4/14/1999 10:19 AM
Subject: Paul's Third World Tourism Update - Indigenous Peoples
Globalisation and tourism: Deadly mix for indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are paying a high price for tourism, says Raymond de
Chavez. In their drive for profits, transnational corporations which
dominate the international tourist industry have, with the complicity of
governments (particularly those of the Third World), devastated the lives
and lifestyles of indigenous peoples. The process of globalisation will
only exacerbate their plight.
GLOBALISATION and tourism have become a deadly mix for indigenous peoples.
Tourism's impact on indigenous peoples' way of life and on their control of
and access to their resources and environment has become more pronounced
with globalisation of the world economy.
For several decades now, tourism has been a major source of revenue for
countries, specifically in the Third World. Its growth has been nothing
short of phenomenal. In the 1950s, 25 million people travelled to a foreign
destination. In the 1960s, this grew to 70 million. By 1997, 617 million
tourists had been reported by the Madrid-based World Tourism Organisation
to have travelled to foreign countries.1
The World Tourism Organisation has even predicted that by the 21st century,
tourist arrivals would have reached billions annually. It foresees that by
the year 2010, 1 billion tourists would have travelled abroad and by 2020,
this would have increased to 1.6 billion.2
In terms of revenues, this would easily translate to billions of dollars
yearly. In the 1960s, for example, tourism earned 'only' US$6.8 billion. In
1997, revenues jumped to US$448 billion. By the year 2000, the WTO predicts
tourism earnings to reach $621 billion and by 2010, a whopping $1.5
Tourism is also touted as a major source of employment worldwide. According
to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), an aggrupation of more than
80 chief executives of the travel and tourism industry, tourism employs
directly or indirectly more than 260 million. This translates to one out of
nine jobs in the world economy generated by the industry. By the coming
decade, the workforce is expected to increase by 100 million more jobs, 70%
of these in the Asia-Pacific region.
The WTTC in fact now considers tourism as the world's biggest industry and
a 'key 21st century economic and employment driver'.3 Its growth for the
past decades has been a constant 9% annually, in spite of the economic
slowdown. While acknowledging a decline in tourism activities due to the
Asian financial crisis, the WTTC recommended in February 1998 that
governments give continued priority to tourism to assist Asian economic
Tourism as export strategy
It is no wonder therefore that cash-starved Third World countries view
tourism as a shortcut to rapid development. Its potential to earn billions
of dollars easily has resulted in it being viewed as a panacea for
debt-ridden countries. But more than this, tourism has become part and
parcel of multilateral financial institutions' package for financial
bail-outs for countries in distress. Tourism is now being pursued as a
serious development strategy for the Third World.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has included tourism as part of its
Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). The SAPs, which are preconditions
for the approval of financial assistance, require the indebted country to:
be integrated into the global economy; deregulate and liberalise
its economy; shift from an agriculture-based to a manufacturing and
service industry-based economy; and liberalise its financial sector.4
In essence, these preconditions link the Third World country to the world
economy. The SAP opens up the local economy to foreign investments and
multinational corporations, while eliminating subsidies and protection to
local industries. Under IMF-World Bank prescriptions, tourism is classified
as an export strategy. With its capacity to earn billions of dollars,
tourism is being promoted by the IMF-WB as a means for Third World
countries to repay their debts to them.
Third World governments have therefore tried to fulfil their commitments to
these SAPs by large-scale investments in tourism-related ventures. In
conjunction with financial multilateral institutions and travel and tourism
transnational corporations (TNCs), they have launched infrastructure
projects such as roads, hotels and tourist-promotion programmes. Worldwide,
public and private investments have reached $800 billion annually,
accounting for 12% of total worldwide investments.
But these IMF-WB conditiona-lities have proven to be insufficient to
integrate and open up Third World economies. The World Trade Organisation
has taken further steps to fully liberalise the world economy. The most
important international agreement with direct bearing on tourism is the
General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Signed in Morocco in April
1994, this agreement '... sets up a legal and operational framework for the
gradual elimination of barriers to international trade in services'.5 GATS
is an offshoot of the Uruguay Round talks of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the World Trade Organisation's precursor.
In short, GATS makes it easier for big tourist and travel TNCs to invest in
the local tourism industries of Third World countries. Among others, it
removes restrictions on foreign corporations' abilities to transfer staff
from one country to another; and enables them to use trademarks, create and
operate branch offices abroad, and more importantly, to repatriate their
earnings to their mother companies abroad.
