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Rethinking Tourism (1997)

Photo: Rethinking Tourism (Some rights reserved)

25th anniversary essay in progress

Before World Tourism Day, September 27, we are re-reading Rethinking Tourism and Ecotravel (Deborah McLaren, 1997) = Antes del Día Mundial del Turismo, 27 de septiembre, estamos releyendo Rethinking Tourism and Ecotravel (Deborah McLaren, 1997)

From the archives (1997)

Deborah McLaren’s Rethinking Tourism and Ecotravel takes on the most pressing issue in the tourism industry today – how too often ecotravel destroys both natural resources and local cultures. But there are alternatives – if we care to pause and reflect – and that is what the author does in this book.

Rethinking Tourism could be a big hit in the airport bookstores and will open the eyes of many travelers. This book is written in a lively manner that will engage, entertain and infuriate its readers. McLaren contributes to our understanding of travel and its promise of improving the lives of local people and the environment.

Beginning with a personal journey to Jamaica, McLaren recounts her frustration seeking a meaningful encounter with Jamaican culture in Montego Bay. “I tried to meet some local people without being accosted by entrepreneurs,” she writes. “But I was taken to other all-inclusive resorts around the island… I noticed the creation of a fantasy tourism culture that by no means represented the real culture of Jamaica.” (Prologue)

The book will note please everyone – especially the disciples of tourism and public relations. McLaren points out that tourism is often in direct conflict competition with local people and the development of areas around wilderness areas threatens the wildlife. She lists ‘Examples of eco-oh-ohs’ which trace failures in Costa Rica, the Galapagos islands, Malaysia, and the Himalayas.

Yet it would be hard to characterize this book as a negative critique. This is a positive account of how to restructure (or at least rethink) tourism so that it does in fact benefit local people and their environments.


  • I believe that most tourists understand that there are many things wrong with tourism. What we need is a clear outline for change.



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