Everything from relatively unspoiled beaches to centers of "unregulated mass tourism" can be found along Thailand's hundreds-mile-long west coast. The hospitality sector has "recovered rapidly" from the 2004 tsunami, but developers have not learned from past mistakes. Large resorts are popping up in vulnerable locations. Few have "specific regional features or character."
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"A long strip with more intensive tourism-related infrastructure in the northern section and much less development in the south—although both areas offer some great opportunities for cultural tourism. The Thais have placed a lot of emphasis on education and training for the hospitality sector in this region, and this will help improve service quality and delivery in future years."
"There are ongoing issues of land grabbing from victims of the tsunami that are still unresolved. Further there are serious questions regarding the reconstruction of infrastructure within the tsunami hazard zone. Despite many problems in tsunami recovery there are examples of sustainable redevelopment and attempts to integrate the local population into the reemerging tourism economy."
"Bad example of commercialization approved and stimulated by shortsighted tourism authorities. The tsunami should have been a warning but instead fueled speculation and abuse."
"Tourism has attracted workers from other parts of Thailand, so locals only earn a small share of benefits. Cultural integrity of Moklen people is threatened by various development-related factors."
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.