ETHNO-TOURISM PRACTICES IN THE SOCIETY 7
ETHNO-TOURISMPRACTICES IN THE SOCIETY
Differentcountries have benefited from ethnic tourism practices in variousways. It has facilitated the economic and cultural development andas well to assist in the preservation of the ethnic heritage. Besidesthe economic and social benefits associated with ethnic tourism, theycan as well have effects the traditional cultures, a sense ofidentity of the ethnic group, and people’s way of life. First, weneed to understand what ethnic tourism means. According to Smith(1977, p. 2), ethnic tourism if referred to as the travelling orvisiting to native homes and villages of individuals for the purposeof observing their cultural expressions and lifestyles such asceremonies or dances and other cultural practices that is linked withthe exotic people.
Inview of ethnic tourism, ethnicity and tourism are closely related inthat the ethnic identities are represented as well as constructedthrough tourism images (Henderson 2003, p. 28). Ethnicity spread manyaspects of tourism and at the same time, tourism impacts ethnicity invarious ways. Tourism has strengthened ethnic identity withindifferent ethnic setups by promoting ethnic cultures, performance,arts, and festivals. The construction of ethnic identity on the basisof interactions between ethnic groups and foreign outsiders issignificantly important since it fosters the injection of tourists’visualization, experiences as well as extends the verbal expressioninto cultural construction.
Tourisminterests and demands to know more about the cultural ties withindifferent ethnic groups influence the revitalisation of ethnicculture. Tourism has enhanced an awareness of the ethnic cultures,which are undermined by internal and external forces promotes therestoration, preservation and recreation of the ethnic attributesthat were perceived as passé. It also protects the cultural heritageof the marginalised ethnic minorities within the society. Thecultural uniqueness of a certain ethnic group to the other is whatattracts most of the tourists in ethnic tourism, thus, ethnicdiversity has become the center of the study to be observed,photographed and interacted with.
Otherthan supporting ethnic cohesion and providing other opportunities forethnic boundary fusion, it has stimulated both the inter-ethniccompetition and cooperation. Just as Jamison (1999, p. 955) denotesthat tourism has acted as catalyst for the re-interpretation ofethnic identity of the local communities. It is ascertained,therefore, that tourism has indeed created certain conditions forincreased ethnic contacts as well as competition. The economicbenefits that are associated with Ethno-tourism include employmentopportunities, higher income amongst local people, and increasedliving standards. The marginalised ethnic groups can improve theireconomic position since a number of people will get employment aswell as entrepreneurial opportunities.
Consequently,ethnic tourism has provided certain ethnic groups with the medium ofexchange where they conduct promotions of their historical setups andcultural practices. It has also been a means through which thethreatened minority heritages are preserved. Besides, it has acted asa force for ethnic revitalisation i.e. the religious ceremonies arerevived, and the art forms, as well as craft production, arepromoted. Self-awareness and pride are also promoted through ethnictourism among local people. Other important opportunities for ethnicimage construction and projection are created through ethnic tourism.
Withthe increasing growth of ethnic tourism, a divergent perspective ofethnic tourism has emerged. In the recent study, ethnic tourists arenot considered only as tourist who travel to observe individualexotic culture within a specific ethnic group but as individuals whoconsume ethnic products at cultural parks as well as those who arerejuvenated through reunion with their cultural roots. Moving fromone place to a particular region purposely for ethnic gathering isone of the significant activities practiced within the NorthernAmerica as well in other parts of African, European, and Asiancontinent (King 1994, p. 175).
Asprescribed earlier, the emergence of ethnic tourism has beenconsidered to have mixed influences both positive, as well as thenegative consequences. The ethnic tourism is proved to be thedestructive force that have led to the decline of certain traditionalcultures valued within some ethnic groups. It has also causedtroubles for the host community, such as the erosion of the sense ofcultural identity and place, increased social tension and a breakdownof socio-cultural practices of some particular groups (Klieger 1990,p. 38 Wood 1997, p. 26). The majority of the local people have feltthat their privacy is invaded since in most cases the tourists dostare at them and take photographs against their will. A number ofthem are also shocked by the foreign dresses, and their childrendevelop demeaning begging behaviors.
Studieshave revealed the commodification as well as the degradation of theethnic culture. Most likely patterns of commercialized tourism arecreated and polluted the ethnic cultures where the host ethnic groupsdevelop a phony-folk-cultures in order to meet tourists’ desiresfor their cultural otherness. This has led to the loss of originalmeaning of the cultural significance of the ethnic traditions oughtto be practiced. There is also a link between the concept ofauthenticity and the cultural impacts of ethnic tourism. However, assuggested by MacCannell (1976, p. 43) that a number of the hostcommunity are usually motivated by only the economic benefits whichin turn has misled tourists into accepting the modified attractionsas authentic thus creating a false touristic consciousness. Ethnictourism has also caused certain social impacts such as socialtension. Tourism has increased close contact between differentcultural groups. This has initiated stress especially to places wherelocals perceive tourists as rich and where the locals are poor andfeel intimidated to perform any task that require high skills. Indeedthere cases of inequalities that emerges because of cross-culturalinteraction between the tourists and hosts who are local owners.
Inmost cases, cultural commodification usually produces a socialcircumstance where local people alter their origin behavior and codeof conduct or to an extent changing their lifestyle to suit thedemands of tourists. This has raised many questions aboutauthenticity and commodification. Consequently, the commodificationof culture and the cultural practices of a certain ethnic groupinitiated by tourist is primarily viewed as the destruction of localauthenticity (Kirtsoglou & Theodossopoulos 2004, p. 149). It isevident that the authenticity has diminished in the face ofcommodification, and perspective within this line is very difficultto refute.
Itis true that commodification has a dire influence on the authenticityof the local cultural products and the general human relations withina group setup. Whenever cultural products are over-commercialized, itcan lead to a significant loss of the cultural values andsignificance for the local ethnic groups. However, other scholarsargue that commodification does not actually harm or destroy but tosome extent, it may preserve cultural traditions through generatingground demand or sometimes add value to the community.
Insummary, proper plans should be initiated that does promotions anddevelopment of ethnic tourism i.e. the socio-cultural effects thataffect the ethnic, cultural practices and as well the ones the limitstourist from exploring foreign areas. A number of initiatives must beput in place that includes protection of the culture of the minoritypeople, encouraging tourism practices as a source of economicdevelopment, and as well to meet tourism experiences that merge thetourist expectations from the sites. The cultural traditions thatseem to have vanished should be preserved and reinvented to maintainthe older culture.
Theplanning setups being initiated should promote a well-balancedtourism development in ethnic regions in order to mitigate adverseimpacts associated with ethnic tourism. In order to maintain abalanced ground where ethnic tourism serves the interest of every anindividual, a combined initiative that incorporate the government,tourism entrepreneurs, tourist, and the ethnic people must be put inplace. Each of the above stakeholders must play their designed rolesto ensure that ethnic tourism is managed accordingly. Even though theeconomic benefits has been the driving force for adventuring intourism, tourism entrepreneurs should be willing to back up theminority voices as well as their actual needs in the society. Ethnictourism has indeed created various opportunities for the minoritypeople and as well improved their lifestyle to be identified withother tourists as equal without prejudice.
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