18 Pages, Grade: 1.3
2. The politics of tourism
3. The history of international tourism policy
4. Human vs. indigenous rights?
5. The role of governments in tourism: responsibilities and tasks in the context of sustainability
6. The case study of Bhutan
The aim of this essay is to show the relationship between politics and tourism and to discuss the issue of policy as a tool for tourism regulation in the context of sustainability. To reach this aim, an examination of literature surrounding the fields of tourism policy and planning will be undertaken. Different theories will be given and the role of governments in tourism will be defined. The issue will be discussed in a historical as well as a modern context, mainly focussing on the case study of Bhutan, and a final conclusion will be given.
Before the historical context of tourism policy can be outlined, it has to be clarified why tourism is a political issue.
The tourism industry has grown ever since, especially due to the steadily increasing mobility of people, and with this growth a lot of positive and negative effects have occurred. The more travellers and tourists are moving around the globe, the deeper are getting their footprints and the stronger is getting the need for coordination and regulation of the interests of the different stakeholders.
Since tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and according to the World Tourism Organisation, has already replaced oil at the top of the list in terms of foreign currency movements (Elliott 1997), there are only few organisations supporting “serious inquiry into what happens if ... [it] ... grows with uncritical professional acceptance and without careful planning, ... monitoring, or an exploration of both, its policy successes and its failures (Matthews and Richter 1991 in Hall 1994:4).” This statement can be translated into the simple phrase that one cannot close the eyes from the negative impacts tourism has, no matter how profitable the tourism business is.
It can be defined that
“the highest purpose of tourism policy is to integrate the economic, political, cultural and intellectual benefits of tourism cohesively with people, destinations, and countries in order to improve the global quality of life and provide a foundation for peace and prosperity (Edgell 1990 in Hall 1994:2).”
Policy in a tourism context is therefore a tool to create a balance between the protection of interests of the tourism industry stakeholders and the people affected by tourism and to provide a plan to action to guide decisions and achieve rational outcomes.
Three main dimensions of tourism as subject of political research can be identified:
- The politics of tourism in the marketplace, particularly in the metropolitan countries.
- The politics of tourism in the developing host countries.
- Ideological arguments about tourism, especially in developing states (Matthews 1975 in Hall 1994).
The main focus of this essay will lie on the last two dimensions, but in the following an overview of international tourism policy and its different stages will be given, in order to clarify the worldwide context.
According to Hall (1994) the history of the international policy framework affecting tourism can be divided into four major phases.
Phase 1 started in 1945 after the Second World War and ended around 1955. It was all about the dismantling and streamlining of the police, customs, currency, and health regulations that are the most basic framework of international tourism today.
Phase 2 went from 1955 to 1970 and included greater government involvement in tourism marketing since the earning potential of tourism had been discovered. The year 1967 was designated the ‘International Tourism Year’ by the United Nations XXI General Assembly. A resolution was passed saying that “tourism is a basic and most desirable human activity deserving the praise and encouragement of all peoples and all Governments (Burkart and Medlik 1982 in Jeffries 2001:13).” As a consequence the right to paid annual leave had been constituted in the legislation of most states, especially within the European Union (Jeffries 2001).
In Phase 3 that endured from 1970 to 1985 the governments got involved much more in the supply of tourism infrastructure and in the use of tourism as a tool of regional development. The 1980 Manila Declaration adopted by the World Tourism Organization’s World Tourism Conference stated that “the right to use of leisure and, in particular, the right to access to holidays and to freedom of travel and tourism were recognized as an aspect of the fulfillment of the human being by the Declaration of Human Rights (Jeffries 2001:14).”
In 1985 the current phase began, which includes a continued use of tourism as a tool for regional development, increased focus on environmental issues, reduced direct government involvement in the supply of tourism infrastructure and greater emphasis on the development of public-private partnerships and industry self-regulation. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was certainly one of the most important steps towards a more sustainable code of conduct of the tourism industry. As quoted by Perez-Salom and Jose-Roberto (2001:7) Phillipe Sands noted in 1995:
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