Under GATS, protection to the local tourism industry would be construed as
unfair practice and would thus have to be eliminated. TNCs now enjoy the
same benefits as local travel and tourism agencies. This opens the local
industry to competition from giant TNCs, which virtually means effectively
transferring its control to them.
Other international agreements integrating the tourism industry into the
global economy include the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures
(TRIMs), which removes the requirement for foreign companies to utilise
local input. The proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) also
'secure[s] for foreign investors, unfettered rights to invest in all
sectors of the host country's economy and to obtain for them the same
treatment as investors from the host nation'.6 This proposal has, however,
been shelved recently as a result of intense lobbying by non-governmental
organisations, indigenous peoples' organisations included.
Threat to indigenous peoples
But what does globalisation and tourism mean for the indigenous peoples? It
is already an established fact that tourism had brought pernicious and
long-term damaging effects on indigenous peoples even prior to
globalisation. The present economic order further exacerbates and hastens
For one, indigenous communities, which have otherwise been left untouched
by traditional tourism activities, have now been targeted for tourism
ventures, most specifically, ecotourism. A relatively new variant,
ecotourism is described as environment-friendly, sustainable and
nature-based. It came about as a response to the growing environmental
awareness worldwide these past decades.
Eager to cash in on this trend, the industry promoted ecotourism as an
alternative activity, ostensibly to promote tourism while protecting the
environment. This activity 'involves visiting relatively undisturbed
natural areas with the aim of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery,
wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects'.7 It
includes spelunking, mountain climbing, scuba diving, bird watching, and
whale watching, among others.
This tourism sub-sector has been met with remarkable success. Today, it has
become the fastest growing sub-sector, growing at a rate of 10%-15%
annually. Ecotourism now accounts for 25% of all leisure trips abroad.8
It is important to note that ecotourism destinations are more often than
not in the Third World. Tourism here has been increasing annually by 6% as
compared to 3.5% in developed countries.9 After all, it is in these areas
that relatively undisturbed and preserved natural environments and exotic
areas are located. But it is also in these countries that the majority of
the distinct indigenous cultures can be found.
To a large extent, therefore, indigenous communities have become targets of
ecotourism in this globalised economy.
In Africa, tourism's effects on indigenous peoples have been profound:
widescale eviction from their lands, economic dislocation, breakdown of
traditional values, and environmental degradation. Although ecotourism is a
relatively new phenomenon internationally, it has long been existing in
In the 1950s, the colonial governments of Tanzania and Kenya under the
British legalised the hunting and culling of wild animals by 'white
settlers', thus paving the way for mass tourism.10 They set up zones for
the exclusive use of hunters and prevented access to local inhabitants.
Lodges and campsites were established near the preserves, making them major
revenue earners. Some 70% of the protected areas and wildlife preserves,
however, straddled lands of the Masai tribe.
Basically pastoralists, the Masai used these lands for their economic
activities and traditional practices. The ban thus dislocated them
economically. Forced out of their traditional grounds, they were left with
little or no support from the government. And even after independence, the
government failed to provide them with social services such as education
The Masai's traditional economic activity - pastoralism - has been attacked
as primitive and destructive. Yet it has been noted that 'pastoralism and
conservation of nature go hand in hand'.11 Alienated from their main
economic activity and disadvantaged from job opportunites by a lack of
education, the Masai were subjected to poverty.
Even the Masai's traditional socio-political institutions have suffered as
a consequence of tourism. Lands outside the preserves where the Masai have
been resettled are considered communal. In these areas, residents are
registered, and land and resources are to be distributed equally by a
However, corrupt officials have registered even non-residents who have
monopolised prime lands near the preserves. Land disputes have thus arisen.
Elders, traditional mediators of conflicts, have become powerless against
non-residents who are often backed by powerful persons.
Destruction of properties by wildlife has also been reported but the
government has not given any compensation to affected residents. This has
caused disruption in the relationship between the tribes and the animals,
which are given priority because of tourism. As a consequence, the 'Masai
... are coming to abhor the very wild animals they have successfully
coexisted with for centuries'.12
Tourism has not spared the environment and biodiversity. The rise in
tourist arrivals in these preserves - more so with globalisation - has
increased deforestation, pollution and disruption in the ecological
balance. In the Masai Mara National Park in Kenya and in the Ngorongoro
Conservation Area in Tanzania, forests adjacent to lodges and camping
grounds have been cut down due to the demand for firewood.
