Organized Panel Session
Since 2010, the Asia-Pacific region has developed into the fastest growing region in the world for tourism. For example, from 2010 to 2017 tourism arrivals grew by 53% in Laos, 122% in Thailand, 123% in Cambodia, and an astonishing 335% in Myanmar, all of which dramatically surpass the 30% average global tourism growth rate for the same period. This panel explores how the recent tourism boom is altering the meaning and experience of tourism across Southeast Asia, and considers how these dramatic and rapid changes are affecting local lives and livelihoods.
This panel focuses on current issues drawn from recent fieldwork in the region, such as how changing tourist demographics are causing a decline in Cambodian ‘dark tourism’; strategies employed by Buddhist monks in northern Thailand to benefit from tourist growth while still maintaining sacredness and spiritual authority at religious sites; the competition between ‘locals’ and ‘foreigners’ at tourist sites in Laos; and the role that migrant labor plays in establishing a tourist economy along the Thai-Myanmar border. These issues highlight how the rapid rise of tourism in the region upsets preconceived historical narratives and prior understandings of tourism while challenging ideas of class, ethnicity, religious experience, and the meaning of ‘locality’ as it pertains to global tourism. In discussing these concepts, this panel seeks to analyze issues in contemporary tourism as well as preview the potential for future research on tourism in Southeast Asia.