Tourism For Development? (Mis)Representation of Israel and the Palestinian Territories by Tour Operators and Tourism Boards
The empirical analysis has revealed vast deficits in external representations of Israel/PT. Those deficits clearly reflect the problems and challenges tourism in Israel/PT is facing. Accordingly, the empirical analysis has affirmed the interpretive constructivist approach underlying this thesis (2.4).
Social action, in the sense of tourism, is indeed capable of transforming social structures, in the sense of tour-ism's wider socio-cultural and socio-economic implications and potential developmental benefits as discussed in 4.2. The significance of external representations in this causal relationship has thus been affirmed. The external representation of Israel/PT is decisive for the economic and to some great extent al-so for the political development of the region. They bear on tourist's perception and those are in turn pivotal for tourism practice and perceived images of countries. In turn, this heavily bears on nations' enrichment through cultural exchange with other communities, and ultimately also the amount of tourist revenues generated. In other words, external representations affect cultural identity (perceived images) and in shaping tourism practice, they also heavily bear on tourism's developmental objectives of fostering social justice and enhancing economic capacities. This thesis especially highlighted tour-ism's role in peace-building and contributing to political stability. Political stability in the Israel/PT tourism context is strongly connected to the achievement of equality and the reduction of socio-economic disparities between Israelis and Palestinians. This necessitates the establishment of just and responsible tourism, from which both Israelis and Palestinians profit equally in cultural, as well as, economic terms. The achievement of such tourism is in turn highly dependent from appropriate and objective external representations, especially when it comes to aspects of political representation.
This study has revealed the following as the major deficits of external representations. Both tour operators and especially tourist boards show deficits in regards to the format of their material. Non-transparent display of cultural heritage, territorial conditions and claims, as well as, avoidance of the ‘other' side may in effect harm cultural identity, rather than affirm it. As far as the political representation in terms of security and entry advice, as well as, the information conveyed about the political situation and its backgrounds is concerned, there are also deficits both within tour operator's and tourist board's material. Entry and security advice and unbalanced political representations prove harmful to the developmental objective of social balancing. They may even sharpen economic disparities between Israel/PT and substantially limit tourism's potential to counter poverty, inequity and marginalization. In the long run this harms the developmental objectives of social justice, cultural identity and overall political stability. Yet, both tour operators and tourist boards demonstrate efforts of encouraging tourists to encounters with local people. This may in fact contribute positively to aspects of social justice and cultural identity. Yet, tourist boards need to mention the ‘other' side in the representations, too. Equal travel shares in Israel and the PT are a fundamental precondition for achieving equality and social balancing at least in tourism. Yet, the empirical analysis reveals the PT to be vastly disadvantaged with regard to the allocation of travel shares. This is highly detrimental to tourism's potential developmental benefits and is even sharpening the socio-economic disparities between Israel and the PT. Similar to the political representation, also self portrayal of tourist boards is highly biased and de-ficient in neglecting the ‘other' side. Yet, self portrayals have a fundamental significance within the causal relations described above. Both GoIsrael's and TravelPalestine's self portrayals may harm cul-tural identity and substantially limit tourism's contribution to peace and development in the region.
Recalling Noam Chomsky's statement as the underlying assumption of this thesis, this affirms that peace requires justice, and justice inherently requires truth. Truth in this context can be referred to an adequate, unbiased, objective external representation of Israel/PT which goes in line with the existing international agreements. It is the fundamental precondition for justice in a tourism context and in turn for tourism's developmental benefits to materialize. Commitment to development, advocacy for justice and sustainable peace are hence inextricably linked. They are related to a reduction of economic disparities and a fair distribution of survival chances and need to involve respect for human rights, strengthening of constitutional and democratic structures and the protection of resources which are essential for existence. Tourism with its wider socio-cultural and socio-economic implications touches many of these dimensions. It can foster poverty reducing conditions and social balancing, bring about greater economic cooperation and decrease economic disparities. It may support political stability through advocating for (economic and cultural) human rights, democracy and equality. Furthermore, it can enhance cultural identities and self esteem and strengthen a society's symbols, beliefs and meaning systems.
Yet, if tourism is to achieve these ambitions, it needs to be designed adequately and ethical principles need to be reflected in tourism practice and external representations of actors in the industry. For balanced and sustainable tourism development, which also provides for political stabilization throughout the region, it is essential to design itineraries appropriately, and to represent the socio-political conditions adequately. Owing to the results of the empirical analysis, tour operators, as well as tourism ministries are called upon contributing to just and sustainable development through applying appropriate practices. Precise requirements for the representation of Israel/PT were subsequently deduced from these findings and will be sketched in the following chapter.