Chapter 8

Tourism as a legal problem

The special circumstance of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 – the shock of an aircraft attack on civilians in the United States, the targeting of one of the most recognizable symbols of U.S. power, and the location in New York, a global media capital – made the site a public space like no other in the city … it was both ground zero as a military target and sacred and hallowed ground where heroes died to preserve the nation … the WTC’s location in New York City guaranteed that it would become a major tourist attraction.

(Sharon Zukin Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places
(Oxford & New York, OUP, 2010), p.149)

A recurring theme in the construction of tourism is how it can re-invigorate economies, regenerate cities and even ensure sustainable lifestyles. In this sense tourism is given an exalted status, where it is perceived as a noble cause in which all should participate. The invoking of religious fervour is even explicit at times. Witness the Acapulco Document in 1982 and its statement that ‘domestic tourism enables the individual to take spiritual possession of his own country, just as it prepares him for a universal perspective’.1 The same document also connected tourism with the achievement of world peace as it ‘enables peoples to gain first-hand knowledge of each other, thus bringing them closer together’.2 It also reaffirmed that ‘world tourism can be a vital force for world peace’ and that as stated in the Manila Declaration on World Tourism in 1980, tourism can lead to a ‘new international economic order that will help to eliminate the … economic gap between developed and developing countries’.3 Thus tourism is also constructed as integral to the reduction of global poverty.

That tourism, in bringing people together, may actually create increased suspicion of others escapes consideration in many of these statements related to the role of world tourism. Likewise, the assumed connection between tourism and the creation of a new world economic order which in turn leads to a reduction in inequality and poverty makes some fatal mistakes in reasoning – that increased economic activity benefits everyone and that all people are motivated solely by economic well being. While the view that tourism is about creating economic benefits is not a necessary aspect of how tourism may be conceptualised, it appears to have become central in the tourism strategies of many so-called advanced nations. In part this makes for good local politics – for example, in selling the Olympics to potential host communities governments rush to proclaim how many jobs they will create for the local economy, including in tourism.4 But there is no necessary connection here. A thriving tourist industry will not reduce poverty through the provision of employment in itself. As Bolwell and Weinz’s paper produced for the International Labour Organization has observed:

Economic growth is an essential but not a sufficient condition for poverty reduction. Poverty reduction involves growth with a substantial reorientation in favour of the poor. It includes changes in institutions, laws, regulations and practices that help create and perpetuate poverty. It includes targeted interventions to enable poor people to better integrate into economic processes and take advantage of opportunities to improve their economic and social well-being. It means ending harassment of the poor, and eliminating restrictions on how they make their livelihoods. This especially applies to the tourism sector. Interventions must be made to help poor people become part of the processes that drive the industry.5

The notion of wealth redistribution has lost popularity in present times (although the bailing out of large banks as a consequence of the global financial crisis may affect that), but in effect what the ILO paper is calling for is a strategy to ensure that the wealth generated by tourism is distributed for the benefit of all people. In particular, it seems to be calling for some scope for poorer people to participate in the industry whether by establishing their own businesses or receiving fair rates of pay for working in businesses owned by others. It also says there is clearly a role for the law in this process. What seems to be the case, however, is that although there are various international law (and ‘law-like’) documents relating to the importance of reducing poverty through tourism, at the national level little law is explicitly directed to this aim. Tourism laws rarely mention the social purpose of tourism but seem to be simply about facilitating the mechanics of tourism. Anti-discrimination and human-rights laws might help at times, but these also come up against laws and rhetoric which stress the importance of public safety and order, not to mention the fear of terrorism. The cacophony of laws works to blur the focus on the manner in which the rights of the poor are subverted to the needs of the tourism industry.

The other flaw in the assumption that tourism is prized by all for its contribution to economic prosperity relates to a central theme of this book, the age of uncertainty. As Benjamin Barber writes, we live in a time when we are caught between two inexorable forces, referring to William Butler Yeats’s ‘the two eternities of race and soul’.6 The first (race) is described as ‘a Jihad in the name of a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence, every kind of artificial social cooperation and mutuality: against technology, against pop culture, and against integrated markets; against modernity itself as well as the future in which modernity issues’.7 The second (soul) is ‘a bus portrait of onrushing economic, technological, and ecological forces that demand integration and uniformity and that mesmerize peoples everywhere with fast music, fast computers, and fast food … pressing nations into one homogenous global theme park, one McWorld tied together by communications, information, entertainment, and commerce’.8

This is the age of uncertainty. As Barber says, ‘the planet is falling precipitously apart and coming together at the very same time’.9 These are the tensions that bedevil world tourism and in particular the agencies that seek to regulate it. On the one hand is the elevation of tourism as a force for mutual respect and tolerance, while at the same time the values which appear to be at the centre of tourism create hostility for those who question the lack of spirituality in those who travel. And it is not that the tensions are implacably opposed, theirs is a symbiotic relationship:

We have seen how athletic shoe salesmanship revolves around selling American black subculture; how American Express treats global travel (a privilege of McWorld) as a safari to exotic cultures still somehow intact in spite of the visitations and depredations made possible by American Express; how McDonald’s ‘adapts’ to foreign climes with wine in France and local beef in Russia even as it imposes a way of life that makes domestic wines and local beef irrelevant. McWorld cannot then do without Jihad: it needs cultural parochialism to feed its endless appetites. Yet neither can Jihad do without McWorld: for where would culture be without the commercial producers who market it and the information and communication systems that make it known? Modern Christian fundamentalists (no longer an oxymoron) can thus access Religion Forum on Compuserve Information Service while Muslims can surf the Internet until they find Mas’ood Cajee’s Cyber-muslim document. That is not a computer error: ‘Cybermuslim is the title. Religion and culture alike need McWorld’s technologies and McWorld’s markets. Without them, they are unlikely to survive in the long run.10

The point here is not to understand this tension as one between East and West, or between Muslim and non-Muslim. While this is the tabloid representation of one aspect of this tension in the world, namely the ‘war on terror’, consider the uncertainty when it is discovered that a terrorist or alleged terrorist is in fact a citizen of the country which they are seeking to target. Of course, there will be attempts to find some other ‘difference’ between the person and the rest of ‘us’, but Barber’s thesis speaks to the manner in which communities are both ‘one’ and ‘divided’ at the same time.