Political ecology of inequality in tourism development in rural Mongolia.

DORJSUREN, Amartuvshin. (2014). Political ecology of inequality in tourism development in rural Mongolia. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Tourism is often advocated as a means of poverty reduction in the developing world, despite limited evidence about its effectiveness. There is even less research on tourism's wider effects on standards of living and general inequality in developing countries. This study explores the views of different people involved in tourism development about tourism's contribution to quality of livelihoods and standards of living, and about associated equality and inequality, as a consequence of tourism development in rural Mongolia. Use is made of a critical realist stance and three theoretical approaches: a political ecology, an actor-perspective and a capability approach. Taken in combination, these approaches focus on the macro-level structural aspects of tourism and standards of living, the associated micro-level actor relations, and the relations within and among them. The study explores two case study rural areas with substantial tourism elements: the Lake Hovsgol region and the Gobi Desert region, in northern and southern Mongolia respectively. Qualitative methods were used, including 52 semi-structured, face-to-face and focus group interviews with 61 respondents, participant observation, and analysis of government and agency reports. Analysis of the sources was undertaken using a framework approach. The study findings suggest that tourism's contribution to grassroots people's standards of living was substantial and often accounted for more than half of household incomes, despite the short tourist season. Households with below average standards of living appeared to benefit the least from tourism in comparison to households with average and above average standards of living. It is argued that this relates to the lack of capability of many among the less-well-off to become involved in tourism. It was also shown that people held differing notions of tourism's contribution to inequalities. Tourism had varied environmental, economic and sociocultural burdens and benefits, resulting, for example, in water pollution, deforestation, soil degradation and the alteration of traditional patterns of nomadic culture. Tourism also competed with other economic sectors for natural resources. Tourism's burdens and benefits were influenced by the political economy of state governance, taxation policies, party politics and corruption. Many local actors considered that tourism development led by the private sector had only limited benefits for the host population, while private sector respondents considered it had led to substantial economic benefits. Community-based tourism programmes led by International Development Organisations were sometimes considered less efficient and destabilising in the long run as they created relatively low quality and low expenditure tourism.It was found that individual actors exerted agency and found some room for manoeuvre in order to achieve their goals within the structural constraints. Yet modest grassroots people seem to have been bearing a disproportionately large proportion of the problems or costs of the structural forces. They suffered most from low wages and commodity price inflation, limited access to natural resources due to conservation policies, and a lack of information and opportunities. Yet some of these grassroots people exerted much agency, such as through the use of their informal social networks to make the most of the tourism-related opportunities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Bramwell, Bill
Thesis advisor - Palmer, Nicola [0000-0001-7916-139X]
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 2014.
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:19
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:00
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/19575

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