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Assessing Accommodation Suppliers’ Perceptions of Climate Change Adaptation Actions on Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand

This study explores perceptions of adaptation and investigates possible obstacles, barriers, and incentives influencing decision-making processes in an island destination.
Multiple Authors
Adaptation option rainwater collection (photo credit: Janto S. Hess)


The coastal region of Thailand is projected to be affected by climate change impacts, such as sea-level rise, which could negatively affect the island’s extensive tourism industry. Due to the unfavourable conditions to build on the island’s mountainous hills, nearly the entire tourism infrastructure is located on the sandy strip. This dense development in a low-lying area leads to the high exposure of the infrastructure to climate change impacts, such as the sea-level rise and storm surges.

The investigation was conducted on Koh Phi Phi Don, a renowned tourism destination on Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast. There are no localised climate change impact studies for Koh Phi Phi. The projected climate change trends show that Thailand is likely to face severe climate-induced risks in the future. It can be assumed that these changes will bring challenges to businesses located on Koh Phi Phi. The negative projection for coastal beaches implies that there will be an increased risk for most coastal infrastructures, particularly those located on low-lying sandy areas.

This research aimed to examine accommodation suppliers’ perceptions of climate change adaptation actions in an island destination in response to impacts typically associated with climate change. This study, furthermore, investigated possible obstacles, barriers, and incentives influencing decision- making processes of accommodation owner-managers (the private sector) to adapt to climate change.

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Methods and Tools

Of the two Phi Phi islands, only Koh Phi Phi Don is inhabited and developed to accommodate a large number of tourists. While the totality of the islands forms the attraction of the destination, this study mainly focuses on Koh Phi Phi Don (subsequently referred to as ‘Koh Phi Phi’) as it is the only island with accommodation suppliers. The research followed a mixed-methods approach, using survey and in-depth interviews, to collect data from a sample of accommodation owner-managers to understand their role in the businesses’ decision-making processes.

There was a total of 120 accommodation businesses on Koh Phi Phi during the time the data collection took place, respectively. The quantitative data collection on the island was undertaken during the touristic off-season between June and July 2018. The targeted sample size for the survey was based on being able to detect meaning in the dataset, which allows an estimate of the characteristics of the total population (inferential analysis). A total of 81 valid surveys were conducted with accommodation owner-managers on Koh Phi Phi. Every accommodation business on the island was visited, using boats where needed, and asked whether the owner-manager was available and willing to participate in completing the questionnaire. At those accommodations where the owner-managers were not present, the researcher requested an audience for the subsequent days or left the questionnaire at the premises.

For the quantitative survey of this study, the self-completion questionnaire was chosen as a suitable method to collect the data. The questionnaire comprised of 20 questions, including 12 close-ended questions in order to gain quantifiable information. In addition, three open-ended (e.g. distance in metre to the shoreline) and five five-point Likert scale questions were included in the survey. However, mostly closed questions were used in order to ease the flow of the questionnaire and allow a standardised analysis. The standardised analysis based on descriptive statistics, using frequencies and the non-parametric test, Kendall’s Tau, which proved to be more accurate than Spearman’s Rho to determine correlations, particularly for smaller datasets (Howell, 2013, 1997). Both Thai and English versions of the questionnaire were available.

To complement the survey findings and allow a deeper understanding of perceptions of sampled accommodation suppliers, 12 in-depth interviews with accommodation owner-managers were conducted in parallel to and after the survey was undertaken. The majority of the interviews were recorded and transcribed and lasted between eight and 60 minutes – depending on the availability of the respondents. Some interviews, however, were only documented through note-taking due to a refusal of the respondent to be audiotaped. The majority of the interviews were conducted in English, while an interpreter was also present in case respondents preferred speaking Thai or had difficulties understanding/expressing specific aspects. The guiding questions and themes for the in-depth interviews were mainly based on open questions and themes, as they “allow a free-response so that people answer using their own words” (Long, 2007, p. 59).

During the mixed method data analysis, the findings from the survey and in-depth interview were consolidated. Wherever possible, and adequate, the consolidation of findings from both methods was prioritized, without undermining, or neglecting, the discoveries through one method. Some results, however, might be dominated by findings from the survey results, while others might be dominated by insights gained through the in-depth interviews.

Lessons Learnt

The results from Koh Phi Phi reveal that most of the sampled accommodation suppliers were in some ways negatively affected by impacts that are associated with climate change and weather variability, including from storm and wind damages, and freshwater shortage. Despite these observed impacts and a seemingly high level of awareness about the phenomenon, climate change is not perceived to be a(n) big/immediate risk factor to their business. Climate change is not perceived to pose the biggest, and/or an immediate, threat to the operations of the sampled businesses.

Regardless, the findings provide evidence that most of the sampled businesses already implemented (consciously or not) climate change adaptation measures, such as insurance coverage, water treatment appliances, and staff training on emergency responses. Through a concentration of power on the island, their action is hindered, which creates a barrier to a sustainable and climate risk-informed development pathway. Moreover, a lack of access to information and participation in planning meetings can create a barrier and uninformed decision-making processes. Thus, it needs to be acknowledged that the adaptation action of individual stakeholders is dependent on the power system and regulatory framework in which they operate.

Future research could build upon these findings and widen the scope of the respondents to include other tourism businesses, public stakeholders, as well as other key tourism actors relevant to Koh Phi Phi’s context to allow comparative analysis and in-depth investigation of different stakeholder perceptions of climate change adaptation as well as the dynamics among them.

Suggested Citation

Hess, J. S., Dodds, R., & Kelman, I. (2021). Assessing Accommodation Suppliers’ Perceptions of Climate Change Adaptation Actions on Koh Phi Phi Island, Thailand.ASEAN Journal on Hospitality and Tourism,19(1), 1-14.

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