Asian tourism: growth and change
JANET COCHRANE (ed.)
Asian tourism: growth and change
Oxford: Elsevier, 2008. 396 pp., ISBN 9780080453569 hb £64.99
Reviewed by Mark P. Hampton, University of Kent
In her editor’s introduction Janet Cochrane notes that the book arose from papers presented at the Asian Tourism Conference at Leeds Metropolitan University in June 2006 with additional chapters commissioned from other researchers. It consists of 31 chapters and is logically organised into three main sections: ‘The Politics and Policies of Asian Tourism’; ‘Market Demand and Supplier Choice’ and ‘Destinations, Industry and Forces of Change’, although, as is noted in several places, the themes of many chapters clearly overlap. Each section has an excellent introduction that gives the reader a quick overview of the key themes that occur.
This has been a somewhat difficult book to review, not because of any problems with its content or quality, rather, due to its sheer size and wide coverage. It is a brick of a book weighing in at just under 400 pages, and as with many edited collections involving so many contributors (in this case around 40), it is impossible in a short review to do justice to every chapter. It is likely that the book will become a major reference source given its wide reach both geographically across the region, and thematically, as it spans so many crucial areas in our understanding of the rise and continuing significance of tourism in Asia. I have enjoyed reading it overall, but as with many collections, it is not a book to read through from cover to cover, rather, it is an important source for dipping into for specific issues or themes that interest the reader.
Most of the contributions are well written and contain useful analysis and insight. In a collection like this it is almost inevitable that there will be one or two weaker, more descriptive chapters. However, the editor should be congratulated on the high standard of the vast majority of the book’s chapters. The variety of topics covered in this collection echo the complexity and diversity of the entire Asian region from the vastness of India and China, to small islands such as the Andaman and Nicobar islands (Reddy). Southeast Asia is well represented with around half of the chapters either explicitly concerned with countries in the sub-region, or covering significant issues such as regional cooperation (Wall, Sofield), air transport (Cambridge and Whitelegg), or emerging sectors such as the rise in health and medical tourism (so-called ‘wellness tourism’) in Thailand, Singapore and other countries (Laing and Weiler). Some of the other highlights include excellent chapters by White on sex tourism in southern India, Travers on the tensions between planning and economic ‘reality’ in Laos, Yuk Wah on borderlands and gambling in Vietnam, Hitchcock and Darma Putra on Bali and the ‘new’ (Asian) tourists, Fallon on Chinese outbound tourism to Indonesia, Hamzah on the Malaysian ‘homestay’ programme for Japanese youth, Brickell on employment changes and gender for households in Cambodia, and Porananond and Robinson’s discussion of the Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai.
There are two minor disappointments with this collection. First, I was a little surprised that there was a no final chapter or end piece on ways forward for tourism research on Asia. This would have been a useful addition and could have pulled together some of the recurring themes from the whole collection. For example, one area is the need for a better analytical understanding of the role of regional and domestic tourism within Asia. Another is what appears to be a growing distinction between models of tourism development predicated broadly upon historical European experiences (and European outbound tourists) compared with current development across Asia. The lack of a ‘what next for research’ type concluding chapter is a little surprising in a text published in a series explicitly entitled ‘Advances in Tourism Research’, but the editor may have been under space constraints from the publisher since the book is already approaching 400 pages long. Second, the index is rather short and somewhat basic for what, I am sure, will become an important and well-used reference source.
However, overall this is an excellent and timely collection of research that explores the breadth of Asian tourism and I will certainly be recommending it to my students. The book would be suitable for second and third year undergraduates; for postgraduate students in tourism, leisure studies, sociology, anthropology, geography or development studies; and for academic researchers both within and outside Asia.