In Pursuit of Paradise: Tourism and Development. (Review Essays)

By Hashimoto, Atsuko | Harvard International Review, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

In Pursuit of Paradise: Tourism and Development. (Review Essays)


Hashimoto, Atsuko, Harvard International Review


The typical images of paradise shown in travel brochures and on television are of lush green foliage, wild animals, smiling natives, and exotic food. These promises of unforgettable experiences lure people to the developing world. Pristine natural environments, abundant wildlife, and rich traditions in the least developed countries (LDCs) are irresistible attractions to tourists of the developed world. However, the creation of these paradises does not come without hidden costs to host populations.

David Harrison and the 16 contributors in Tourism and the Less Developed World: Issues and Case Studies examine the issues associated with the creation of tourist paradises in LDCs. Tourism claims to be the fastest-growing industry in the world; LDCs, rich in natural resources but short of capital, expertise, and trained personnel, tend to choose tourism as a development tool. Although the definition of a LDC is a matter of debate, Harrison and the contributors use the term based on the countries' classification by the World Tourism Organization as "developing" or as economies "in transition."

Harrison discusses the issues of international tourism using a wide range of development paradigms. International tourism has historically been a movement of affluent tourists from "developed societies" to "less developed societies." Alongside multinational corporations that are involved in developing tourism in LDCs, international tourists today are knowingly or unknowingly creating a new form of colonialism. Yet under the development paradigm of "modernization," international tourism can also contribute to the transfer of capital, technology, and human resources to LDCs and the development of a free market in these countries.

Inadequate infrastructure is one major obstacle in developing international tourism in LDCs. In Tourism and the Less Developed World, one contributor notes the inadequate telecommunication and transport facilities in the South American Common Market, while others observe similar problems in India and China. In his contribution "Tourism and Development in Communist and Post-Communist Societies," Derek Hall identifies the disadvantages such countries face when introducing international tourism as poor infrastructure and the inability to transport and cater to large numbers of people. However, the construction and improvement of infrastructure in LDCs can be a double-edged sword; one contributor suggests that infrastructure-building for tourism purposes may consume resources that could be used to meet more fundamental needs.

International tourism also raises the issues of pleasure migration and labor migration. Pleasure migration is the ownership of second homes, time-share properties, or the retirement of people in areas they previously visited as tourists. Pleasure migration potentially introduces a variety of issues relevant to development, including land ownership, conflicts between migrants and local laws, and the enclosure and segregation of pleasure migrants (tourist ghetto). On the other hand, tourism development tends to have an impact on labor markets, attracting mainly unskilled laborers in direct and induced jobs. The migration of laborers causes not only a shift in human resources in the primary and secondary industries, but also the relocation of the population. Peter Dieke, in "Human Resources in Tourism Development: African Perspectives," examines the serious shortage of human resources in African tourism and describes current attempts to provide more training and education to local people.

The shortage of educated personnel is a problem for the tourism industry as well as for government agencies. Bureaucrats' lack of experience, expertise, and training means that the implementation of tourism as a means of socio-economic development is not always successful. …

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