The massive influx of tourists and their vehicles has also caused
destruction of grass cover, affecting plant and animal species in the area.
Hotels have dumped their sewage in Masai settlement areas while campsites
have polluted adjacent rivers.
Masai culture has further been threatened and commercialised. Negative
Western values have influenced the Masai youth, leading to a loss of
traditional values, prostitution, and the spread of AIDS.
Postcards portraying tribes in their traditional costumes abound in these
preserves. It is in the interest of ecotourism to 'preserve' indigenous
communities and their practices since exotic tribes with exotic practices
serve as the main selling point to foreign tourists. 'There is rarely an
acknowledgement - much less support - of indigenous people's struggle for
cultural survival, self-determination, freedom of cultural expression,
rights to ancestral lands, and control over land use and resource
In the Philippines, where tourism has long been considered as a major
dollar-earner, ecotourism has also become a priority. Blessed with a rich
biodiversity, the Philippines has developed ecotourism as a strategy to
entice more foreign tourists and increase its share in world tourism
revenue. Its Department of Tourism (DOT)'s Master Plan aims to develop
'sustainable' tourism while making the Philippines a leading tourist
destination in Asia.14
In support of this thrust is the National Integrated Protected Areas System
Act (NIPAS) of 1992, which classifies certain areas as protected zones. The
DOT has identified 17 protected areas all over the country as suitable for
ecotourism. It is important to note that the majority of these areas are
territories of indigenous peoples.
In the Cordillera in the northern Philippines, tourism continues to affect
adversely many of its 1.3 million indigenous population. Sagada in Mountain
Province, home to the indigenous Kankanaeys, is known internationally for
its cool climate, rice terraces, and caves, among others. Its people have
maintained their indigenous way of life, subsistence economy and
sustainable relationship with nature for centuries.
In recent years, tourism arrivals have grown tremendously, caused in part
by ecotourism promotion packages advertising Sagada as a pristine community
where one can commune with nature. Hotels and inns mushroomed, changing the
town's landscape and straining its water resources. Pollution caused by
littering and improper waste disposal has now become a major problem for
Apart from environmental degradation, the influx of tourists has disrupted
the Kankanaeys' traditions and practices. The solemnity and sacredness of
rituals, such as those relating to the agricultural cycle and passage of
life, have been affected due to the presence of curious tourists. Caves,
traditionally their burial grounds, have been vandalised by graffiti, and
some of the bones of their ancestors stolen.
Western influences have also taken their toll on the local community. These
include the production, distribution and use of prohibited drugs such as
marijuana and hashish. Taboos have been constantly broken by foreign
tourists. Tourists, for example, have bathed in the nude in waterfalls,
which is frowned upon by the local community.15
In 1995, the world-famous Ifugao Rice Terraces in Banawe, Ifugao province,
was declared by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site. This was part of the Philippine
government's campaign to sell Ifugao as a major tourist destination in the
The influx of tourists over the decades has similarly affected the Ifugaos,
the indigenous inhabitants of the province. Foremost is the disruption of
traditional economic practices of the community. The builders of the
world-renowned rice terraces, the Ifugaos for centuries have subsisted on
crops planted in their terraces. With the entry of tourists and hotels, the
lure of money from tourist-related businesses such as selling of
woodcarvings, became more attractive than subsistence farming. This has
left many terraces untended and in danger of deterioration.
Commercial production of woodcarvings has also affected nearby forests.
Trees have been cut down to support commercial woodcarving activities that
cater to foreign as well as domestic tourist demand. This has led to the
drying up of water sources much needed for irrigation.
Joan Carling of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance aptly summed up the effects
of tourism on the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera when she wrote:17
'The tourism industry has facilitated the further disintegration of the
peoples' indigenous way of life. Cash production for the tourism industry
has led to commercialism and individualism in contrast to the indigenous
ways of simple living and mutual cooperation. Likewise, the
commercialisation of their culture has led to undignified ways of seeking a
livelihood such as allowing themselves to be photographed as souvenirs or
to do their indigenous dance for a fee. This practice was never part of
The pervasive effects of globalised tourism can also be seen in the way it
has affected other indigenous peoples all over the world. In the Cook
Islands in the Pacific, a 204-room hotel was built on land sacred to the
local people. The construction has caused environmental damage amounting to
In the Russian Federation's Providenskij and Tchukogskij regions, home to
the indigenous Tchukchi peoples, the development of tourism in the past
years has affected their source of livelihood. Known areas of walrus
concentration such as those in Rugor's Bay and the isle of Arykamchechen
have become ecotourism destinations. Sightseeing tour groups ride on
motorboats to walruses' breeding grounds.
