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Tourism as a Livelihood Strategy in Indigenous Communities: Case Studies from Taiwan

by Tao, Teresa Chang-Hung

Abstract (Summary)
Tourism has become an important option for economic development and the cultural survival of aboriginal people, yet the academic work has overlooked an issue of cultural sustainability and the majority of the literature on indigenous tourism is from a non-indigenous perspective. Although the sustainable livelihood framework does not clearly address the cultural part of life, the approach requires that activities, such as tourism, are placed in a broader context so that they can be examined from an indigenous perspective on sustainability. The purpose of this study is to assess the role that tourism is playing in two indigenous communities' livelihood strategies in Taiwan from an indigenous perspective using the sustainable livelihood framework as an organizing framework. The examination of the evolution of livelihood strategies is the main focus of the study. A review of literature identifies weaknesses in the concepts of sustainable development and sustainable tourism and provides legitimacy for using the sustainable livelihood approach to examine the roles that tourism plays in indigenous people's daily lives. Culture is embedded in daily life and the approach allows the researcher to explore the meanings behind people's daily activities. Also, tourism needs to be placed in a broader context in order to identify whether any linkages exist between it and other sectors of the economy and how tourism can better fit in with exiting livelihood strategies. The research is a collaborative study of two Cou aboriginal communities (i. e. , Shanmei and Chashan) in central Taiwan using qualitative research methods. The sustainable livelihood framework is used as a vehicle for guiding research and analysis. Results indicate that Cou traditional livelihoods and their traditional social structure have been closely linked. The shift of Cou livelihoods from self-sustaining in the past to being linked increasingly to the global economic market system at present comes from a variety of external and internal factors (e. g. , policy, history, politics, macro-economic conditions). The promotion of tourism development and cultural industries by the government in recent years has provided aboriginal people with a new opportunity (tourism) in which they can make use of their culture as an advantage (culture as an attraction) to possibly reverse the inferior position. In addition to being an attraction for economic development, culture has many implications for the way things are done and for the distribution of benefits. In both villages, people employ a wide range of resources and livelihoods strategies to support themselves. Tourism has been incorporated into the livelihoods of both villages in forms of employment (regular and occasional) and various collective and self-owned enterprises (e. g. , restaurants, homestays, café, food stalls, handicraft stores and campsites). Tourism activities have the potential both to complement and to compete with other economic activities in various forms. Conflicts between tourism-related economic activities and other activities may not be obvious in terms of the use of land, water and time. The benefits and costs of each tourism activity experienced by different stakeholder groups (mainly by age and gender) vary, depending on different personal situations. The sustainable livelihoods framework was examined and used to assess the context and forms in which tourism might contribute to sustainable livelihood outcomes. Institutional processes and organizational structures are one main factor determining whether different assets, tangible and intangible, are accumulated or depleted on individual, household, and community scales. The comparison of the two cases revealed that, in the context of capitalist market economy in which people pursue the maximization of individual interests, the following situation is most likely to lead to sustainable outcome (socio-culturally, economically, and environmentally) in the context of indigenous communities. That is tourism enterprises need to be operated through institutions with a communal mechanism and through efficient operation of the communities' organizations based on collective knowledge guided by Cou culture. Sustainable livelihood thinking is useful to the concept of sustainable development because it can be used as an analytical and practical tool for guiding studies of environment and development. It also serves as a means of integrating three modes of thinking: environmental thinking which stresses sustainability, development thinking which stresses production and growth, and livelihood thinking which stresses sustenance for the poor. The approach facilitates examination of the reality of aboriginal people and poor people in rural and remote areas. The approach focuses on the local impacts of change, recognizes the complexity of people's lives, acknowledges that people have different and sometimes complex livelihood strategies and addresses benefits that are defined by the marginalized communities themselves. It acknowledges the dynamism of the factors that influence livelihoods: it recognizes that change occurs and people accommodate, learn from change and plan, adapt and respond to change. It focuses on accommodating traditional knowledge and skills to create conditions for marginalized communities to enhance their well-being. It assists in understanding that traditional knowledge and its innovation provide a basis for the development of coping mechanisms and adaptive strategies to buffer the forces which threaten livelihoods. The sustainable livelihood framework is useful because it places the interests of local people at the centre. Such an approach incorporates tourism as one component of development, particularly for indigenous people, and explores how positive development impacts can be expanded and negative ones can be reduced. However, unless supplemented, the framework may not do justice to the importance of culture and the prominent roles played by key individuals. Keywords: Indigenous people, sustainable livelihoods, culture, sustainability, Taiwan
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:University of Waterloo

School Location:Canada - Ontario

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:geography indigenous people sustainable livelihoods culture sustainability taiwan

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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