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Nature-Based Tourism and Neoliberalism: Concealing Contradictions

Duffy, Rosaleen (2015) 'Nature-Based Tourism and Neoliberalism: Concealing Contradictions.' Tourism Geographies, 17 (4). pp. 529-543.

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Abstract

This paper demonstrates how tourism, including nature based tourism, simultaneously produces and conceals the contradictions of capitalism; this is because it relies on creating attractions, or new sources of accumulation from the very crises it produces. Nature-based tourism is promoted as a ‘win-win’ that can resolve the contradiction between continual economic growth and finite natural resources (Fletcher, 2011; O’Connor, 1988). This is made possible via a process of neoliberalising nature, which cuts the threads that bind ecosystems together, so that the constituent parts can be transformed into new commodities (Büscher et al, 2012; Castree, 2009; Heynen et al, 2007; McCarthy and Prudham, 2004: 275-277; Peck and Theodore, 2007). To draw out these broad arguments, this paper firstly examines the claims around tourism as ‘Green Economy’ – which proponents claim can produce environmentally sustainable economic growth – a benefit also associated with nature-based tourism. I also show that this can be regarded as simply the latest version of an existing debate rather than offering a new intepretation. This is explored further via a comparative analysis of how tourism neoliberalises nature at the scales of the individual animal (elephant trekking in Thailand) and the landscape (by global networks of NGOs operating in Madagascar). In the case of neoliberalisation of nature at the individual animal scale, the notion of bodily fix is also important. It is not just the elephants that are primed for commodity capture, it is the emotional experience of close interactions with elephants which is commodified (Fletcher, 2014: 185; Fletcher and Neves, 2013). Such changes reshape societal relations with nature, but in uneven and incomplete ways. This is underlined by a discussion of the case of the Durban Vision Initiative in Madagascar – which reveals how neoliberalisation was incomplete as a result of its encounter with local level materialities.

Item Type: Articles
Keywords: tourism, neoliberalism, capitalism, green economy, ecotourism, conservation,
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Law and Social Sciences > Department of Development Studies
ISSN: 14616688
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): 10.1080/14616688.2015.1053972
Depositing User: Rosaleen Duffy
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2015 09:35
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/19379

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