Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

The Pink Store: A Unique Tourism Enterprise at the US-Mexico Border

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

The Pink Store: A Unique Tourism Enterprise at the US-Mexico Border

Article excerpt

Introduction

Depending on the socio-economic and political relationships between neighbouring countries, borders vary in their level of permeability. As such, administrative processes performed at points of entry can range from very strict and time-consuming customs and immigration procedures to rudimentary ones, or in some instances, no formalities at all. For example, entering the United States from Mexico usually entails long queues for passport and visa checks, questioning, and car inspections, while crossing borders between Schengen states in Europe is usually done with no inspection at all. Regardless of the degree of strictness, crossing a border can be an exciting proposition and an important part of the journey for many travellers (Medvedev, 1999; Gelbman & Timothy, 2010; Timothy, 1995). Border checkpoints have been considered both spaces and nonplaces (Kawash, 2003; Tawil-Souri, 2011), and visiting or crossing them brings something extra to the experience. This translates into many tourists photographing the border, buying souvenirs from the 'other side', and telling of their experiences to friends and family at home. At many less permeable borders, tourists' interests in crossing the border are in some cases not met with business interest in delivering services immediately adjacent to the border. This may be largely owing to administrative and security restrictions performed at boundary checkpoints. In many Mexican border towns, however, there are and have long been shops and restaurants adjacent to the border and extending a few hundred meters from it into the country. These shops and restaurants have become an important part of the commercial districts, tourism landscapes and physical structures of border towns (Arreola & Curtis, 1993; Arreola & Madsen, 1999).

These days there is a general perception in the US that travelling to Mexico is unsafe and risky. This is perpetuated by government travel warnings and extensive media coverage of drug cartel violence south of the border. In addition, US citizens crossing to Mexico perceive different levels of risk, depending on whether or not they are first-time or repeat visitors (Canally & Timothy, 2007). These differing risk patterns may constitute a challenge to marketing strategies (Karamustafa, Galia & Reichel, 2013) and affect tourism demand for Mexico, including its border communities. The result is that the presence of tourism products and services that have a border location advantage have declined significantly in recent years (McGuire, 2013; Stevenson, 2013).

This case study describes how a private enterprise located in Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico, has identified the value of the bordercrossing experience for some American tourists, and thus has found ways to deliver unique services to ease access and alleviate security concerns among US citizens visiting the shop and restaurant known as the Pink Store. In broad terms, the paper addresses factors that contribute to the success of a certain borderland shop and restaurant.

Tourism activities and crossing borders

Throughout history, borders have been considered regions of economic disadvantage because they lie on national margins, peripheral to the core of political and socioeconomic activity of nation-states (Nagy, Nagy & Timár, 2012). Thus, they have been traditionally avoided by both public and private sectors, owing to the complex security-oriented state bureaucracy focused on these areas of potential conflict (Arieli, 2009) and because they are often sparsely populated. However, more recently, different activities, such as trading, labour and education migration, leisure mobility, and tourism have positively contributed to new configurations of national boundaries and neighbourly relations (Hall, 2000). Borders are crossed daily by millions of people, for a number of different leisure and economic purposes, with shopping being one of the most popular. Timothy and Butler (1995) distinguished seven factors that contribute to the growth of cross-border shopping: favourable exchange rates, lower taxes, competitive distribution channels due to economies of scale, wider selections of goods and services, better customer service, longer opening hours and days, and the entertainment factor of shopping abroad. …

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