Uneasy Relationship Between Tourism And Third World Rulers Essay

Length: 6 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Recreation Type: Essay Paper: #4628090 Related Topics: Food Politics, Tourism, Bangladesh, Nestle
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Politics & Tourism

The Impact of Politics on Tourism

In 1989, Linda Richter emphasized the largely unrecognized role tourism plays on the world's political stage. Some of the examples mentioned to support her argument were the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Afganistan and the banning of Aeroflot flights over U.S. territory following the downing of a commercial Korean airliner over Soviet territory (1). There are exceptions to the rule, however, including women's and church groups who view tourism as a viable target in host countries that continue to deny its citizens basic human rights. One example given was the protests encountered by the Prime Minister of Japan on a tour of Asian cities, which were fueled by outrage over the sex trade engaged in largely by Japanese businessmen traveling abroad for this purpose. Richter suggested that most citizens of Western countries consider tourism a largely benign activity, possibly even economically and socially beneficial. Lounging on a warm beach and sipping cocktails decorated with tiny umbrellas is harmless, isn't it?

In fact, the tourism industry on a worldwide scale represents trillions of dollars of commerce and anything that huge will always capture the attention of governments and capitalist investors everywhere (Richter 3). For example, by 1989 tourism was the leading source of international income for dozens of countries, including the United States. To better understand how governments and investors around the world view tourism, along with the benefits and detriments of an international tourism industry, several case studies will be examined here.

Tourism in the Third World

Stephen Britton believes it is essential to recognize that international tourism is primarily, probably exclusively, a creation of capitalism, specifically the type of capitalism practiced in metropolitan centers within former colonial powers (331-335). Third world countries, from Britton's perspective, represent nation states that have been maligned by colonial powers in such a way that the original economic structure was transformed to meet the economic needs of the colonial powers. This in turn implies that any semblance of democratic rule was supplanted by colonial rule and the political, economic, and social interests of a few compliant local elite. From this emerged social structures focused on class status, oppressive labor policies, and a local economy serving the needs of foreign investors. Starting a tourism industry, under these circumstances, would therefore necessitate entry into the local economy through the colonial system or ruling elite, at the expense of the wider population. Often, this required a brutal repression of any dissent that could threaten the health of the tourism industry and the governing system more broadly.

Britton noted that during the 1960s the international tourism industry developed packaged tour deals, which had the effect of reducing travel and recreation costs for tourists, expanded the tourism market to include more timid tourists, and funneled profits into the pockets of foreign investors (336). Naturally, the economies of destination countries benefit only a little compared to the economies of the source countries. As the size of international tourism companies grew, the more influence these interests can enjoy over host governments, especially in third world markets. Even if destination countries have long ago won their freedom from colonial rule, the international tourism industry continues a colonial-like relationship by exploiting local resources to increase profits within the source country. There is thus a net flow of capital from the third world countries into the source economy. For example, on Fiji, 53, 68, and 95% of hotel food, hotel construction materials, and gift shop supplies, respectively, are imported (339). The contribution to the destination economy can be as low as 20% of the overall tourism trade, if both air travel and hotel accommodations are supplied by foreign interests.

Britton provides a case study of his argument by comparing the tourist economies of Fiji, Cook Islands, and Tonga, all located adjacent to each other in the South Pacific (347-354). Fiji represents a post-colonial British territory currently under New Zealand rule, complete with a sizable expatriate community. The Cook Islands less so, but Tonga was largely ignored by the colonial powers throughout history. Accordingly, 65, 52, and 8% of tourism receipts generated by tourism in Fiji, Cook Islands, and Tonga, respectively, are retained by foreign companies; however, the income generated...


In a perverse way, colonial intrusion into Fiji's local economy eventually led to the creation of a robust tourism industry to the benefit of the local economy. Being bypassed by the colonial powers has therefore relegated Tonga to the margins of the international tourism economy.

