Land Grabbing in Tourism An Analysis of Drivers, Impacts and Shaping Factors of Tourism-Induced Adverse Land Deals

Diana Ojo

Across the developing world, land grabbing is an emerging process of deep importance as it causes radical changes in the use and ownership of land. It involves either the extensive alienation of land and water resources, or the restructuring of rules and authority in the access, use and management of resources that may as well have alienating effects. The production and export of farmland crops for food and energy security in the developed and emerging world are frequently highlighted as the main drivers for the foreignization of space. However, there are several other equally important industries involved, whether historically established as mining or recently emerging green grabs for climate and biodiversity protection. Much less attention has been paid to the role of tourism as a means of resource allocation and dispossession. This study examines how tourism as a form of land use and frequently promoted tool for sustainable development struggles with neoliberal policies, land rights, and the commoditization of natural resources. Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of participatory tourism approaches, and particularly ecotourism has been criticized for largely failing to materialize its objectives related to the wellbeing of local and indigenous communities. Two processes of tourism-induced displacements have been identified in this study. Both are related to the “empty land” philosophy, where the tourism setup allegedly depends on largely excluding human activities, such as areas designated to wildlife or biodiversity conservation or the creation of tourist enclaves. The result is either the physical dispossession of local communities from landscapes used by the tourism industry or the restricted access to reduce pressure due to competing land uses in high-value areas. These developments pose a number of questions on the land governance in these countries and many cases reveal a confusing picture regarding local tenure situation, national land rights constitutions and enforcement, and the territory claims of tourism business. This study aims at developing an overview of the main features of tourism-induced displacements. It uses an extensive case-study design to outline the drivers and motives of the involved stakeholders, to examine the impacts on local level, and to point out the stakeholders deficits at constitutional and implementation level. Finally, the thesis offers a definition for land grabbing in tourism that largely overlaps with common characteristics in the current general debate on land grabbing. In this way, the study argues that land grabbing for tourism purposes does not differ significantly from other driving forces of land grabbing. Its character might be non-extractive, but it is still a land-intensive export of intangible assets for mostly foreign consumers.


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