Portrayal of Thailand by International News Media and Its Impact on International Audiences’ Travel Intention through Perceived Country Image: A Case Study of the Thai Cave Rescue A Case Study of the Thai Cave Rescue

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Ratanasuda Punnahitanond


Most international media coverage of Thailand involve negative issues such as AIDS, prostitutes, and pollution.  The successful rescue operation of the 12 lost boys and their young soccer coach in the Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai, the Northern Province of Thailand has become worldwide sensation. Using the “4D Model” of the country image as its theoretical framework, this study aims to investigate an overall image of Thailand framed by international news media, and to examine whether the impact of audiences’ exposure to media portrayal of the Thai cave rescue on their intention to visit Thailand is mediated by their country image. A mixed research method – textual analysis and survey -- was used to answer both research questions.  

In terms of textual analysis, 50 online news reports purposively selected from five international news media namely CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, News.com.au, and Channel News Asia between June 23 and August 20, 2018 were textually analyzed to identify the emerging themes of Thailand’s country image in terms of its media portrayal. The Constant Comparative Method (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) reveals that Thailand was portrayed by international news media as a country of efficient performance, impressive competences, aesthetic qualities, and people with Buddhist virtues and high spirit.

As for the survey, an online survey was conducted with 369 foreigners to test three research hypotheses. A Stepwise Hierarchical Multiple Regression Analyses yielded that international audiences’ exposure to the media coverage of the Thai cave rescue significantly influenced cognitive components of the country image, which in turn, influenced affective component of the country image, which ultimately affected their travel intention. Findings provide not only academic implications for communication scholars, but also managerial implications for government offices dealing with country image and tourism promotion such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.


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