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Back | Programme Area: The Social Effects of Globalization

Emerging Mass Tourism in the South: Reflections on the Social Opportunities and Costs of National and Regional Tourism in Developing Countries

The paper begins by examining contradictory views of and policies for tourism development, and outlines the problems related to definition of the principal concepts and processes. In the second section, it looks critically at how mass tourism has evolved in the industrialized countries through the participation of the large middle class and the relatively better-off segments of the lower classes, a process that appears to be taking place in many developing countries and regions. In the third section, the paper discusses the nature and magnitude of North-South tourism and its overwhelming economic importance in several developing countries. The fourth section shows how domestic and regional travel are becoming increasingly important phenomena in several parts of the Third World. The fifth section points out some of the possible economic, social, political, cultural and ecological effects of Southern domestic and regional tourism, and it suggests that there are currently major gaps in the research on these impacts. In the sixth section, the paper puts forth some hypotheses about future patterns of national and regional mass tourism expansion in the South, likely to result primarily from the rapid spread of consumerism, increasing demand for leisure activities, urbanization and economic growth in certain parts of the developing world. In the concluding section, the paper suggests that, given their accelerating growth, Southern national and regional mass tourism merit careful consideration from the point of view of both research and planning. It warns that if Southern national and regional mass tourism were to follow the same evolution patterns as Northern mass tourism, there could be disastrous socio-economic and environmental results. National and regional tourists, popular organizations and local population groups constitute important social forces that can work to ensure that national and regional tourism become economically more equitable, socially more sound, and culturally and environmentally less damaging. The paper ends by stressing that the development of national and regional tourism in developing countries does present certain advantages for Southern governments, national enterprises and local communities that should not be overlooked, but appropriate and participatory policies and institutions need to be set in place if these are to outweigh the potential negative impacts.

Information and debate are greatly lacking on the nature, magnitude and specific impacts of domestic and regional mass tourism in different contexts. Concrete policy measures required to manage the emerging Southern mass tourism in a more sustainable manner are also rare. The present paper is meant to be a background document; it sets out a number of the areas that merit attention if this gap is to be filled. UNRISD would like to contribute to work in this area by commissioning a number of papers on critical themes related to domestic and regional tourism development in developing countries. We hope this will help to generate wider interest on the topic and lead eventually to detailed case studies in different countries and regions.
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  • Pub. Date: 1 Apr 1997
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1012-6511
    From: UNRISD