research process, these are positivism, interpretivism, and realism (Saunders, 2003, p.83). The positivist approach appears to be the most appropriate for the current study as the objectives are set to determine the study of the objective reality. Objective observation is aimed at finding extrapolated results. There is a need to identify the general tendencies of the political development of Thailand, the main aspects of tourism industry development, the factors that influence it, and the relationship between the political development of the country with the growth or decline in the tourism industry.
The research philosophy chosen is linked with the quantitative research that we are going to undertake. Quantitative research presupposes applying statistical analysis of the tourism industry development and ensures reliability and validity in terms of results. Descriptive and empirical findings are expected to help in achieving the aims of the research.
The Research Approach
According to Saunders, an adequate research approach determines the success of the research. In fact, there are two approaches known: deductive and inductive. While using the deductive approach the researcher defines a hypothesis at the beginning of the investigation and then designs a research strategy to test this hypothesis. In case the inductive approach is chosen, the collection and the analysis of data lead to the development of a theory.
Regarding our research problem deductive approach seems to be the most appropriate one. It logically flows out from the positivism philosophy (Saunders, 2003, p 85) and implies generalization and extrapolation of the results. The deductive approach is also appropriate for our research as it presupposes an explanation of the causal relationships between variables. We are going to study the impacts of a stable political situation on tourists’ motivation to visit Thailand and on the development of the Thailand tourism industry as a whole and the same causal relationships in terms of political instability.
Then, we need to compare the analysis of both situations and to make a conclusion about the role that political life of the country has for its being attractive for tourists and to work out a set of corresponding recommendations as far as the problem is concerned.
The Research Design
“The essence of research design is quite simple. Know the business issues; determine what you need to learn; select the right tools; and establish clear action standards” (Findley, cited by Alvin, 1999, p.126). As for our study, there is a necessity to answer the questions like what and when the cases of political instability became evident in Thailand, how the Thailand tourism industry was developing before those events, during and after them. A descriptive design is an effective tool to do this, as it portrays an accurate profile of this or that event or situation. This approach needs to be combined with explanatory research that will help us to understand the tourists’ attitudes to Thailand’s place of interest and other constituents of the tourism industry when the country is characterized by political instability. Saunders claims that explanatory research is useful as it helps “to clarify your understanding of a problem” (Saunders, 2003, p.97).
There are two different types of sources that need to be collected and analyzed to conduct a good analysis. These are primary and data sources. Our research will be based on studying both of them.
Secondary data is defined as commonly collected by people who are not guided by any research goals. In fact, sources of secondary data are classified into qualitative and quantitative. The examples of qualitative sources that we will resort to are newspapers and observations of people who visited Thailand this or that day. Newspapers will provide us with information on the current political situation and tourism industry development in Thailand. Quantitative sources comprise published statistics, data archives, etc. Useful data may be got from governmental and private organizations’ reports. The secondary data is needed to get a general overview of the problem, but, though being a growing research tool in modern society, it is still not sufficient without the primary data used.
Primary data is defined as “the information gathered specifically to serve the research objectives at hand” (Burns, 1999, p.79). The primary data is the initial material that is collected during the research process by the very researcher by using surveys, direct observations, interviews, and objective data sources. Regarding our case, investigating objective data sources will the leading source of information about political instability in Thailand and its relationship with tourists’ motivation to visit the country. Primary data is considered to be a reliable way to get insights into the problem as the researcher knows exactly where the data comes from, how it was collected and analyzed as all these the researcher made on his or her own.
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The quantitative method will form the basis for the primary research. It gives the opportunity to learn the statistical data in the field of tourism development in Thailand and to study the tourists’ motivation in visiting this country. International Tourist Arrivals by Nationality and Mode of Transport, International Tourist Arrivals by Country of Residence, Profile of International Tourist Arrivals, Average Length of Stay of International Tourist Arrivals, International Tourist Arrivals to Thailand by Nationality at International Airport, International Tourist Arrivals to Thailand by Nationality at Southern Ports of Entry and may other statistical data of the years of political instability in Thailand will be analyzed to get the comprehensive analysis of the research problem.
We should also apply questionnaires to study the tourists’ attitudes to the level of the services provided during times of political instability (coups in 1992 and 2006, Muslim conflicts in the South, and the like). Saunders points out that “questionnaires can be used for (…) descriptive research, such as that undertaken using attitude and opinion questionnaire (…) to identify and describe the variability in different phenomena” (Saunders, 2003, p.280).
As our research problem consists of investigating tourists’ motivation in visiting Thailand when the country faced political instability as compared to the years of the stable political situation, studying questionnaires would be appropriate. A qualitative approach is also useful in terms of our research. Posing probing questions to those who once visited Thailand and getting the idea of what the person thinks of the quality of the services offered will present additional information about the way the industry developed in different periods of the history of Thailand.
As far as our research proceeds we are going to use the approaches and the methods stated above in order to measure such three items of political instability risk:
- “This destination should be avoided by tourists because of its political instability” modified from “Politically unstable countries should be avoided by tourists” (Sonmez & Graefe 1998b);
- “I would not let political instability keep me from vacationing in Thailand” modified from “I would not let political instability keep me from traveling to a particular region or country” (Sonmez & Graefe 1998b);
- “I would like to vacation in Thailand but negative news about Thailand discourages me from it” modified from “I’d like to travel internationally but negative news about foreign countries discourages me from it” (Sonmez & Graefe 1998b).
We will test the tourists’ attitudes to political instability in Thailand and will work out possible recommendations concerning each of them.
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