Poverty and Inequality: Exploring the Role of Tourism in Brazil's Northeast

WINTER, Theres (2019). Poverty and Inequality: Exploring the Role of Tourism in Brazil's Northeast. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00234


With poverty and inequality continuing to persist around the world, eradicating both has become one of the greatest challenges for humanity. Yet, tourism has been considered as a panacea for achieving development, overcoming poverty and reducing inequality. Nonetheless, it remains unclear as to whether tourism contributes to reducing poverty and inequality or, in fact, increases both. This study explores the relationship between tourism, poverty and inequality from a political economy perspective. A multidimensional view on poverty is adopted and inequality is considered in the distribution of impacts, which is underpinned by Sen's capability approach. The political economy context of this study is analysed by using Frank's dependency theory and by drawing on Giddens' understanding of power in his structuration theory. The study is conducted in a coastal tourist destination in the Northeast of Brazil and applies a mixed-methodological approach that combines quantitative value chain analysis (VCA) and qualitative photo-elicitation and interviews. The results show that tourism has a significant impact on reducing income-poverty through providing job opportunities as micro-entrepreneurs and in un-/ and semi-skilled positions to locals from a non-white background. In contrast, tourism business owners and those in higher managerial positions are people from a white background who have moved to the Northeast. This disparity found mirrors classic development patterns in developing countries and seems to be characteristic of the coastline in Brazil's Northeast. An analysis of the value of tourism-related income through consumption patterns emphasises the importance of tourism for local people to sustain their well-being, whilst business owners and managers do not seem to depend on tourism since they are able to draw on other financial sources. Individual opportunities and wider societal benefits provided by tourism are highly valued by locals, particularly, the opportunity of having access to and contact with the rest of the world through engagement with international tourists. In contrast, tourism business owners and managers place value on living in a natural environment and having a relaxed lifestyle. Despite the value of tourism for both groups, challenges and costs of tourism development are also identified. A key constraint is found to exist in racial disparities, in that the white-skinned elite is perceived to prevent non-white locals from generating income and sustaining their livelihoods. Wider structural constraints for tourism development lie in the dependency of the destination on the municipality and a neighbouring city; nonetheless, despite existing structural constraints, agency becomes evident, suggesting that people exert some degree of power over tourism development and their livelihoods. This study provides deeper understanding of multidimensional poverty, and particularly, in connection to inequality. Furthermore, it adds to existing knowledge on power relations within and between different spatial scales and power as interplay between structure and agency.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Kim, Seonyoung
Additional Information: Director of studies: Dr Seonyoung Kim
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00234
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2019 12:22
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:41
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/25494

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