Tourism specialization and vulnerability in the context of insularity

4-6 déc. 2014
Faculté de droit et d'économie Université de La Réunion - Saint-Denis (Réunion)

http://conf-cemoi-2014.sciencesconf.org

A large consensus is emerging in the literature about the strong structural economic and environmental vulnerability of Small Island Spaces [SIS]. This vulnerability results from several main structural weaknesses : (i) geographical features (small size, remoteness, landlockedness, exposure to exogeneous shocks, ecosystem fragility, etc.), (ii) the historical context (dependence from outside, close links with the old colonial patrons, etc.), (iii) the social context (weak intensity and volatility of human capital, insecurity, etc.), and (iv) the economic structure (a lack of economies of scale, smallness of local markets, weak diversification of economic activities, high transaction costs, etc.). These structural weaknesses, alongside the trade preferences erosion due to the multilateral liberalization, imply that an industry-based outward development is unlikely. Tourism may then appear as the only way allowing a dynamic growth and a sustained development for SIS. Many arguments give support to this conclusion : (i) tourism is not a high-tech sector and does not necessitate a highly skilled human capital, (ii) insular economies have a comparative advantage in this domain (handicaps as remoteness, distance and insularity can then actually be strengths), (iii) increasing world demand for tourism services. Elsewhere, several recent studies found a positive significant link between tourism income and GDP growth for the Small Island Tourist Economies [SITE]. Moreover, in spite of an evident structural vulnerability, few of them belong to the category of the Least Developed Countries. This would suggest that the deliberate strategy based on a tourist specialization fosters the construction of resilience. Nevertheless, tourism is an activity prone to instability that might affect sustainable development for these small economies in the medium run. Firstly, unforeseen crises and exogenous threats can hurt dramatically the sustainability of the sector in the special context of small insular economies. Secondly, due to globalization, the world demand is more volatile, which requires for tourism destinations to adapt themself continuously. Then, to face the growing competition in this domain, destinations have to elaborate strategies to build their territorial attractiveness. To this regard, federating stackeholders of the local cultural and socio-economic environment is a necessary condition. However, bringing people together around a common project appears to be very difficult for economies still marked by the colonial past stigma and the power of lobbying groups. Thirdly, the tourism activity can cause its own demise. Indeed, tourism often hurts the natural and cultural environment of the host country. The success of a destination might lead to its fall when tourism intensity damages the ecological and cultural equilibrium which constitutes the cornerstone of its comparative advantage. Thus, examining in more details the link between tourism specialization and vulnerability appears to be crucial. More precisely, « is the tourism strategy could be a factor of sustainable development for SIS? ». The aim of this conference is to give some analytical, empirical and political answers to this fundamental question. Then, the conference topics will include (but will not be limited to): - The measurement of small islands vulnerability and resilience, - Tourism activity: measurement, instability, main drivers, - The links between tourist specialization and economic growth, - Tourism's management in the context of insularity, - The links between territorial attractiveness and clusters Indicators of sustainable tourism, - Alternative strategies of economic development for insular economies, - Theoretical approaches and models in economics of tourism.
Discipline scientifique : Sciences de l'Homme et Société

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