Tourism and Poverty

Stanislav Ivanov (Academic Director, International University College, Dobrich, Bulgaria; Editor‐in‐chief, European Journal of Tourism Research)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 25 May 2012



Ivanov, S. (2012), "Tourism and Poverty", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 24 No. 4, pp. 674-676.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Tourism has long been identified as a driving force for local community development and poverty alleviation in least developed counties. However, there was a need in the tourism research literature for a systematic and comprehensive review of the relationships between tourism and poverty. In this regard, Regina Scheyvens's monograph is a timely addition to the growing body of literature on tourism's contribution to poverty alleviation.

The monograph is comprised of eight chapters. The first introductory chapter sets the stage for the rest of the book. The author examines recent trends in international, regional and domestic tourist arrivals and the links between tourism and poverty reduction. She acknowledges that tourism is widely perceived as a poverty alleviation tool but calls for greater caution in these overly optimistic tendencies.

The second chapter conceptualizes poverty. The author critically evaluates four contemporary approaches in poverty analysis (empowerment, sustainable livelihoods, capabilities approach and rights‐based approach) and shows the multidimensional nature of concept. She emphasizes that tourism and poverty research should adopt a broader perspective and instead of focusing narrowly on jobs and incomes to consider as well: decrease in vulnerability of local communities and greater self‐reliance, local communities' capabilities and assets, (political) empowerment of the poor and securing the rights of the poor. Furthermore, the chapter includes a discussion of pro‐poor tourism and a review of five perspectives on the tourism‐poverty relationship – liberal, neoliberal, critical, alternative development and post‐development.

The third chapter shows how tourism stimulates poverty. The author discusses the existing criticism on tourism being a form of neo‐colonialism and causing economic disparities through land speculation, competition for labor, core‐periphery relations between different regions within a developing country. Furthermore, the chapter analyzes the limits of globalization as a development strategy. It pinpoints that when too much emphasis is put on conservation of natural environment rather than on local community development, poverty is increased. However, the author shows that many times alternative tourism is not an alternative to mass tourism development and has limited potential to alleviate poverty.

Chapter four analyzes poverty as a tourist attraction. The author shows that poverty is associated by tourism marketers with unspoilt beauty and uniqueness, a picturesque, cheap and adventurous destination. This creates specific allure over poverty per se that attracts tourists. However, this type of tourism further aggravates the situation of the poor who are now part of the tourist gaze. When local people use modern technologies and the local community invests in high quality infra‐ and superstructure, then the destination looses its appeal as “picturesque”, “unspoilt”, “basic” destination and its competitiveness suffers. The chapter also analyzes volunteer tourism from several perspectives – harmful, egocentric, harmless, helpful, educational and social action.

Fifth, sixth and seventh chapters have a common topic – poverty reduction through tourism development. Chapter 5 is dedicated to tourism industry approaches to poverty reduction. In particular, the author discusses the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and its impact on poverty alleviation, as well as the tourism industry's involvement. Specifically, the author looks at the role of tourism industry's bodies/association, the tour operators and accommodation establishments in stimulating pro‐poor tourism. She provides a comparison between the employment conditions in small‐ and large‐scale tourism resorts in Fiji and argues that in reality foreign‐owned large‐scale resorts provide better employment opportunities for local communities and, therefore, might contribute more to poverty reduction. A strong point in the chapter is the critique on the practical implementation of CSR initiatives in tourism. The author stresses the fact that often CSR initiatives are limited to environmental initiatives, they lack respect for labor rights, are not committed to gender equity and many times have only symbolic tokenistic PR character and calls for more social activist approach to CSR in tourism.

Chapter 6 discusses the government approaches to poverty alleviation. The author provides a detailed analysis of the policies and strategies for governments to support pro‐poor tourism. More specifically, government's role is identified in the following directions – tourism policy and planning, understanding local populations in tourism growth areas and recognizing their rights, establishment of tourism regulations and standards, marketing the destination and local tourism enterprises, land‐use planning, infrastructure development, tourism training and licensing, empowering local communities, public‐private partnerships, information collection and dissemination, management of protected areas, and credit. The author also emphasizes the need to strengthen linkages between tourism and other sectors in the local economy that would contribute positively to the indirect and induced impacts of tourism.

As poverty is a global phenomenon and requires actions that transcend international borders, chapter seven focuses on international development agency approaches to poverty reduction. The author evaluates the activities of different supranational institutions in the field (United Nations World Tourism Organization, World bank, Asian Development Bank), bilateral donors (NZAID New Zealand Aid Program, SNV Netherlands Development Organization, GTZ Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) and non‐governmental organizations (Oxfam Caribbean, Tourism Concern). Although many people have benefited from the programs of these organizations, results in terms of poverty reduction through tourism development are mixed.

An advantage of the monograph is the huge number and wide scope of empirical examples that back author's theoretical conceptualizations. Examples are drawn from vast range of countries from Oceania, South/South‐East Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Another advantage is the balanced view point on the subject matter. Unlike other publications that either extol or deeply criticize tourism development and its economic, social and environmental consequences, this monograph provides a balanced perspective. The author critically evaluates all view points on tourism‐poverty relationship and its different perspectives.

The book is suitable for graduate level students and researchers that are interested in tourism development in least developed countries and tourism's contribution to poverty alleviation. It is also highly recommended book for state policy makers who are responsible for drafting governmental and municipal tourism development plans focusing on local community empowerment, economic development and poverty alleviation.

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