Tourismencompasses the movement of people to destinations away from theirhomes for leisure, business activities and learning, among otherobjectives. Over the years, various types of tourism have emerged dueto increased and diverse interests among the holidaymakers. In thepaper, we are discussing ethno-tourism that entails traveling ofpeople to destinations for purposes of learning about other people’sculture. It plays a strong emphasis on understanding the diverseculture and lifestyle. Ethno-tourism has received both praise andcriticisms from experts and industry specialists, as it is anemerging sector. It is noteworthy that ethno-tourism has bothadvantages and disadvantages in the society. The area affects othersegments such as the economy, culture, and the environment. Whereasethno-tourism has considerable benefits on the short-term, thelong-term disadvantages have assorted outcomes that outweigh theadvantages.
Tobegin with, ethno-tourism is an emerging form of travel. It helps inthe improvement the economy of marginalized communities. These areasget economic opportunities through foreign exchange, employment, andinfrastructural development. It also helps in appreciating andpromoting cultural diversity across the world. Nonetheless,ethno-tourism poses great threats to health and the environment ofindigenous communities. If the venture is not conducted properly,there is a high potential for the destruction of natural resources.All actors need to collaborate through engaging in ethical andsustainable initiatives that will enhance preservation of indigenouscultures, heritage, and resources.
Oneof the major benefits of ethno-tourism is that it opens up economicopportunities for the communities. It is notable that a majority ofthe indigenous communities do not possess the prerequisite knowledgeand skills to seek employment (Harrison 2004, p. 13 Higgins 1999, p.47). In fact, the majority depend on subsistence economicopportunities such as farming and hunting. Ethno-tourism brings alongemployment opportunities and exchange of foreign currency. Moreover,the areas benefit from infrastructural development such as roads andcommunication networks. According to the International LaborOrganization, ethno-tourism enhances the capacity of communities tostart income-generating activities. Some tourists, for instance,finance community projects such as health awareness and provision ofclean water. The hosts also sell their wares to the tourists hence,earning income (Bennett & Strydom 2006, p. 11).
Developmentof communication and information infrastructures contributessignificantly to trade, networking, and good relations with othercommunities. Infrastructure developments encourage the local peopleto invest and open up more opportunities for them to engage incommerce with other regions (Hitchcock, King, & Parnwell 2009, p.13). Development of heritage tourism has caused changes in thesocial, cultural, and economic dynamics to accommodate this newventure (Rothman 2003, p. 39). This movement of people to differentgeographical locations and establishments of social relationssometimes lead to a cultural collision. Further, ethno-tourism helpsin the preservation of cultures due to the incentives and benefitsthat the host communities realize. Preservation of culture in thearea reflects the high need by the residents and authorities topromote heritage and cultural tourism (Collectif 2009, p. 7).
Differencesin cultures, ethnic and religious groups, values, lifestyles,languages, and levels of prosperity cause a cultural collision.Different societies have their distinct traditions while at the sametime agree to values and practices from outside. It is for thisreason that cultures are believed to ‘stage authenticity.` Somescholars believe that tourism does not involve portrayal of culturalauthenticity, as this would be a destructive force. It is, thus,appropriate to understand when staging of authenticity is disparagingor helpful (Rothman 2003, p. 131). Tourism is known to have asignificant influence on the cultural changes. Cultural authenticityis a fad but has few elements that appear to reflect the future oftourism.
Rapideconomic development can cause the destruction of cultural assets,therefore, affecting the cultural landscape of the destination areas(Ivanovic 2008, p. 9). Ethno-tourism has a high potential ofresulting in the loss of culture. Both the tourists and hosts gainexperiences from one another. However, the indigenous communities areintroduced to different and new cultures that challenge theirtraditional norms. As such, it is possible for the hosts to changetheir customs and adopt new ones, hence, leading to loss ofcivilization. The move may, in the long run, make it difficult toengage in ethno-tourism (Grunewald 2006, p. 31). Unfortunately,tourists have an edge over the indigenous communities since they havenothing to lose. Hitchcock (1999) observes that there are incidenceswhere the resources generated from ethno-tourism facilitate thetransformation of the destinations through the construction of themodern social amenities (p. 19). However, the postmodernism in thetourism sector makes the usual politics of exploitation and classrelations. It is, thus, appropriate to examine the effects of tourismon cultural change. Innovation in the industry has led to theextinction of some cultures and heritage.
