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Political Economy and Tourism – Group 10

    Referring to Scheyvens, political economy is described as “a branch of social sciences which examines the relationship between political and economic institutions and processes” (as cited in Holden, 2005, p. 105). As this definition already outlines, governments as the political point of view are not only interested in economic positive impacts of tourism; they also value tourism as a sector that highly contributes to the development of regions or destinations (Holden, 2005). Especially at the point of development, the government participates through governance or policies that aim to achieve a certain objective (Hall & Jenkins, 1995).  While governance can be regarded as a corporation between the government and the private sectors, policies rather act as guiding principles that influence the business practices (Hall, 1994). The decision in how the government will interfere is affected by various factors such as the constitutional or political system as well as the economic development. (McLeod & Airey, 200x). Nonetheless, not only governments but also numerous international agencies and nongovernmental organizations regard tourism as a crucial catalyst for the expansion and economic growth of destinations or regions (Holden, 2005).

    Anyhow, in order to talk about development caused by tourism it is essential to define what development actually is. Referring to Holden (2005) is generally a change in certain features and refers to the overall economy such as the GDP and the political system of a country or a destination. While third world countries have a low level of development and income, first world countries experience high living standards and good economic conditions. In order to explain this in further detail, the theoretical framework for development needs to be taken into account.

    Theoretical framework

    The theoretical framework for the development can be defined as theories that are brought together to explain concepts that are relevant to the study of politics in tourism (Swanson, 2013). The frameworks are divided into four specific theories; modernization, dependence, economic neoliberalization and alternatives/sustainable development.

    According to Holden (2005) modernization is the association between organic development and the development of societies themselves. It views socio-economic development as an evolutionary to a modern society. This means that modernization can be seen as a theory that takes into consideration the past and how to “modernize” into the current society. The theory lies with the work of Walt Rostow and according to Slattery (1991) prolonged the theory into the threat of communism and related it to the sociology theory of functionalism. This term ‘functionalism’ refers to societies maturing through different stages of evolution. Rostow also stated that, there are five stages that the society must go through to gain economic growth which are; traditional society, preconditions for take off, the take off, the drive to maturity and the age of mass consumption.  However, this theory doesn’t take into consideration that there needs to be different stages of development to reach the modern world. The theory directly moves to modern from traditional which could lead to loosing out on the cultural concepts of the destination.

    This theory can be defined by showing how the developing countries have both external and internal political and economic structures that the developing countries keep a positive relation to developed countries. The theory is based on the outlook of the Marxist view of the world and can also be referred to as ‘world systems theory’ (Holden, 2005). The Marxist view takes into consideration of globalization in terms of marketing and the exploitation of cheap labor. Therefore, it was shown that the emphasis is placed on the exchange relations between historically powerful states such as the US and Western European countries.

    Economic neoliberalism
    The term economic neoliberalism is based on ‘economic liberty’ for the power and the global reach which is commonly known as globalization (Routledge, 2002 cited in Robinson and Jamal, 2009). The ideas of this theory came together with the threats of not enough supplies of oil from the Middle East to the West due to the debt crises in the 1970s. it was also concerned with the lack of confidence in planning from the government to assist with solving the issues with poverty (Holden, 2005). This suggests that this theory takes into consideration that destinations need to become more modern but cannot forget their own background.

    Alternative and sustainable development
    As Telfer observes, ‘The alternative development paradigm is a pragmatic, broadly based approach, which arose out of criticism of these models.’ (as cited in Holden, 2005). It has been advanced in order to contrast other paradigms, other strategies of development: economic growth and top-down diffusion. To specify the alternative paradigm, it is concentrated upon people and the natural environment, particularly specifying democracy and planning from the ‘bottom-up’ rather than the ‘top-down. Eventually there is recognition of the quality of life that includes more than just simple economic measurements, but now there is an emphasis on new methods for assessing its development (Holden, 2005).

    One of the substitute approaches to development is to direct actions to fulfill basic human needs and put emphasis on the development of the human personality instead of applying purely western models of development (Holden, 2005).

    The alternative paradigm has concentrated on alternative development and therefore it places a strong emphasis upon the preservation of natural recourses and ecosystem (Holden, 2005). Following the events afterwards, Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, initiated a request of the state of the earth’s environment to the General Assembly of United Nations. In the end, this all process led the United Nations to identify long-term environmental strategies for the international communities (Holden, 2005).

    High level awareness of environmental problems pointed out that the environment and development are relentlessly connected. These all actions led to one more important event for sustainable environment: ‘Earth Summit’, 1992, by United Nations being responsible for creating a program for upgrading sustainable development throughout the world. Agenda 21 is a result of this conference, which generated the strategies involving local communities and people in a ‘bottom-up’ approach of development, rather than the ‘top-up’ (Holden, 2005).

    Another highlight on sustainable environment that is taken from Brundtland Report, which points out the most important problem that is alleviation of poverty through sustainable development that is critical for the long-term environmental well-being of the planet (Holden, 2005).

