Contributions of qualitative research to understanding the politics of community ecotourismJill Belsky
Aims of the chapter
|• To briefly review the literature on the politics of tourism research and practices. |
|• To discuss two qualitative methods - participant observation and in-depth interviewing - that I emphasised in my teaching about and research on community ecotourism in Gales Point, Belize. |
|• To discuss opportunities and challenges that these two methods afforded this project. |
|• To offer some suggestions for pushing the benefits of participant observation and in-depth interviewing further through critical reflection and, possibly, participatory research. |
Qualitative research has been instrumental for uncovering and elucidating the political dimensions and tensions of tourism. Among the many tools in the qualitative research toolbox, participant observation and in-depth interviewing can help to develop a holistic perspective on the context and political dynamics of politics. Though not without its own challenges, participant observation can enable opportunities for observing everyday tourism activities and for in-depth dialogue between researcher and subjects. These conditions, as opposed to formal settings and procedures that can work against dialogue and a fuller viewing of tourism in practice, can reveal interconnections and power dynamics associated with tourism practices, and help in the creation of new theories. Given the newness of alternative tourisms such as community ecotourism, these qualitative methods are particularly suitable for assisting in theory discovery and generation following Burawoy's (1991) extended case method.
To illustrate these points, I draw upon my multi-year research on community ecotourism in Gales Point, Belize (Central America). The substantive findings of this research have been published elsewhere (Belsky 1999, 2001, 2003; Outside Television 2000).