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Abstract

Shopping is considered a ‘must-do’ activity for most people on travel. One of the major parts of tourist shopping is the purchasing of souvenirs. Souvenirs are universally associated with tourism as a commercially produced and purchased object to remind the purchaser of the experience. Recently, Korea becomes one of the most popular destinations that many Asian tourists like to visit. Among those Asian tourists, the number of Thai tourists bound for Korea shows an incredible rapid growth. Thai people pick Korea and Seoul as their favorite country and city to visit for three consecutive years since 2009. One of the major reasons why Thais are choosing to tour Korea is the enthusiasm for Korean pop culture. That is, ‘Hallyu’ has influenced Thais` decision to visit Korea and purchase Korean products. The primary objective of the current research is to explore the shopping experiences of Thai tourists, specifically their souvenir shopping. It adopts a reflexive interpretive approach to bring light to the various meanings Thai tourists attach to the souvenirs they purchase in Korea. In order to accomplish the objective, the individual interviews were conducted. A total of 12 Thais who have experienced traveling in Korea participated in the study. Four themes were identified through interview text analysis. First, the research participants almost always purchase souvenirs in Korea because the souvenirs represent their identities as tourists. Especially, they purchase the souvenirs as gifts for others, including family members, friends, and colleagues. The souvenirs as gifts show love and thanks to others, and they cement the social relationship. However, purchasing souvenirs for others is more like the moral obligations which evoke the psychological stress. Secondly, the research participants feel closer to Korea while shopping souvenirs around. Thirdly, they obtain imaginative experiences and pleasure through souvenirs related to the Korean pop culture. Souvenirs provide them to visually extraordinary experiences. Lastly, souvenirs purchased in Korea act as visible status marker when they go back to Thailand. They show the socioeconomic status and lifestyles. Tourists themselves and others place special value to souvenirs that were purchased out of Thailand. The findings of this study are of both academic and practical importance. Souvenirs are among the most pervasive elements of the travel experience. However, souvenir shopping is the complicated consumer behavior within tourism both from business and social science perspectives. Along the same line, it needs strategic approaches in order to maximize the economy effects. It concludes by suggesting how further research could offer unique insights into how the souvenirs are positioned both in the context of tourism academics and industry.

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