Another island nation, formally a Spanish and U.S. colony, became a dominant player in the tourism industry in the mid-20th century. Tourism in Cuba expanded in the 1920s and then rapidly in the late 1950s, but when Fidel Castro took power in 1959 and nationalized all foreign businesses in 1960 the tourism industry was essentially nonexistent for several decades (Padilla 652). The pre-revolutionary government passed legislation allowing casinos to make significant improvements in 1955, which helped Cuba regain some its lost tourism income from neighboring Caribbean islands. The boost in tourism income, however, was short-lived due to the Cuban Revolution, which again shifted tourism to neighboring island nations. The beneficiaries of Castro's anti-tourism policies included the economies of Jamaica, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and neighboring coastal Mexico. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the Soviet subsidy propping up the Cuban economy was lost and Cuba began to revise its anti-tourism and anti-foreign investment policies (653).

Thus began another robust tourism period in Cuba's history, but one with tight restrictions on foreign interests and investors. Hotel chain managers, for example, must relinquish significant control to Cuban bureaucrats and pay what amounts to extortion to the government employment agency to gain access to the Cuban workforce (Padilla 654). The overall boost to the economy is above $800 million in U.S. dollars, less than a third of the amount of former Soviet aid.

The land-locked nation of Bhutan has taken a similar stance against tourism, but instead of instituting tight controls over resident tourism companies, it has implemented tight restrictions on the number of Western tourists allowed to enter its country (Nyaupane and Dallen). Nestled between China (Tibet) to the north, Nepal to the West, and India and Bangladesh to the south and east, this Himalayan country has imposed a high daily tariff on tourists, equivalent to $200 per day, as a way of limiting the length of stays and the type of tourists. Such a high fee essentially prevents cost-conscious travelers, such as young adult backpackers, from entering the country (976). This fee covers the cost of food, accommodations, transportation in country, and a mandatory personal guide. Travel is booked through agents located in Bhutan. This policy has been called low-volume, high yield, in part because the Bhutan tourist industry keeps 65% of the income thus generated, while the government keeps the rest. Notably, none of the tourism profits generated in-country is retained by foreign interests. The only airline servicing Bhutan is state-owned and official policy dictates that tourists must use the airline for at least one leg of the journey into or out of the country. The low-volume, high-yield tourism policy was justified by concerns about low-budget, mass tourism practices, because of the perception that these tourist activities cause the most damage to destination cultures and the environment.

The travel policies implemented by the Bhutan government are not unlike other policies governing its citizens. Despite a substantial resident population from Nepal, Tibet, and India, the Bhutan government declared that there is only one Bhutan national identity, language, and religion (Nyaupane and Dallen 975). Although becoming less restrictive recently, Bhutanese are officially required to dress in traditional clothing. Critics of these policies argue that the ruling monarchy is simply trying to preserve its popularity among the Bhutanese by preventing meaningful exchanges between the citizenry and foreign cultures and political systems.

Cyprus, an island nation, has struggled with not only its identity but with the role tourism is expected to play politically and economically (Scott 2114-2116). Once it shrugged off British colonial rule under an agreement between Greece, Turkey, and Britain, the island has been repeatedly rocked by ethnic conflict. During the 14 years following independence tourism blossomed along the coastal regions, while inland intermittent clashes occurred between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 1974, a pro-Athens coup was staged that divided the island into a Turkish north and Greek south, a division that has lasted for four decades. Although the officially recognized government of Cyprus is the Republic of Cyprus, it only controls the southern two-thirds of the island. A northern government has attempted international recognition, but these attempts have failed. Meanwhile, the Cyprus tourism industry has blossomed and contributed significantly to the local economy, while also being blamed for the continuation of…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Britton, Stephen G. "The Political Economy of Tourism in the Third World." Annals of Tourism Research, 9 (1982): 331-58. Print.

Nyaupane, Gyan P. And Dallen J. Timothy. "Power, Regionalism and Tourism Policy in Bhutan." Annals of Tourism Research, 37.4 (2010): 969-88. Print.

Padilla, Art and Jerome L. McElroy. "Cuba and Caribbean Tourism after Castro." Annals of Tourism Research, 34.3 (2007): 649-72. Print.

Richter, Linda. The Politics of Tourism in Asia. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1989. Print.

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