tourism and indigenous people

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  • DRAFT CHAPTER: Tourism, Recreation, and Sustainability: Linking Culture and the

    Environment (2nd ed.), edited by S. F. McCoolandR.N.Moisey

    Publishers Website:

    Tourism and Indigenous Peoples

    Adam Trau and Robyn Bushell

    Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney, Australia

    Strategies stressing the urgent need for policies and practices to ensure tour- ism development be

    in line with principles of sustainable development have been recommended by a wide range of

    international agencies and instrumentalities. These include the United Nations World Tourism

    Organization (UN-WTO), The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United

    Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations

    Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), regional UN commissions, international

    conservation bodies such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and

    the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), many conservation NGOs and the

    inter- national banks. In 2002, the International Year of Ecotourism brought together the largest

    gathering of all stakeholders involved in ecotourism, and interested in more sustainable forms of

    tourism. It focused much attention and interest on the ecological, social and cultural costs and

    benefits of tourism. This same year the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)

    drew attention to tourism and its potential to support the UN Millennium Development Goals.

    The following year the International Ecotourism Society and the Centre on Ecotourism and

    Sustainable Development pre- pared Rights and Responsibilities a compilation of Codes of

    Conduct for Tourism and Indigenous Local Communities (Honey and Thullen, 2003) in

    recognition of the need for sustainable tourism to be an instrument for the empowerment of

    local communities, for the maintenance of cultural diversity and for the alleviation of poverty.

    Such fora and the associated policies and strategies1 generated for sustainable tourism have

    increasingly emphasized both the issues faced by, and the opportunities for, indigenous people

    worldwide. As an example, the 5th World Parks Congress, held in Durban South Africa,

    identified tourism as an increasingly important feature of park management and conservation

    partnerships. Co-management of protected areas by natural resource management agencies and

    indigenous communities is increasingly common, as are community-conserved areas/indigenous

    protected areas. Throughout the world there are excellent examples where tourism provides a key

  • strategy through which conservation work can also provide support for local and indigenous

    community development. These cases demonstrate how these conservation alliances can assist

    with poverty alleviation in both developing and developed nations Africa, Australia, Canada,

    Central and South-east Asia, India and South America.

    The picture however is far from rosy. Tourism is also frequently dis- cussed at such meetings in

    relation to the threat of increasing pressure due to escalating interest in nature-based and cultural

    tourism. As demand for tour- ism, both international and domestic, continues to grow,

    particularly from the rapidly rising middle class of the Asian region, so too is commercial

    interest in the development of the most ecologically fragile, biodiverse, aesthetically, culturally

    and spiritually rich locations. These natural and cultural heritage conservation hot spots are the

    drawcards for much tourism development (Bushell, 2005). And indeed the fora themselves,

    meant to discuss ways to make tourism more sustainable have been heavily criticized by

    indigenous peoples representative groups, NGOs and activists, who have witnessed UN-led

    processes that have provided only token participation and representation and not allowed a voice

    for indigenous peoples to express concerns about the role tourism plays in the continuation of the

    dispossession process through increased globalization and privatization (Honey and Thullen,


    Conservation International (CI) reports that biodiversity-rich places once covered more than 12%

    of the Earths land surface. Nearly 90% of the original vegetation of these places has been lost

    with a mere 1.4% of these unique terrestrial environments remaining. Yet they are habitat for

    more than 44% of all plants and 35% of endemic species of mammals, birds, reptiles and

    amphibians found nowhere else. These same areas are home to more than 1 billion people, many

    of whom live in extreme poverty. These places are crossroads where biodiversity conservation,

    survival of many indigenous groups and tourism meets (Mittermeier, 2003). In Tourism and

    Biodiversity: Mapping Tourisms Global Footprint, Christ et al. (2003) show how tourism

    development in such areas has had profound consequences on the future of biodiversity

    conservation and on the health and well-being of indigenous peoples biodiversity and human

    welfare being inextricably linked (Borrini- Feyerabend et al., 2004; Brown et al., 2005).

    UNESCO estimates that there are currently around 300350 million indigenous peoples

    worldwide, or around 5% of the total world population, representing over 5000 languages and

    cultures in more than 70 countries on six continents (UNESCO, 2006). The rights of indigenous

    peoples to access land, protected areas, heritage resources and the values they contain are

    complex, and frequently controversial. Issues of traditional use of biological resources, land

    rights and ownership, particularly for colonized people who have been dislocated, dominate

    much of the policy discourse in this arena (Scherl et al., 2004; Fisher et al., 2005). Well-planned

    and executed tourism can contribute to increased tolerance and respect for diversity of all sorts

    biological, cultural, religious and political. Well-planned ethical tourism development can

    provide incentives to support indigenous peoples traditional customs and values; protect and

  • respect sacred sites; and, enhance the legitimacy of traditional knowledge. (McNeely, 2004;

    Olsder et al., 2006) The tourism industry is therefore a critical component in fostering global

    support for natural and cultural heritage conservation, poverty alleviation and indigenous

    community well-being.

    On the other hand, if poorly planned and managed, or if exploitative models of development

    prevail, the ecological, social and cultural consequences of tourism can be devastating. (Olsder et

    al., 2006). Tourism development that does not aspire to the goals of sustainable development has

    been shown to contribute to the deterioration of cultural landscapes, threaten bio- diversity,

    contribute to pollution and degradation of ecosystems, displace agricultural land and open

    spaces, diminish water and energy resources and drive poverty deeper into local communities

    (Fisher et al., 2005; McNeely, 2005).

    Sadly, indigenous people also continue to be marginalized and have many barriers to becoming

    active participants in tourism development (Manyara et al., 2006; Hall, 2007a). Central to their

    disadvantage is that the cycle of poverty that excludes them from so much opportunity

    education, health, economic growth and hence their survival and that of their rich cultural

    heritages (Ashley et al., 2000; Mowforth and Munt, 2003; Hall and Brown, 2006).

    Internationally, the use of tourism as a tool for poverty alleviation has substantively grown in

    recent years, which has led to a proliferation of theoretical and practical action. Pro-Poor

    Tourism (PPT) and Sustainable Tourism Eliminating Poverty (ST-EP) are two leading

    international strategies spearheading such action, designed to enable people in poverty to achieve

    their livelihood outcomes through tourism activities. Conceptually very similar, PPT is however

    much more developed and has grown from pro-poor development strategies, and has in turn

    given rise to specific programmes like ST-EP. At the heart of the approach, PPT unlocks

    opportunities for the poor, encourages their participation and tilts tourism development in their

    favour, therefore fuelling an accumulation of livelihood benefits, and generating net benefits for

    the poor within tourism (Ashley et al., 2000; Ashley et al., 2001a,b; Roe and Urquhart, 2001;

    UNWTO, 2002).

    In a slight deviation of focus to the more common triple bottom-line-based approaches to

    sustainable tourism development and ecotourism, PPT places the poor at the epicentre: the

    environment in which the poor live is just one part of the picture (Ashley et al., 2001b). While

    local community involvement and benefits accrual is fundamental to all forms and shapes of

    sustainable tourism, PPT heightens these objectives and uncompromisingly targets the poor on

    every level and scale of development. It is not a specific product or sector of the tourism industry

    but a well-directed mechanism for poverty alleviation driven by industry-related activities and

    operations (Bennett et al., 1999). In particular, the PPT is highly relevant to indigenous tourism,

    given indigenous peoples frequently live in developing nations, and in the case of countries like

    Australia and Canada, liv