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date: 13 December 2018

Tourism and Indigenous Peoples

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Please check back later for the full article.

Indigenous peoples worldwide are affected by, and engage with, tourism in several major ways. On the one hand, the tourism industry in its constant expansion appropriates indigenous peoples’ land and resources, creating tensions and escalating inequalities. In some cases, indigenous peoples may have a role to play (with various levels of agency and power on their own part) in welcoming people into their homes and on their land, for the purposes of ecotourism (in which pristine environments, usually with rare or endemic species of plants, birds, or other living organisms are attractive to tourists), or because the people themselves and their way of life are of interest to tourists. What is more, the graves and monuments of the ancestors of indigenous people, local festivals, and ceremonies may be recognized as “marketable” from a tourism perspective and promoted to encourage tourist visits, which may or may not be considered disruptive or disrespectful from an indigenous perspective. So-called indigenous tourism development refers to tourism in which indigenous people and communities are directly involved (in varying degrees) in the industry, whether as owners and tour operators or as porters and servants. Many scholars from anthropology, sociology, human geography, and other related disciplines have sought to address some of the issues and concerns regarding the relationship between tourism and indigenous peoples, drawing on examples from around the globe in order to illustrate the multitude of ways in which this relationship operates. Ways that indigenous peoples’ relationship to tourism may be explored include contexts such as tourism to visit ancient monuments and UNESCO-listed world heritage sites, tourism in search of cultural difference, cruise travel and luxury resorts, and ecotourism.