But a rise in such tours has affected the walrus population. Visitor
arrivals have caused stress among the walruses, causing a decline in their
population. This has in turn affected the quality and quantity of walrus
catch, traditionally the Tchukchi peoples' source of livelihood.19
Tourism's high cost
Indigenous peoples are paying a high price for tourism. In their desire to
cash in on the billion-dollar profits from this industry, governments,
specifically in the Third World, and transnational corporations have
disregarded the interests of indigenous peoples.
The effects have been devastating. Indigenous peoples have been evicted
from their traditional lands, their control and access to their natural
resources compromised. They have suffered social degradation brought about
by foreign influences and the commercialisation of their culture. Even the
rich biodiversity of their natural resources has suffered from pollution
and environmental damage, unable to support the growing number of tourist
What few benefits indigenous peoples derive from tourism are far outweighed
by the damage it has caused them. They have been made to bear the brunt of
an industry over which they have neither say nor control.
With globalisation, these threats have been exacerbated. International
agreements that open up access to the local tourism industry by big travel
and tourism TNCs will only speed up exploitation of the natural resources,
culture and way of life of indigenous peoples.
Ecotourism, which has been touted as the fastest growing form of tourism in
the Third World, has not proven to be sustainable at all. Rather, it has
targeted indigenous communities as areas of destination and exploitation in
the guise of being environment-friendly.
Unless indigenous peoples have a direct participation in the planning,
implementation, and regulation of tourism activities that affect them, and
unless benefit-sharing mechanisms are put in place, tourism can never
redound to their interest. Indigenous peoples will continue to be mere cogs
in the wheel of this billion-dollar industry.
1. Christine Pluss, 'Tourism - A Thriving Force for Whom?', paper presented
at the Workshop on Tourism and Indigenous Peoples during the UN Working
Group on Indigenous Peoples, 28 July 1998.
2. Annette Groth, 'Economic Importance of Tourism', 1997.
3. News Release of the World Travel and Tourism Council, 2 February 1998.
4. Paul Gonsalves, 'Structural Adjustment and the Political Economy of the
Third World', Contours 7 (March 1995): 34.
5. John Madeley, 'Foreign Exploits: Transnationals and Tourism', CIIR
6. Chakravarthi Raghavan, 'MAI or MIA: Global Welfare Rules for TNCs', no.
75 , p.29.
7. 'The Promise of Ecotourism', Ibon Facts and Figures, no. 20 (31 October
9. Ole Kamuaro, 'Ecotourism: Suicide or Development', Voices from Africa:
Sustainable Development, no. 6 (August 1996), p.59.
11. Ibid., p.60.
12. Joseph Ole Karia, 'Impact of Tourism', paper presented at the Workshop
on Tourism and Indigenous Peoples during the UN Working Group on Indigenous
Peoples, 28 July 1998.
13. Ole Kamuaro, 'Ecotourism: Suicide or Development', Voices from Africa:
Sustainable Development, no. 6 (August 1996), p. 63.
14. 'The Promise of Ecotourism', Ibon Facts and Figures, no. 20 (31 October
15. Joan Carling, 'The Tourism Industry in the Philippines and Its Impact
to Cordillera Indigenous Peoples', paper presented at the Workshop on
Tourism and Indigenous Peoples during the UN Working Group on Indigenous
Peoples, 28 July 1998.
16. Wilfredo Alangui, paper on Ifugao and the Tourism Industry, 1999.
17. Joan Carling, 'The Tourism Industry in the Philippines and Its Impact
to Cordillera Indigenous Peoples', paper presented at the Workshop on
Tourism and Indigenous Peoples during the UN Working Group on Indigenous
Peoples, 28 July 1998, p.3.
18. John Madeley, 'Foreign Exploits: Transnationals and Tourism', CIIR
Briefing, 1995, p.24.
19. Kalantagrau Jurij, Speech of delegate of Tchukchi peoples - Russian
Federation, presented at the Workshop on Tourism and Indigenous Peoples
during the UN Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, 28 July 1998, p.3.
(Third World Resurgence No. 103, March 1999)
Raymond Chavez is a member of the research staff at Tebtebba Foundation.
+ 91 80 525 4054