    And finally, discussions on the issue generated the conclusion of realization of mutual agreement among stakeholders. At the same time adding anticipators, and then the goal could be achieved, on one condition, if paradigm of neoliberalism is involved, which leads to a radical perspective demanding a complete restricting of society (Holden, 2005).

    Development and tourism

    According to Bianchi theory about a lack of attempts within tourism community, which is engaging with the paradigmatic debate of development studies, caused by emphasis on studies of applied and practical nature. This relationship theory of development in tourism is later discussed by United Nations in 1960s. It is said that it is not possible to solve problems only by transfer of finance, technology or experience from developed countries to the less-developed ones. In the end, there is more and more criticism on tourism being the right tool leading to the development (Holden, 2005).

    In 1970s the relationship between metropolitan generating countries and peripheral destinations societies was also criticized, relating previously researched the dependency theory context. Consequently, tourism appeared as being more of an exploitative relationship between the developed and developing worlds than a developed country hand of help in terms of developing economies in the countries in need. It is obvious that control and dominance in tourism economy of developed countries is not the most positive feature in the process of the environment development. And it becomes even more evident that mostly privileged commercial and political groups along with the foreign interests are in position to coordinate, operate and profit from the process of tourism development elsewhere, where it is a tool to raise the level of countries economy. However, it is necessary to understand that sustainable environment is not going to exist and boost with the conservation of the physical environment that it also should not exclude cultural, economic and political dimensions. All in all, it is supposed to be more as a guiding philosophy, rather than just a definitive and invariable solution in developing environment of tourism (Holden, 2005).

    Application of sustainability in tourism

    Sustainability is a concept that has been put into practice in various ways in the tourism sector, at both national and local levels, in the public, private and voluntary areas. At the end of the twentieth century it became clear that the private sector tourism organizations raised their effort to make it obvious that they were putting the environment in a central position to their operations and tried to become more sustainable. It is doubtful if this really is a genuine concern for the environment or just a business ploy in order to draw the attention of customers and a try to forestall regulation of the industry.

    Initiatives have taken in partnerships amid the private sector and other organizations. One example is the Tour Operator’s Initiative for Responsible Tourism, which is a project between United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Tourism Organization (WTO) with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (Holden, 2005). Their mission is ‘to advance the sustainable development and management of tourism and to encourage tour operators to make a corporate commitment to sustainable development’ (Cooper, 2012).

    Another example is the Blue Flag campaign that is run by the independent non-profit organization: Foundation for Environmental Education. Their aim is to work against sustainable development in costal areas, areas that are used for tourism. They raise the levels of water quality, environmental management, environmental education and information, and safety. The campaign is supported by both United Nations Environment Programme and the World Tourism Organization (Blue Flag, 2004 cited in Holden, 2005).
    During the Globe ’90 conference in Canada one of the first public strategies on tourism and sustainability appeared. This gathered government, NGO’s, the tourism industry and academics do discuss the forthcoming relation between tourism and environment. Five main goals were recognized: “(1) to develop greater awareness and understanding of the significant contributions that tourism can make to the environment and economy; (2) to promote equity and development; (3) to improve the quality of life of the host community; (4) to provide a high quality of experience for the visitor; and (5) to maintain the quality of the environment on which the foregoing objectives depend “(Fennel, 1999 cited in Holden, 2005).

    Such as the concept of sustainability, the aims tend to be exhaustive and might be conflicting and give poor guidance on how tourism should be expanded (Holden, 2005).

    Pro-poor tourism/sustainable tourism – eliminating poverty

    Enhanced attention is turned to tourism’s role in the fight against poverty in less-developed countries due to the fact that these countries have an advantage in terms of their natural and cultural resources for tourism, connected with the restricted development opportunities within other parts of the economy, tourism works as a means to help. Pro-poor tourism (PPT) is when the poor people are the main focus and whereas sustainable tourism highlights a more common development built on sustainable principles. An aim of the PPT is the authorization of the poor, giving them the resources for their engagement in tourism and access to the markets from where they might be excluded.



    Cooper, C. (2012). Essentials of Tourism. Essex: Pearson Financial Times/Prestige Hall.

    Hall, C.M. and Jenkins, J.M. (1995). Tourism and Public Policy. London: Routledge.

    Hall, C.M. (1994). Tourism and politics: policy, power and place. England: John Wiley & Sons Limited.

    Holden, A. (2005). Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

    Jamal, T and Robinson, M. (2009) The SAGE Handbook of Tourist Studies. London: SAGE Publishers.

    McLeod, M. and Airey, D. (200x). The Politics of Tourism Development: a case of dual governance in Tobago. Int. J. Tourism Policy.

    Swanson, R.A. (2013) Theory Building in Applied Disciplines. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


    Katherina Schmidt, Emeli Kammerland, Grace Rea and Reneta Citrinaviciute.


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