The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down Cultural Tourism

The Hmong were unfamiliar to the majority of their caregivers in Merced. However, a number of tourists in Southeast Asia are gaining familiarity with the group through cultural tourism. In northern Thailand, it is popular to take a tour to visit "hill tribes," including the Hmong. This tourism is intended to promote economic development and is supported by the government. It is estimated that each hill tribe destination may receive between 300 - 700 tourists per day. In most cases, outsiders coordinate the tours. They may include staying with a family, visiting sacred sites, trekking through the mountains, and shopping for local crafts. 

One benefit of cultural tourism is that unlike in the United States, the Hmong of Thailand are encouraged to maintain their distinct cultural identities. On the other hand, one could argue that the practice objectifies tribal members and cannot help but impact the culture. In one study, Hmong noted changes in family structure, increased rates of crime, an increase in STDs, and a feeling of being unwelcomed in certain areas as a result of cultural tourism and Thai employers working closely with villagers. However, they were pleased at the improvement in public facilities, and some Hmong planned to use their new earnings and skills to open up businesses of their own.