The Dark Side of Thailand’s Tourism Boom

Golden temples, beautiful beaches, bustling night markets. Thailand has long been a world-famous tourist destination. It’s expecting a record number of 40 million visitors in 2019 – well over half the country’s population. And it’s dependent on tourist dollars – it accounts for about 20% of GDP. But the industry barely existed before 1960. Its origins were in fact born out of a dark passage of American history. Here’s how war made Thailand a tourist destination. The Vietnam War saw over 3 million American soldiers sent to South East Asia. Many would be stationed in Thailand, which became a major ally in the region and home to seven US air bases. At the height of the conflict, some 50,000 military personnel were stationed throughout Thailand. As America’s involvement in Vietnam deepened, more resources were pumped into the support network in Thailand. As well as building highways and ports, the US sent aid for other infrastructure and social projects, aiming to improve living standards and combat the spread of communism. All the while, Thailand’s capital Bangkok became a centre for air travel, as international airlines found it a convenient location to refuel. It was here in Bangkok where many American soldiers headed for Rest and Recuperation, or ‘R and R’ days. Thousands of coloured neon signs proclaim the city’s bars, bathhouses, massage parlours, and dozens of luxurious night clubs, each with its pretty Thai hostesses. The notorious red-light districts were hard to resist for soldiers who had spent months enduring the terror of the jungle. And US soldiers were also big spenders, handing over almost $11 million in 1967. That’s around 22% of total expenditure by foreign visitors. And as the numbers of soldiers and other visitors began to rise, tourism infrastructure increased too. Plush air-conditioned hotels abound and new shoebox style office buildings dominate the skyline in a helter skelter transformation of what was once a sedate oriental port. As the war ended in 1975, the number of tourists dropped – but only briefly – the industry would go from strength to strength in the following decades. The infrastructure built for U.S. soldiers and businesses – at a cost of over $1.6 billion in military and aid spending- created the foundation for today’s Thai tourism industry. In 2018, Thailand is expected to make $63 billion from tourism. But Americans are no longer the big spenders anymore, another superpower has taken that title – the Chinese.

50 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Thailand’s Tourism Boom

  1. Pattaya developed to serve GI desires. Ubonratchathani ,Udornthani and U tapao airports were built by US. , and also used till now.

  2. Why are Bloomberg narrators always britons? Couldn't they have given the job to an American, or do they prefer cheap labor from northern europe?

  3. Every tourist would agree that it’s cheap here. You can have a good time with just a fraction of money in your pocket.

  4. I can't think of any Asian economy that had "tourism" as an industry before the 1960. Maybe Japan, since it had been occupied by the American troops since 1945? If that is the case, it was also the American troops who kicked start tourism there.

  5. Bangkok airport is the worst place I have never been. Waited for hours to go through immigration and custom. Multiple lines form just about anywhere. People skipping lines. Every once in awhile an Asian woman would push me just to get by. They treat me like an inanimate object.

  6. ผวกฝรั่งขี้อิจฉาในขณะที่เรารวยขึ้นมันก็จนลง 55

  7. It's for ladyboys and underage prostitution nowadays. so technically they're being colonised in modern age. The Land of Ladyboys and Prostitution: Thailand.

  8. While death and devastation plagued one country for years, another country in the neighborhood found itself an unwitting beneficiary. That war could trigger an economic boom elsewhere is testament to how connected things are.

  9. Ummm…….so what is the dark side of tourism in Thailand??? The video kind of left me hanging.

  10. Cheap whores, strong drugs, easy bribes, no wonder the GIs thought it just like home…….. They tried to do the same to Hong Kong, luckily we kicked the stupid cunts stupid. Saw it as a kid, have known the Yanks as self pitying muderous bullies ever since. Cunts

  11. Don't go to Thailand, if you have problems or conflicts 'you don't have rights v/s thai native'. Yes, you can go to court but it will take years and money, and the Thai criminals don't pay you back. You do not have any legal authority that you want to help, ombudsmen answers your mail with promises and empty words. Thai lawyers (are happy with farangs money ) but do not have respect or sense of honor, collect your money but not commit to your case. $$$ All papers you must translate to Thai, court fee, travel cost, lawyers fee, … all not reimburset if maybe the supreme court sentice you are right ! DON'T GO TO THAILAND , DON'T TAKE THIS RISK.

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