Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Sailing to Komodo: Contradictions of Tourism and Development in Eastern Indonesia

Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Sailing to Komodo: Contradictions of Tourism and Development in Eastern Indonesia

Article excerpt

Tourists come from the outside to see the exotic: from the inside tourism is viewed as modernization. (Bruner, 1995, p. 224)

Rather than viewing tourism simply as an industry aligned to neo-liberal thinking, tourism [should be] perceived as a powerful social force that needs to be better understood in order to connect it more effectively to development agendas that go beyond purely economic considerations. (Spenceley & Meyer, 2012, p. 301)

The contradictory expectations of tourism in the developing world were summed up succinctly by Edward Bruner (1995), when he articulated the different hopes tourists and locals have of the touristic encounter, particularly in regards to issues of modernization or development. While the tourist desires to meet an unchanging, timeless community, embodying values thought to have disappeared in the modern world, locals see tourism as the opportunity to embrace that which embodies the 'modern' and to begin to enjoy the fruits of development. This misfit of desires points to the rather ambiguous associations and expectations of what the relationship between tourism and development should be and may even lead, partially because of these conflicts of expectations, to underdevelopment (Cole, 2008, p. 215; Wood, 1979).

In their book on the ethics of tourism development in the developing world, Smith and Duffy (2003) also underscore the ambiguities associated with modernization and tourism as a form of development. Modernization is supposed to break with tradition, and yet traditional ways of life have increasingly become objects to be viewed and consumed within the expanding tourism industry (Smith & Duffy, 2003, p. 2). Telfer and Sharpley (2008) further point out how tourism and development must be increasingly understood as posing a dilemma, for while tourism is widely believed to bring economic benefits for poor communities, such as employment, increased income, and diversification of the economy, the reality is that tourism benefits are very often enjoyed by a local elite and global corporations, rather than by the poor. Meanwhile, this also results in considerable environmental and social costs to the local communities that tourism is supposed to benefit.

In this sense it can be understood why Smith and Duffy (2003) argue that the ambiguity and contradictory relationship between tourism and development is an ethical issue. This results from the way various neo-liberal strategies translate development into a focus on ways of generating capital. The irony, Smith and Duffy (2003) suggest, is that regarding tourism as primarily a form of economic development and pinpointing, therefore, tourism as a way of generating money, negates the kinds of values which a holiday is normally thought to embody (such as appreciating beauty, relaxation, friendship, and so forth) (p. 162). The emphasis on money also means that the benefits to communities can easily be hijacked by others. Financial gain as the main thrust of tourism developments is often at the expense of other types of benefits, other types of values, and other types of development, which might be pursued through tourism (Smith & Duffy, 2003, pp. 8-9). Prioritizing money may also undermine attempts to develop a community sustainably, and reverse the more normal 'means-ends' relationship. Money becomes the end, not the means to an end, and what normally are the ends - relationships with people, places, things - become the means to get money (Smith & Duffy, 2003, p. 162). In this sense, scholars argue that the focus on purely economic concerns must be replaced with deeper understandings of the possibility for tourism to contribute to human development, to "fulfil ... human values and human needs" (Higgins-Desbiolles, 2006, p. 1205), and for tourism as "a powerful social force" (Spenceley & Meyer, 2012, p. 301).

In her work on tourism policy-making in Southeast Asia, Richter (1993) suggests that many of the negative results of relying on tourism as a pathway to development in the developing world have been due to a prevailing government attitude that tourism needs simply to be promoted, or "boosted" (p. …

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