Further,based on the socio-economic status, tourists can easily exploit theindigenous groups and natural environment. According to Bolnick(2003), research conducted by the World Bank Research asserts thatthe host communities are exposed to a new level of consumerism. Assuch, the hosts will utilize their natural resources to make waresthat earn income, thereby, leading to exploitation of the naturalenvironment. In other instances, tourists exploit the hosts withoutoffering compensation (Bolnick 2003, p. 10). Exploitation means thatthe communities do not realize full benefits, yet they aresusceptible to various adversities.
Additionally,the indigenous groups become susceptible to diseases, most of whichare expensive to cure. The local communities often have limitedknowledge and medication for treating such diseases. The challengearising from diseases may not be evident in the short-term but occurin the long run. We also need to recognize that this form of tourismis unpredictable as it is widely dependent on the interests of thevisitors. As such, the hosts may lack regular incomes generated fromthe hospitality business. Furthermore, the majority of operators lackessential skills to ensure they take full advantage from tourismspending. Changes in the labor market, community structure, and theimmigration of the workforce are other notable social impacts ofethno-tourism (Bolnick 2003, p. 16).
Itis hard to end ethno-tourism just because it has adverse effects onthe society. The most important thing is to strike a balance betweenthe benefits and disadvantages. Both operators and authorities shouldadvocate for sustainable businesses where the stakeholders arerequired to observe issues such as environmental awareness, ethical,and social responsibilities. Social responsibilities of the operatorsshould include promotion of local culture in its quest to attractdomestic clients as well as show respect for the locals. Everytourist desires a unique and great experience. Apparently,modification of local cultures denies the tourists original featuresand characteristics. Ideally, the motivation for visitors ismultidimensional. Some visit places to experience the realauthenticity in the environment. Further, tourists need to exercisecaution and engage in sustainable initiatives that will not ruin theculture and resources of indigenous communities. The primaryadvantage of the industry is that ethno-tourism may educate thepublic regarding the importance of heritage conservation and helpmaintain the cultural heritage within a tourist destination.
Bennett,J. A., & Strydom, J. W. (2006). Introductionto travel and tourism marketing.Cape Town: Juta.
Bolnick,S. (2003). Promotingthe culture sector through job creation and small enterprisedevelopment in SADC countries: the ethno-tourism industry,Geneva: International Labour Office.
Collectif.(2015). Thewider benefits of investment in cultural heritage Case studies inBosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.Strasbourg, Council of Europe.
Grunewald,R. (2006) Tourism and Ethnicity. Brazil: The Federal University inCampina Grande.
Harrison,D. (2004) ‘Tourism in Pacific Islands,’ TheJournal of Pacific Studies, vol. 26,pp. 1 – 28.
Higgins,B. (1999). The global structure of the nature tourism industry:Ecotourists, tour operators and local businesses. Colorado:University of Colorado.
Hitchcock,M. (1999) ‘Tourism and Ethnicity: Situational Perspectives’,InternationalJournal of Tourism Research,vol. 1, pp. 17 – 32.
Hitchcock,M., King, V. T., & Parnwell, M. J. (2009). Tourismin Southeast Asia: challenges and new directions.Copenhagen, NIAS.
Ivanovic,M. (2008).Culturaltourism.Cape Town, South Africa: Juta.
Rothman,H. (2003). Theculture of tourism, the tourism of culture: selling the past to thepresent in the American southwest.Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press.