Lions and Tigers and Chinese, OH my!

 | Wed 26 Feb 2014 11:03 ICT

Once a tourist haven for backpackers living on the cheap with hundred baht guesthouses and trips into the mountains, the landscape of Chiang Mai tourism has changed drastically over the years, at least according to a report from The Bangkok Post, which states that the fastest growing and most influential new group of tourists in Chiang Mai are big-spending Chinese tourists.

According to their research, Chinese visitors to Chiang Mai numbered upwards of 100,000 last year and numbers are expected to rise into the new year. And for what exactly are these tourists looking? Lush stays in 4 to 5 star hotels and luxury shopping at department stores. Their influence, then, can be found in the money they are willing to spend. If money talks, businesses in Chiang Mai are certainly paying attention and responding with a crop of new department stores and luxury hotels fit out specifically to service the needs of these Chinese visitors.

The question then becomes: with what sort of Chiang Mai will we be left? If the city continues to develop in this way, with large hotels dwarfing guesthouses and commercial restaurants sprawling to consume local food stands, will Chiang Mai become nothing more than a carbon copy of its sister city to the south, Bangkok? Will it lose its “mountainy charm”? Is this just progress or is it something more sinister? Can it be stopped? Should it be stopped?

As we ponder these questions, it is important (vital, necessary) to remember that blaming this expansion solely on Chinese visitors is irresponsible and just flat out wrong (how many of these new restaurants and hotels seem to be targeting the fat-pocketed English speaking farang? Answer: many). However, it seems like many locals (and even some of our faithful readers) are not only frustrated with these Chinese visitors but upset and angry about their presence here.

We may not have the answers, but we are curious to know what you think, so leave your thoughts and comments below!