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Tourism, the Poor and Other Stakeholders: Experience in Asia

Working papers

Working papers

This Paper pulls together 27 case studies of local tourism development to identify what is known regarding impacts of tourism on stakeholders in different circumstances. The case studies have been drawn from two geographic clusters: Southeast Asia (Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam), and the mountainous regions of Nepal and northern India.

Tourism is a significant industry in these areas, as in many of the world's poorest countries. It can have important impacts on the livelihoods of the world's poor, but these impacts are rarely well understood and may often be negative. Strategies for enhancing impacts of tourism on the poor need to be developed.

This requires starting with understanding how different tourism approaches affect local people, how the wide range of costs and benefits are distributed among stakeholders and what factors affect benefits to the poor. However, there is a general lack of information on which to base such an understanding, despite a growing interest in promoting local benefits from tourism, particularly around nature conservation areas. There are numerous case studies, but they are rarely synthesised to identify common trends, contrasts and explanatory factors. They tend to focus either on economic benefits or on cultural/social damage rather than the full range of livelihood issues, and often ignore issues of distribution within and between local stakeholder groups, particularly impacts on the poor.

This paper therefore aims to pull together evidence from a range of case studies on how tourism developments have affected livelihoods of different groups in a cross-section of tourism locations, and to identify some of the processes and influencing factors involved.

The case studies reviewed here cover a wide range of situations and tourism-related activities, with most focusing on the destination level. Some of the case studies give an in-depth view of what happens within village communities as tourism is introduced or expands. Some focus more on the processes of change, some on identifying impacts. Interventions that have enabled local communities to maximise gains and minimise losses from tourism activities are included though are not prominent. Some case studies deal with specific groups such as vendors and women and provide useful insights into processes and impacts affecting these groups. Given their different scope, methodologies, purposes, timing and scale, strict comparisons are difficult. Nevertheless, some instructive comparisons and contrasts emerge from a review of key points from each.

Given the destination focus of most case studies, issues at the national or regional levels or macro-economic issues are not addressed (with the exception of Nepal). Generally, economic linkages are not well explored in the literature that has been reviewed here, although those that do address linkages highlight their importance. The case studies are also limited in their analysis of private sector impacts, and of tourists' perceptions and preferences. There is also relatively little information on exclusive resorts and the impact they have on the immediate environment, though research indicates that a whole range of new issues emerge from the development of such resorts. This paper has tried to identify these issues - particularly those that have an important bearing on local communities.

Basic details of each case study are summarised in Table 1: country, location, author, type of tourism, and focus of the study. Section 2 provides a brief description of their findings for each country or destination. Section 3 draws together findings concerning impacts of tourism on different stakeholders in local communities, exploring economic, natural resource, and socio-cultural impacts. It also focuses on distribution and seeks to identify key factors affecting impacts. The discussion draws on analysis of the case studies supplemented by information from a number of other research reports, magazines and newspapers articles. An attempt is made in the final section to draw conclusions and make recommendations for a way forward to maximise gains and minimise losses for the poor.

Kishore Shah, Vasanti Gupta. Edited by Charlotte Boyd