From Objective to Existential Authenticity: Power Dynamics in Ethnic Tourism and Shifting Position of the Kayan in Northern Thailand

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Hilltribe tourism has been one of the major tourism sectors in the Thai tourism industry with a variety of hilltribe minority groups in the Northern regions. The Kayan tribe, also known as ‘long-neck people’, has been playing an important role in Thai ethnic tourism and diverse actors both at local and global level have brought about an expansion of tourism in those villages. The aim of this research is to explore the power dynamics among various actors that construct tourism in Kayan communities. The role of different stakeholders in both the production and the consumption process, including the tourism industry, media, tourists and the local communities, are investigated from a postcolonial perspective through semi-structured online interviews and content analysis of the online materials. It is found out that multiple discourses from different actors together produce/reproduce the touristic images of Kayan people. Looking at the community, there is a process to internalize such external images and utilize them to express and protect their cultural identity. Moreover, tourists are becoming increasingly aware of the broader socio-economic situation of Kayan people, and there is a gradual shift in host-guest encounter from ‘staged authenticity’ to creating more ‘authentic connections’ through interactive experiences.
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