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Wishful thinking or wise policy? Theorising tourism-led inclusive growth: supply chains and host communities.

Jeyacheya, Julia and Hampton, Mark P (2020) Wishful thinking or wise policy? Theorising tourism-led inclusive growth: supply chains and host communities. World Development. ISSN 0305-750X (In Press)

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Abstract

Tourism is perceived as driving economic growth for developing countries by generating employment, income and government revenue. In debates over the relationship between economic growth and poverty alleviation, the inclusive growth paradigm emerged in World Bank, OECD and other development publications, becoming a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 8). However, inclusive growth remains highly contested, and specifically, tourism’s role in economic growth has been little discussed. This paper contributes to the debate by interrogating tourism-led inclusive growth using evidence from developing economies in South-East Asia, a region with booming international tourism. It raises the fundamental question whether tourism-led growth can be inclusive in the short- to medium-term, drawing on evidence from fieldwork in Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar. Fieldwork utilised a rapid rural appraisal approach using qualitative methods, mainly semi-structured interviews. Although tourism can generate employment overall, this can be precarious and poorly paid, limiting opportunities for poverty alleviation. Tourism-led growth may widen inequalities in host communities and weaken backward linkages to the local economy, despite its potential for strengthening such linkages to food and non-food sectors. Remoteness and transportation also weaken such linkages. Low-income households and locally owned businesses are most affected by the construction of large-scale tourism projects – which although increasing overall tourist arrivals and expenditure - can result in the loss of land, business premises and livelihoods. In addition, privileging large capital, foreign firms and crony conglomerates is a regional trend and a major obstacle for tourism-led inclusive growth policy. Ownership patterns and destination governance also play critical roles in defining a destination’s direction/pace of development, steering it towards or away from tourism-led inclusive growth. Given tourism’s significance for many developing countries, the paper contributes to wider debates over inclusive growth both for theorising, and in its policy relevance for national development strategies and poverty alleviation.

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