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Meilensteine und Fallstricke der Tourismuskritik

Martina Backes, Tina Goethe

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The critical discourse on tourism is as old as tourism itself. The rise of a debate on the faults of mass tourism was a result of the strong growth of the sector since the end of the 1950s. In this paper, the most important milestones and traps of the debate on tourism are discussed with a look at their particular historical context and in view of their strengths and weaknesses. Enzensberger (1958) excellently analysed the capitalist principles structuring tourism and animated the debate with his theory about travelling as a form to escape one’s own social living conditions for a few weeks. The widespread dissatisfaction of leftist and solidarity groups with social conditions at home and the dominant world system as a whole prepared the ground for a broad reception of dependence theory. Soon the damage to traditional societies and cultures and to the social structures of the receiving countries caused by mass tourism from the North was a central point of the debate. At the same time „voices from the South“ complained about adverse social impacts and criticised the colonial-style character of tourism. The controversial debate was recognised by development experts, and for some time support for tourism as part of development cooperation stagnated. Finally, during the 1990s, the debate on sustainability integrated the doubts and the critical views about tourism. The International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) 2002, launched by the United Nations 35 years after the International Year of Long-Haul Tourism in 1967, marks a preliminary result that stands for the hope to reconcile economic and ecological aspects. Nevertheless, the article concludes that between these two symbolic dates there is hardly any change in the basic socio-economic, environmental and cultural impacts on the people living in the main tourist destinations.