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Tackling Latin America's Tourism and Poverty Conundrum

New research reveals how tourism needs to directly benefit local communities if it is to alleviate poverty amongst the impoverished in Latin America

United Kingdom,  3 June  2014 – With the World Cup kicking off in less than two weeks, all eyes will be turned on Brazil -  providing the country with an opportunity to showcase the essence of what makes Brazil a spectacular place to visit.  But while the prospect of tourism development in Latin America is bright, will the influx of international tourists help the estimated 68 million living in extreme poverty?  According to new research published in a special issue of Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes by global academic publisher Emerald Group Publishing, tourism needs to directly connect to the poor for it to be effective in poverty alleviation. 

The special issue "How might tourism contribute to poverty reduction in Latin American countries?" offers a unique opportunity to investigate the region’s tourist development conundrum.  It also serves as a timely reminder about how mega-events can go beyond the sporting arena.  Guest editor, Dr. Robertico Croes, from the University of Central Florida, has brought together a team of experienced researchers with particular interests in Latin America and the Caribbean to reveal how economic and social forces shape the relationships between tourism and poverty reduction in Latin American countries. 

While alternative tourism (such as community and wilderness) is used as a vehicle to reduce poverty, the research reveals that local communities often feel left out of the development process despite efforts to include them. This often results in local stakeholders behaving in non-collaborative ways.  Even in successful and mature destinations such as Costa Rica, a lack of collaborative marketing teamed with poor governance are preventing communities from integrating into the tourism market.

The seven articles in this special issue span the challenge of managing resources at cultural sites such as Machu Picchu and Cuzco in Peru to reflections on archaeology, poverty and tourism in the Bolivian Amazon.   

Offering recommendations in the form of practical steps that governments could use to align tourism development with poverty alleviation, Dr. Croes advises that job creation should be the cornerstone of government policy.  He comments:  “Most studies assume that the benefits from tourism will just spread to the poor, but mixed results suggest the link is not automatic.  It is not humane to experiment with alternative tourism and speculate about its effects on the poor. We need small but powerful solutions with immediate and tangible results that percolate to the poor masses, such as job creation.  This would lead to increasing self-confidence, motivation and recovery.”

This issue is available to read for free throughout June by visiting

Published as Volume 6 Issue 3 2014,  WHATT aims to make a practical and theoretical contribution to hospitality and tourism development and seeks to do this by using a key question to focus attention on an industry issue.  For more information about this journal, visit

Notes to the editor:
To discuss opportunities for interview, please email Stephanie Colley or telephone +44 (0)1274 777700

Journal contents (available to read for free throughout June or available on request as a PDF):

Cultural heritage tourism on Peru’s north coast: opportunities, practices, and challenges.
Natalie Underberg-Goode
Focuses on the impact of cultural heritage tourism in North Coast Peru on local communities and artists, in particular, on efforts to use the burgeoning interest in pre-Inca cultures to involve local communities in the development of tourism.

Reflections on archaeology, poverty and tourism in the Bolivian Amazon
John H. Walker
Argues that one of the ways of enabling tourism to become sustainable is for archaeologists to relate archaeology to poverty, while being aware of the process of heritage production. Observes that many archaeologists are already doing this by involving the local community in aspects of their research.

Wilderness Tourism - Alleviating poverty by empowering local people: the case of Bangor Ridge
Ibrahim Ajagunna, Fritz Pinnock and Robert Kerr
Examines how wilderness tourism is contributing to sustainable tourism in the economically depressed community of Bangor Ridge, Jamaica. This has helped create employment for local residents and assist with community development and poverty alleviation.

An inward look using backward economic linkages in a developing country: the case of Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Kelly Semrad and Jorge Bartels
Explores the reasons that might explain why locally owned tourism firms cheat the use of backward economic linkages that (when used) might otherwise maximize the economic benefits of the tourism industry for locals.

Rise and fall of community-based tourism: facilitators, inhibitors and outcomes.
Asli Tasci, Robertico Croes and Jorge Bartels
Uses a city case study from Costa Rica to evaluate the Nash Equilibrium point and Anna Karenina Principle in relation to community-based tourism, collaborative destination marketing and strategic destination branding - all of which exhibit similar facilitators and inhibitors.

The triangle of poverty, economic growth and inequality in Central America: does tourism matter?
Manuel Vanegas
Uses panel data modelling of poverty, economic growth and inequality to investigate the link between tourism, economic growth, inequality, and poverty reduction in the five countries of Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua).

Tourism and poverty reduction in Latin America: where does the region stand?
Robertico Croes

- ENDS -

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