Transport and infrastructure issues in Southeast and South Asian tourism

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Transport provides the major element in the tourist's ability to travel because without transport, most forms of travel and tourism could not occur. Transport is the dynamic element which links tourists from origin areas with destination areas, and research has explored the tourist-transport interface in some detail (Hoyle and Knowles, 1992, 1998; Page, 1994, 1998, 1999). Yet, within the literature on Southeast Asian and South Asian tourism, most recent syntheses (e.g. Hitchcock et al., 1993; Go and Jenkins, 1997) have failed to discuss the vital role of transport and infrastructure development as facilitating and potentially constraining factors in the development of tourism within the region (Leinbach and Chia, 1989). It is also important to emphasize that transport has been one of the hidden factors that has assisted the dynamic economies in Southeast Asia to develop export markets (Islam and Chowdhury, 1997), a feature emphasized by Dixon and Smith (1997). This has been inextricably linked to the development of international trade, regional integration, the expansion of Extended Metropolitan Regions (Douglass, 1995) and the related growth triangles (Tang and Thant, 1993) discussed in Chapter 1. For example, the Johor-Singapore-Riau growth triangle is served by well-developed transport and infrastructure provision, as well as access to ports. Most tourism studies with a focus on Southeast Asia tend to assume that transport is a passive agent despite its obvious role in wider processes of economic development (e.g. Pye and Lin, 1983). Tourism researchers tend to view transport and infrastructure provision as the responsibility of the state or private sector even though transport is a vital ingredient in tourism development. They often fail to acknowledge the key role transport plays in development, ignoring the growth triangles experience which could not function effectively without access, communications and land-based transport networks. In this context, fundamental research in economic geography, planning, transport and development studies has not permeated or greatly influenced tourism research, despite the analogy that economic growth is dependent upon transportation as one of the critical success factors facilitating rapid development. As a result much of the published research on tourism in Southeast and South Asia has been devoid of any critical discussion of the role of transport in economic development in general and tourism in particular. Tourism is not any different in this context to other forms of economic development, since the rapid growth in domestic and international tourism flows and activity at different spatial scales require transportation and associated infrastructure provision to enable the realization of the latent potential demand. In this respect, the supply of transportation and infrastructure is a fundamental requirement for the orderly and efficient development of tourism. It is frequently overlooked, despite the recent publication of specialists' studies on air transport (Findlay et al., 1997), airport development (O'Connor, 1996) as well as private sector reports on aviation (Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), 1997) and other specialist aspects of transportation research on areas related to aviation published in journals such as the Journal of Air Transport Management. One of the reasons why aviation has been the focus of much of the existing research relates to the scale and diversity of destinations within the region and the significance of airport hubs and regional air services to manage the distribution and flows of tourists into and within the region. As Wheatcroft (1998: p. 159) argues 'the tourism industry in many countries of the world has been profoundly shaped by the development of air services' a statement which is particularly relevant in the case of Southeast Asia. In fact, the development of air services in Malaysia in the 1950s and the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s and early 1970s had a significant impact on air services in the region. For example, in the case of the Vietnam conflict, the rest and relaxation function provided for American troops in Thailand and the Philippines contributed to the early development of resorts such as Pattaya and Chang Mai and sex tourism in both Bangkok and Manila (Hall, 1994). In the case of Vietnam, there is also the similar pattern of development occurring to that which occurred in the Pacific Islands after the Second World War, where former American air bases provided the focal point for the development of presentday aviation infrastructure. In some senses, it could be argued that the historical antecedents of former military activity form the nucleus of a neo-colonial stage of economic and transport development in Southeast Asia, utilizing former infrastructure to accommodate tourism demand.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTourism in South and Southeast Asia
Subtitle of host publicationIssues and Cases
PublisherTaylor & Francis Group
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781136002267
ISBN (Print)9780750641289
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2000


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