Cultural Heritage Tourism Through the Lens of Youth: The Case of Thai Youth Visitors to Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand
While youth tourism and cultural tourism – two increasingly important segments of tourism activity – have been widely researched, an opportunity exists to further examine the intersection of youth travel demand and cultural tourism supply. Understanding youth travelers (aged 15–25 years old) is important because they are eager to explore and learn about different cultures (Guo P, AU-GSB e-J 4(2):70–80, 2008), yearn for a sense of freedom (Schönhammer R, Phenomenol Pedagog 10:19–27, 1992), and are different from previous generations of travelers (Richards G, Wilson J, Tour Rev Int 8(2):57–67, 2004, Boukas N, J Cult Herit Manag Sustain Dev 2(2):164–169, 2008). Cultural tourism destinations are popular with youth travelers as they seek to explore different environments and experiences by visiting places and sites with abundant historical and current cultural qualities (Moisa 2007). Beyond the connection with youth tourists, cultural tourism is significant in that this industry provides positive effects upon the economic and social dimensions of a community, revitalizes destinations that may otherwise be forgotten or underdeveloped, and provides resources for the expansion of conservation activities (McKercher B, du Cros H, Cultural tourism: the partnership between tourism and cultural heritage management. The Haworth Hospitality Press, Binghamton, 2002).The purpose of this study is to provide an understanding of young Thai visitors’ behaviors and attitudes associated with cultural heritage tourism in Thailand by identifying their personal profile and discerning their views toward cultural heritage destinations. Additionally, the current study also examines the historical attraction site’s attributes that youth visitors consider important and how these attributes meet the needs of these young visitors. For this study Ayutthaya Historical Park situated in Ayutthaya province in Thailand, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1991, was selected as the data collection site. Results reveal that the beauty of historical buildings and landscape, the preservation of cultural heritage attraction sites’ authenticity, the maintenance of the historical buildings’ exterior, and the maintenance of the historical buildings’ interior are considered the most important attributes to the youth visitors. Attributes considered as weaknesses of the attraction sites are the number of toilets available, the amount of parking spaces provided, the amount of restaurants and dining areas, and the quality of souvenirs offered at the attraction sites. Furthermore, the quality of staff service and activities offered at the attraction sites was found to also need emphasis and attention.
KeywordsAyutthaya Historical Park Cultural tourism Heritage tourism Youth behavior Youth visitor
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