How Politics Affect Tourism?

Basically travel and tourism is related to human urge to know more about the concept or area of his choice for his benefit and to enjoy the environment for his better way of life, thus tourism is an activity of academic as well as socio-economic nature but these tourist destinations are in various parts of the world under the control of various types of political philosophies, therefore, politics is a major determinant of tourism in particular nations. Hereunder we will discuss how politics determines tourism industry in various parts of the world.

The flows of tourism between two nations can be used as a sign of the level of salience between the two nations and their people.

American efforts to mobilise a boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games as an international rebuke to the soviets for the invention of Afghanistan were intended to deny the USSR global prestige.

On several occasions the USA used tourism as a political weapon. The USA demonstrated opposition to the People’s Republic of China and Cuba by forbidding travel to those countries for several years. As a result of change in political relationship the USA has lifted the travel ban to China and allowed some travel to Cuba.

Chinese tourism policy was negative in nature the fewer outside the better. This attitude was due to the fact that major tourist generating countries were hostile to the communist regime. Travel to China was forbidden by the USA and many other western governments.

China reciprocated by denying entry to most foreigners. In 1954, China International Travel Service was established to shepherd groups of “foreign friends” to a few sites.

It was in the early 1960s that China was eager to increase tourism. But only formal exchange visits, a few sympathetic writers and some business people on specific assignments were allowed to visit China before 1977.

Tourism as an industry began in China in 1978. China now recognised that tourism not only promotes mutual understanding and friendship but accumulates funds for modernization.

In 1978 1, 24,000 foreign tourists visited China. Between 1977 and 1980 tourist arrivals doubled each year and this process is growing in China.

Tourism in Thailand is unique because it ranges from cultural pilgrimages to the most degraded and dangerous sex odysseys. Private sector giants such as the Oriental Hotel of Bangkok and Grace Hotel operates brothel.

Over 3.2 million tourists visited Bangkok. Tourism industry is criticized because of its reliance on sex tours and general prostitution has become more pronounced.

As the nation has had a history of concubinage and prostitutes in its traditional culture, opposition failed to recognise social decay implied by sex tourism.

The Government of Thailand recognises tourism’s central place in the economy of Thailand. In 1982, tourism surpassed rice as the leading earner of foreign exchange. Tourism earned a billion dollars in 1981 from more than 2 million international tourists.

The Tourism Organisation of Thailand began in 1960 and was entrusted with the task of promoting Thailand as a tourist destination. At that time, Thailand was receiving less than 100,000 tourists.

That changed soon as the Vietnam War escalated and Thailand became a rest and recreation (R & R) base for war-weary soldiers. Prostitution as an occupation grew dramatically from its Thai-based, more or less stable clientele to an increasingly large and fleeting dependence on foreigners.

By 1975, when Vietnam War ceased, Thailand’s tourist base was no longer dependent on soldiers. Today it is based primarily on group tours and business travel. However, sex continues to be a major motivation for travel for Thailand for each of these groups.

It is women who are focused in tourism promotion. Thailand has become infamous as Thighland. In Bangkok there are 400,000 more female than male residents, yet 89 per cent of all tourists are male.

The primary objective of tourism development has always been to earn foreign exchange that will ease the balance of payments problem and so it did. A study in 1982 showed that of the entire trade deficit, 40 per cent was reduced by tourism revenues.

Those who are attracted by sex tours are not limited to any particular geographical area. In that sense there is someone for everyone. Chiangmai in the north has its share of brothels, mainly catering to westerners; Bangkok is international in its attractions.

Sex tours and prostitution in general has been a major feature of Thai tourism. It is necessary to know the background regarding prostitution in Thailand. Courtesans, concubines and prostitutes have been commonplace throughout the country’s history.

Courtesans operated in monarchical circles, the number of concubines was a measure of aristocratic power and commoners patronised the local brothels.

Women are divided into wives and whores. Prostitution is so widespread in Thailand that many have looked for ways to explain its domination of the tourist industry. Some see it as a reflection of Thai culture.

They argue that Thailand has always had prostitution and that the new depravity is merely a response to a global demand. Some women who are not attached to brothels or “sex shows” refer to their jobs as “working with foreigners.”

