Main Article Content
This research project aims to (1) study outstanding health tourism supplies available in Nakhon Si Thammarat including tourist destinations and personnel; (2) explore a model for health tourism management and promotion; and (3) propose approaches to development of the province as a center of health tourism in the upper south of Thailand. This is a mixed-method research which incorporates both qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry. Population of the study included Thai and foreign tourists, people in charge of Nakhon Si Thammarat tourist destinations, experts and academics. They were sampled by means of accidental and purposive sampling. Data were collected through a questionnaire, structured and interview questions, focus groups and a web portal applicable to smartphones.
Results reveal that health tourism personnel potential in terms of personality and working competency were ranked at a high level. Nevertheless, improvement needs to be done in terms of ability to manage and solve problems, cultural awareness, solving general problems related to booking and reserving the service. Some tourist attractions are impressive to the tourists such as those that are related to arts and culture, nature, health products, religions. Moreover, these places are distinctive and appropriate for health tourism as they fit the 6 dimensions of Destination Fascination Scale (DFS) namely: mystique, richness, attractiveness, uniqueness, fitness and friendliness. However, more actions should be taken to improve their physical environment and facilities for disable, aging tourists and families with small children. In terms of health tourism management, it should be in the form of consortium network via Sources of Governing Bodies, Actions from Local to Regional Level, Production and Development and Assessment (SAPA) model. This model could enhance the network potential and promote tourist destinations via various channels especially through an online web portal and social commerce using the Planning, Objective, Publishing, Understanding, Lineament, Appreciation and Retention (POPULAR) model which can be easily accessed through smart phones. Four approaches were proposed to develop Nakhon Si Thammarat as a center of health tourism in the upper south. First, activities should be done to promote value of 6 types and 24 health tourism destinations using 6 dimensions of Destination Fascination Scale (DFS) and physical development, concurrently. Second, the personnel potential should be developed using the designed curriculum which based on contextual needs of each province. Third, health tourism of Nakhon Si Thammarat should be managed via consortium network in a circular-shaped Model called SAPA with 4 components of operational cycle. It needs collaborations with other networks from private sector and community as main drivers in managing health tourism demand and supply. Finally, the POPULAR model of health tourism of Nakhon Si Thammarat should be applied to other provinces in order to establish itself as the center of health tourism in the upper south of Thailand.
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