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Power and empowerment in community-based tourism: opening Pandora’s box?

Ilja Simons (Academy for Leisure, NHTV Breda, University of Applied Sciences, Breda, The Netherlands)
Ellen de Groot (Academy for Tourism, NHTV Breda, University for Applied Studies, Breda, The Netherlands)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 20 April 2015




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the different realities blended together in community-based tourism, and how storytelling can help us understand the resulting entanglement of actors and power. This paper combines a discussion of power and empowerment in community-based tourism with storytelling.


The fictional narrative of Pandora’s box is used as a metaphor for power and empowerment in community-based tourism, which can leave communities worse off than before the introduction of tourism.


However, the last thing remaining in Pandora’s box after all hardships had flown out, was hope. This paper also presents a hopeful perspective for community-based tourism in the form of another metaphor: the rhizome, which puts power and empowerment in a more dynamic and holistic frame. Just like in the original story of Pandora’s “jar” which gave voice to Pandora herself, within a rhizome, other players are regarded as valuable sources of tacit contextual knowledge.


Storytelling and dialogue are recommended methods to obtain this knowledge. Using a storytelling perspective can encourage untold and unheard stories within a dialogue to be heard.



The authors are very grateful to Prof Dr Greg Richards for his valuable comments and suggestions and for supporting us in writing this paper. Moreover, thanks are due to Dr Vincent Platenkamp for sharing his knowledge about the Foucauldian perspective. The authors also thank Lénia Marques for sharing her perspective on the Rhizome. Furthermore, the authors thank the two anonymous reviewers for their useful and detailed comments.


Simons, I. and de Groot, E. (2015), "Power and empowerment in community-based tourism: opening Pandora’s box?", Tourism Review, Vol. 70 No. 1, pp. 72-84.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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