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An investigation of tourism stakeholder networks and cluster sustainability in Samui Island, Thailand

Nisarat Thaithong


Nisarat Thaithong


Dimitrios Tsagdis


This research focuses on main challenges and opportunities in developing sustainable tourism in Samui Island, one of the well-known tourist destinations in Thailand. The island is rich in environmental and cultural resources as well as being a popular coastal tourism resort generating considerable revenues (approx. GBP 700 million in 2014). However, serious environmental impacts due to mass tourism threaten not only the island‘s tourism industry in, but also the ecology of the region and the long-term well-being of its residents. Thus, this research aims to analyse the interrelationships between tourism stakeholders and how their relational networks influence (un)sustainable practices and shape tourism clusters and sustainable tourism development. This work draws upon empirical data collected in two study regions - in Samui – sub-district Bo Phud situated in the north-east, and two sub-districts of Na Muang and Taling Ngam in the south-west.

The research used and applied key concepts inherent in stakeholder theory, social networks approach, and the notion of clusters, to examine the micro-dynamics underpinning (un)sustainable tourism practices in Samui Island. A qualitative approach was utilised for the research investigation through 60 semi-structured interviews and 4 focus groups. The interview participants were policy makers, such as government bodies, and public- tourism organisations, tourism businesses, tourism associations, non-profit organisation, and local communities.

Key findings show the significance of existing collaborative networks between public-private sectors and non-profit organisation which demonstrate both (in) formal networks as well as strong and weak relationships. Social networks enable innovative tourism products and activities, as well as green projects. However, these collaborative networks were still limited in some particular groups such as upmarket hotels and resorts. Other groups of stakeholders were in peripheral positions in tourism networks, especially local communities which lacked connections and participations in the tourism development process. Key challenges in relation to networking included lack of trust towards government bodies, tension between outsiders (both Thai and foreigners ) and insiders (Samui local people), and lack of time and commitment. Also key challenges towards sustainable tourism implementation arise due to the lack of financial resources, and social networks that are in some cases mobilised for unsustainable practices such as corruptions, and by the networks of businesses that are not licensed or are unregulated, as well as 'dark networks' such as sex workers, pimps and clusters of drugs dealers.


Nisarat Thaithong. (2016). An investigation of tourism stakeholder networks and cluster sustainability in Samui Island, Thailand. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 4, 2016
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Business
Public URL
Additional Information Business School, The University of Hull
Award Date May 1, 2016


Thesis (8.2 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2016 Nisarat Thaithong. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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