The interplay between a hallmark cultural event, tourism, and commercial activities: A case study of the Songkran Festival in Thailand
This study is grounded in the researcher’s interests in the evolution of a hallmark cultural event, and the uses of the event for tourism and commercial purposes through the transformation of cultural practices. The researcher is a Thai citizen who has experienced the Songkran Festival since childhood and has witnessed changes in how Thai people perform the cultural practices at the festival, for example, the Rod Nam Dam Hua ceremony, the Sand Pagoda Building, and the Water Splashing tradition. The festival celebration has changed into different forms, now reflecting the modernity of Thai society rather than its cultural significance. The festival also became a tourist attraction that encourages many international tourists to visit Thailand. In light of these changes, this study aims to explore the interplay between a hallmark cultural event, tourism, and commercial activities from the local’s perspective through the transformation of cultural practices namely, the Rod Nam Dam Hua ceremony, the Sand Pagoda Building, and the Water Splashing tradition at the festival. The study seeks, firstly, to understand the historical development of the festival from 1960 to the present day. Secondly, the research will examine the development of tourism and commercial activities in a hallmark cultural event. Lastly, the study strives to investigate the transformation of cultural practices of a hallmark cultural event caused by the interplay between the event, tourism, and commercial activities. To achieve the study’s aim and objectives, an inductive approach was used. This involved a case study methodology and methodological triangulation technique (document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation) to collect insightful data. The data was thematically analysed and reported according to significant themes that represent the character of each interplay at a hallmark cultural event. The study elucidates the concealed interplays between a hallmark cultural event, tourism, and commercial activities, which expands the anthropological knowledge of event studies (cultural; commodification vs. authenticity). Additionally, the key findings highlight the uses of spatial and temporal dimensions in managing the interactions between cultural practices, tourism, and commercial activities to preserve cultural significance. Finally, the study encourages cultural event stakeholders to consider the consequences of the interplays between their collaborations when planning the long-term development of cultural events, placing importance on serving different expectations while also ensuring that any loss of cultural significance can be minimised.
Advisor: Coetzee, Willem; Lee, Craig
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Tourism
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: "Hallmark cultural event"; Commercialisation; "Hallmark cultural event"; Commercialisation; "Songkran Festival"; Interplay
Research Type: Thesis