School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

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Accomodating Development:
Constructions of Tourism and the Environment in Belize

Background and Aims

Tourism, reflecting the growing affluence in Western economies, continues to expand in both the volume and the variety of its destinations. But in the wake of the much criticised, and stereotyped, mass holiday tourist there has developed a demand for a more specialised, individualistic or 'personalised' type of holiday experience. The trade has responded by offering long haul travel, specialised activity packages, personalised itineraries and the like. In the history of tourism 'nature', mostly cast as 'scenery', has been a significant attraction but in its unrelenting search for novelty tourism has more recently turned 'ecological'. The diversity of labels - green, eco, alternative, responsible, sustainable - convey the ambiguity of this phenomenon.

Where does the environmental balance of interest lie as tourism's global grasp is extended? As the strategies of exclusion, designation and pricing have proved deficient regulators of tourism this study examines the potential for tourism to be self regulating in its impact on the environment.

The potential for tourism to be self regulating depends on complex considerations about how the individual will behave. Will they carry over into their holiday a consistent type of environmental behaviour or will holiday making eclipse (as in examples of sexual liberty) such cultural norms? The aim of this study will be to identify the character of environmental consciousness of the tourist, entrepreneur and resident at an archetypal eco-tourist destination, Belize, to evaluate its adequacy for protecting the environment, and to recommend interventions designed to adjust the balance of environmental attitudes.

Study Design

Tourists are interviewed on site and Belizean residets and entrepreneurs are studied using focus group discussions and individual interviews. The sample of tourists is recruited by quota, derived from the most recent of the Belizean immigration arrivals statistics, and interviewed at the three most important tourist destinations. In the case of local residents and entrepreneurs the aim, using considerable local knowledge available to the study team, is to interview all key informants at each of the three designated sites. Information will be collected to allow an analysis ofthe variety and intensity of environmental consciousness, on the part of tourists and hosts, within a range of potential conservation behaviour.

Potential Uses

This study should add greater technical definition to the rather diffuse discussions about the character of sustainable tourism. It will make available a more precise differentiation of tourist and entrepreneurial conservation behaviour and provide a framework in which strategic policy can be generated. It will therefore be of interest, more generally, to theoretical debates on tourism and the environment and, more specifically, to the Belizean government and tourist trade for managing the development of tourism.


Principal Researchers

Mr George Hughes
Prof Peter Furley

Research Associate: Tourism & Environment

Dr Rosalene Duffy

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Mr George Hughes

The University of Edinburgh
Drummond Street
Edinburgh EH8 9XP
Scotland UK

Fax: +44 (0) 131 650 2524

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Global Environmental Change
Research Programme
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