Adapting and reacting to tourism development: a tale of two villages on Fiji’s Coral Coast
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There has been much discussion over the extent to which theories of development are at an ‘impasse’ (Sharpley, 2009: 39; Payne and Phillips, 2010: 3), leading to calls for a return ‘to the intellectual project of political economy and the diverse theoretical traditions associated with it’ (Payne and Phillips, 2010: 181). Not surprisingly, such uncertainties have been reﬂected in changing perspectives over tourism’s role in ‘development’, and Jafari might indeed be correct in suggesting that general attitudes to tourism, at least, have moved from positions of advocacy and caution, through adaptation, to a greater (and less ideological) focus on knowledge and research (Jafari, 2003). However, as he notes, ‘the text and position of one platform led to the formation of the next; and indeed all four platforms exist today’ (Jafari, 2003: 9). The emergence of theories of sustainable development in the 1980s, and their subsequent linking with sustainable tourism development, while ostensibly attractive, in eﬀect served only to tie one set of fuzzy concepts to another (Harrison, 1996), and despite recent attempts to clarify the theoretical confusion over the role of tourism in development (Sharpley, 2000, 2009; Sharpley and Telfer, 2002), consensus remains as elusive as ever. Mowforth and Munt (2009), for example, consider all tourism ‘alternative’, and otherwise to be ultimately and distressingly linked to capitalism, while serious attention has only recently centred on the role of mass tourism (Aramberri, 2010). The prevailing ambivalence is amply demonstrated by Sharpley, who accepts that mass tourism brings beneﬁts but nevertheless contends the structure of international tourism reﬂects the inequalities posited by dependency theorists while those who implement tourism development focus primarily on economic growth and (consciously or otherwise) follow the tenets of modernisation theory. Consequently, they are intrinsically at odds with ‘the principles and objectives embodied in the concept of sustainable development’ (Sharpley, 2000: 14). At the conceptual level it might be best to perceive international tourism development from a non-prescriptive globalisation perspective (Harrison, 2014), but there can be little doubt about the current distrust of grandiose statements about tourism development. As with development generally, however, this need not cause dismay. Instead, we should stand again on the ‘knowledge platform’, carry out empirical research and pay attention to the ﬁndings that emerge. As with the proverbial angels dancing on a pin, there is no substitute for empirically examining what is happening on the ground – or, to be more precise, at the end of the pin!
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