Tourism in Southeast Asia - M. Hitchcock et al. (eds)
MICHAEL HITCHCOCK, VICTOR T. KING & MICHAEL PARNWELL (eds)
Tourism in Southeast Asia: challenges and new directions
Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2009
368 pp. ISBN: 978-87-7694-034-8, pb £16.99
Reviewed by Geoffrey Wall, University of Waterloo, Canada
This work is a sequel to an earlier book by the same editorial team (Hitchcock, King and Parnwell 1993). Indeed, a substantial proportion of the contributors are the same and a similar format is adopted with some chapters that provide a regional perspective (mostly by one or more of the editors) and others devoted to a particular country or case study. Thus, the chapters cover a wide variety of scales from the entire region with references to works from elsewhere to put the region in context, to a study of the tiny island of Gili Trawangan in Lombok, Indonesia. However, this book should not to be regarded as a second edition because much has happened in the region over the last 15 years and this is reflected in the text. Indeed, various authors frequently remind the reader of the repercussions of the Asian economic crisis, the Iraq war, SARS and the Bali bombings, suggesting that 2009 is a very different world from that in 1993, requiring a different book because both global and regional tourism have changed. Furthermore, the book has been released by a different publisher from its predecessor.
The volume consists of 16 chapters by 17 authors, most of whom are western academics. Although there are a number of chapters by authors who have been employed within the region, the editors acknowledge that there are few contributors that have a local voice. Is this because there is limited research being conducted in the region by people who live there permanently? Against this, most of the authors have a long history of research in and writing on the region, and their work will be well known to those with even a cursory knowledge of tourism research on Southeast Asia. As a group they have solid reputations for their previous research contributions on the region or parts of it and this is reflected in the generally high quality of their writings in this volume. Many, if not most, of the contributors have been trained as anthropologists and this is reflected in the emphases of the contents, with interest in such concepts as culture, identity and authenticity, but as the book proceeds there is increasing engagement with other themes such as environment and sustainability. Although economic matters are not ignored, there is little economic analysis in the book. Perhaps this will seem odd to those who regard tourism as a business and who recognise that destinations want tourists largely for economic reasons.
The book begins with a lucid introduction by the editors. This is a much more insightful contribution than is the case in many edited books for, in addition to introducing the chapters that follow, it provides a conceptual context by addressing such themes as temporal change; ethnicity, identity and culture; and globalisation. King then provides a valuable assessment of anthropological studies of tourism in Southeast Asia. Most tourism researchers could benefit from reading these two chapters, regardless of discipline or regional orientation. These chapters are followed by a discussion of hybrid souvenirs, rooted in work in Toraja (Adams), terrorism in Bali (Darma Putra and Hitchcock), Balinese identity in the wake of the bombings (Picard), a succinct overview of tourism policy-making in Southeast Asia (Richter), the role of the private sector in Vietnam’s transitional economy (Bennett), pro-poor tourism in Laos (Harrison and Scipani), Japanese perspectives on Asian tourism (Yamashita), prostitution and gender politics on the China-Vietnam border (Chan) and romance and sex tourism mostly in Indonesia (Dahles). To this point the book is guided primarily by an anthropological perspective.
Parnwell then provides a ‘political ecology’ perspective on ‘sustainable tourism’ and, in doing so, establishes a broad context for more specific chapters on ecotourism in Indonesia (Cochrane) and, specifically, in Komodo National Park (Borchers) and Gili Trawangan (Hampton and Hampton). The book concludes with some brief observations on issues in Southeast Asian tourism. These include disciplinary perspectives, continuity and change, the importance of intra-regional tourism, global-local interrelationships which lead to the paradox of growing differentiation occurring at the same time as the region is influenced increasingly by international trends and events, and the uncertainties that result from this.
The regional coverage of the work is curious. Seven chapters are devoted primarily to Indonesia and others refer frequently to Bali. On the other hand, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines receive only mentions in passing.
Unlike many edited books that have a cursory introduction and conclusion, the editors have made substantial contributions to this book, not only in some cases by writing individual chapters but, particularly, by providing chapters that introduce concepts, synthesise the literature, and provide a context in which country-wide and more local case studies can be placed. Indeed, several of these chapters are worthy of attention by readers whose interests lie primarily in tourism in other regions. The references for each chapter are gathered into one bibliography at the end of the book and this is a helpful resource for, as I read the book, I came across seemingly valuable sources that I had overlooked or had not even been aware of previously. There is also an index that combines both places and concepts.
The book is nicely produced, well edited and reasonably priced, at least in the paper version. The content is sound and the presentations are generally free of unnecessary jargon. While the focus is on Southeast Asia, tourism is global phenomenon with far-reaching implications for this region as well as for the world as a whole. As such, the work merits the attention of regional specialists, tourism scholars, and all those interested in cultural change and community well-being, regardless of discipline.
Hitchcock, M., V.T. King and M. Parnwell (eds), Tourism in South-East Asia. London: Routledge, 1993.