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558 - Tourism and sustainable development: policies and practices in Latin America

17.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30
17.07.2012 | 17:30 - 19:30

Convener 1: Quesada, Florencia (University of Helsinki , Helsinki, Finland / Finnland)
Convener 2: Pakkasvirta, Jussi (University of Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland / Finnland)

Tourism is an increasingly important global industry. It is the principal export in a third of all developing countries and the primary source of foreign exchange earnings amongst the 49 Least Developed Countries. The Global South is attracting a growing share of global tourism and the international bodies and national governments are recognizing the potential of tourism in economic growth. The message of World Tourism Organization (2002) is clear “Sustainable tourism can be one of the few development opportunities for the poor. Let us use it wisely and soon.”

However, while tourism is a tool for economic growth, there is very little evidence of the connection between development of tourism and poverty reduction.   However, while tourism has been perceived as a tool for economic growth in developing countries, there is very little evidence of the connection between conventional mass tourism development and poverty reduction. At the same time the growth of mass tourism has many times led to a wide range of problems such as environmental, social and cultural degradation and unequal distribution of financial benefits. The transnational companies of the tourism industry are adopting the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) -language and acknowledging the need for “greenwashing”, while reaping the benefits and ignoring the wellbeing of those being visited. At the same time, the continuously weakening public sector of developing countries is unable to respond by regulation and control to the growing ecological and social challenges.  

It has been recognized that sustainable tourism development has good possibilities to succeed when the level of community participation is high and it is based on the local resources. However, the principle of local participation implies, paradoxically, that very often local people have been left out of the planning and decision-making of the tourism development. While the focus of the tourism research has been traditionally on the encounters between hosts and guests, the s uccess or failure of tourism development work depends greatly on the power, goals and practices of the intermediaries or so called brokers. These actors between hosts and guests include transnational enterprises, tour operators, international development agencies, NGOs and the local governments, among others. Especially in economically less developed areas tourism initiatives arrive often from outside the local communities and the hosts can lack of adequate information about the possible impacts of tourism development and needed knowledge about planning and managing tourism projects.  

From an interdisciplinary perspective the symposium will analyze the development of power relations, politics, policies and practices of tourism. At the same time, the symposium seeks to understand the complex inter-dependencies between public, national and international planning, global tourism, local needs, sustainable development and business interests. Case studies will be analyzed in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dominica and Chile.    

Keywords: tourism, sustainable development, ecotourism, corporate social responsability

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