Tourism: Mutual Benefit, or Modern Colonialism?

Chinese souvenir dolls. Source: KittyKaht, Flickr Travel & Tourism is the world’s biggest industry, contributing almost one-tenth of world GDP, and employing more than 266 million people. Originating in 17th century Britain, it involves travel for business and medical purposes, but its most important form is leisure or recreational tourism. Despite its important role in economic growth and employment, the environmental, cultural and social effects of tourism are still controversial. This begs the question of whether contemporary tourism can be interpreted as a form of modern-day colonialism? As Nils Finn Munch-Petersen explained on his SASNET/UPF lecture, it is rather tourism can be conceived of as ”the appropration of local land, labour and natural resources for tourism purposes by local elites”. Thus, exploitation does not (only) happen in the West-East direction, but by the global higher class, inside and outside country borders.

By Andrea Czervan