Tourism Encounters and Controversies: Ontological Politics of Tourism Development

By Kahl, Christian | European Journal of Tourism Research, January 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Tourism Encounters and Controversies: Ontological Politics of Tourism Development


Kahl, Christian, European Journal of Tourism Research


Jóhannesson, G. T., Ren, C., & van der Duim, R. (Eds.) (2015) Tourism Encounters and Controversies: Ontological Politics of Tourism Development. Ashgate. 260 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4724-2436-5.

Many tourism books are written and give insight views of how tourism works for tourists, organisations, societies and so on. However, a book, which looks in a critical view about today's tourism and highlighting the problematic areas of modern tourism, is not often found. In this niche this book is putting its critical review of current tourism practices around the world.

All classical textbooks start with an introduction of the content and the direction of itself. The editors of the book are following the tradition and giving a detailed understanding of tourism and it dark side. They editors are explaining the differences between the truth and the reality, which are the common understanding in every tourist destination. Normally tourists are seeing the good and the bright side of their holiday and do not get in touch with the not so bright side of the reality of the local society. Everybody who goes for a holiday has this special experience, where he or she enjoys the holiday, the hotel or the trip and only sees the good and nice sides of the holiday trip and does not see the struggle of the local community to survive. Based on this point the book is starting its journey by looking at it with a critical view of tourism and its location and gives a full picture of all parties involved.

The main part of the book is looking at different directions of what tourism encounters and its participants. The first one, which I want to mention, is the involvement of the local community. Several chapters are discussing about how or why not the locals are involved in tourism processes. A good example is the (in-) legal activities of prostitution in Cuba. The author is describing in a really colorful way, how male tourists are been used as a cash machine. Through interviews with the American tourists the explanation of the three different ways of how to pay for the pleasure service is clearly highlighted. The fascinating point is that the money transaction is done after the act and a discussion between both the participants will settle the price. The question is; is the money only for the taxi for going home, or will it be a long time relationship, where the man will send money for the future month or year as a family support / temporary girlfriend fee. But with this example the critical point of the research is discovered. The author is looking in the process after the money transaction and explains the life style of the local society in Cuba, which three different currencies are used and with which one the life standard in Cuba can be maintained or improved. Besides the prostitution examples, he explains the money exchange system and the double-dealing with tourists and their money. A similar scenario becomes clear that the local society is using tourists as an income support as well as an opportunity of climbing out from poverty.

On the other extreme, the local communities are not involved in tourism at all. The example of developing Greenland is a brilliant chapter, which shows that the local communities are leftout in the discussion of tourism development of their region. In this case Denmark and Greenland discussed about how to develop Greenland to increase tourism. The issue, which the author of this chapter discussed is that, through the development until the presentation, the voice and the involvement of the Greenland communities were limited and had a reflection on the presentation to the world as well as to citizen of Greenland. One good example is the idea of building a new international airport, which theoretically is a great plan, but the local infrastructure and communities are not considered in this plan and were questions afterwards.

The former case shows that communication between tourism development and communities are important, but not easy, which the next case will show. …

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