27 Dec 2021
The Sasin Research Seminar series continues with a look at Wellness Tourism in Thailand. The talk, given by Dr. Pattarawan Prasarnpanich, and Ph.D. candidate Ms. Natnisha Kongtaveesawas, looked at the growth of wellness tourism, the stakeholders involved in a Thai context, and how immersive experiences and technology can be incorporated to enhance the sector. The session began with Dr. Pattarawan explaining the motivation behind the study, which included Ms. Natnisha’s hospitality background and Thailand aiming to be the regional health care hub. There is also a trend for incorporating immersive technology into wellness. Ms. Natnisha then gave an overview of the global wellness market, how it has been expanding in recent years and looked at predicted growth. The background studies and the positive effect Covid-19 has had on wellness technology was discussed. This was followed by a look at the literature and the gaps in the research. Key areas of wellness tourism research were shown. These consequently revealed that there had not been much research done into the attributes of the wellness tourism experience in the context of different cultures. This gap was then linked to immersive technology. This research gap explored by Ms Natnisha is that attributes of the wellness tourism experience, in the form of immersion within Thailand, is still lacking. The research justification is in three parts. The first is that the results of the study will provide more information regarding the attributes of the wellness tourism framework and experience in Thailand. The second is the research will improve the direction of experiential marketing in the form of immersion. Finally, the work will support the 20-year National Strategy (2017-2037) with a focus on wellness tourism. Ms. Natnisha then explained the academic, practical, and policy contributions that would result from the research once it was completed. Next came the literature review and the five main areas that made up the ‘Conceptual Framework Construction Concepts’. These concepts include wellness tourism, tourism experience, experiential marketing, perceived experience, and technological implementation in tourism. This was followed by a brief explanation of what is meant by wellness tourism. The definition is derived from the GWI description as ‘the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health’. It is a more complex type of tourism compared to the norm. This research focuses on wellness experiences and activities, including sport, spas, Thai massage, healthy food, and mind and spiritual retreats. Next, the lecture examined the Circular Economy and how Thai stakeholders could be involved in the research in a way that was mutually beneficial to all. Ms. Natnisha then gave an overview of her research into immersive technology and how various studies have described it. She explained how she linked the research to wellness tourism by looking at various experiential marketing theories and concepts. This led to how the study links these ideas in a theoretical framework and an immersive wellness tourism experiential marketing model. Then came the Core Concept of the Research Proposal and its Input, Process, and Output. Previous research has revealed that the wellness tourism experience concept of ‘physical, mental, spiritual, and environmental experience’, known as PMSE, would differ in various cultures. To explore this, Ms. Natnisha developed some questionnaires and found the PMSE model could be used as the fundamental structure of an Immersive Wellness Tourism System Design (IWTSD) within the context of Thailand. She conducted a Confirmation Factor Analysis to confirm this. She then outlined the conceptual framework proposal and the research objectives. The study hypothesises and wants to test that the IWTSD will positively impact perceived wellness tourism experiences. The IRB has already approved the research development tools for the next step in the research – an Experience Questionnaire. Dr. Pattarawan then looked at the conceptual framework proposal in more detail, discussing how the study is constructed and some of the findings, such as how different attributes vary in other cultures. The talk concluded with a Q&A session that discussed the difficulties of getting IRB approval, how data would be gathered, and the focus on the onsite experience.