Prostitution in Thailand for the tourist industry has proved a real drawing card for a certain stratum of clientele. Not only sex but sex shows are part of the attraction. The Government attempted to crack down on prostitution and the infamous blue shows in 1981, but attempting an outright abolition of what is already theoretically illegal has been difficult to do. Today Thailand is losing some sex tourists because fear of disease or police crack downs.

Political objectives have made tourism an attractive policy area for Israel. The new country with a troubled history wants to attract young and enthusiastic immigrants.

Such policy has been apparently successful because during the 1970s, over 10 per cent of all tourists visiting Israel opted to migrate there.

Tourism is also important as a means of initiating or enlarging the scope of cooperative alliances with other nations through such bodies as the ASEAN and the UNESCO. For example, ASEAN has set up a permanent committee on tourism, which is exploring the idea of an ASEAN passport, eased interregional currency exchange and special fares as well as the development of region- wide policy on tourism promotion.

The politics of Indian tourism policy is just the opposite of China. India encouraged tourism since the clays of Alexander the Great. “There is no happiness for him who does not travel.” India has used tourism for national development.

Indian tourism policy, like its politics in general, is shaped by India’s geopolitical setting as the dominant country on the South Asian subcontinent. Despite long tradition and richness and diversity of its cultures and scenic attractions, the levels of international tourism are not very high.

Domestic tourism in South Asia has developed along two lines. The old pattern centers round the traditions of festivals and religious pilgrimages to the numerous Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Muslim holy places.

A second pattern of domestic tourism was the retreat to the hills during the hot season. Dozens of hill stations such as Darjeeling, Simla, Moussorie and Ooti became the destinations of choice of the English and upper class Indians.

Colonial rule contributed to tourism development in many ways. Railways provided an infrastructure for inexpensive surface travel. For India, size and diversity are additional factors that help to encourage domestic tourism.

‘War, politics, public opinion and civil unrest can be the greatest enemy of tourism’. War and civil unrest are definitely detrimental to tourism.

Expansion of tourism has suffered from unrest such as wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971 and quarrels with Sri Lanka over the later are treatment of Tamils of Indian descent.

Violence in Delhi, Punjab and Assam and religious riots in Hyderabad have adversely affected domestic as well as international tourism.

Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, 70 per cent of all tour bookings for November was cancelled, an immediate US 1.00 million dollar loss to this industry.

Indian tourism continues to be the victim of the political problems of other countries in the region, factors that interrupt air travel, make overland travel impossible, or lead to the cancellation of multi-country tours of the region. Iraq and Iran conflict led to the cancellation of Panam’s round-the-world service, which had a stopover in Delhi. Martial law in Pakistan and Bangladesh discouraged travel to those nations. Since July, 1983, sporadic communal violence in Sri Lanka has discouraged travel there.

There are five main policy phases in Indian tourism development. From 1949 to 1966 tourism gradually grew with limited involvement from the Government.

Most states were not active and since tourism is primarily a state, the Centre had only a minor role. In 1958, a separate Tourism Department was created within the Ministry of Transport.

The Second policy phase marked the beginning of major changes in both the administrative and operational development of tourism. In 1966, the Indian Tourism Development Corporation was created and it has become a model for tourism promotion throughout South Asia.

Tourism policy in India is a combination of both national and state policies. Tourism organisation very clearly reflects the federal character of the country. As a concurrent subject in the Indian Constitution, tourism is the responsibility of both the Union and the States.

Phase three was marked by the defeat of Indira Gandhi’s Government. The ascendancy of Morarji Desai’s much more Puritanical Janata Party had a major impact on the direction of tourism policy between 1977 and 1979.

In early 1978, the Janata Party Minister for Tourism announced that the Indian Government would no longer assist in the construction of four-star or five-star hotels.

The limited resources available for tourism would be used entirely for the creation of facilities for domestic and foreign tourists in the middle and low income groups. The Janata concept never has much chance to get off the ground as the Party was defeated in 1979.

The fourth policy phase was ushered in with the return of Indira Gandhi’s Government in 1980. Tourism industry was in bad shape during this period.

The fifth phase in tourism policy began in 1984 with the tragic assassination of Indira Gandhi and the assumption of Prime Minister by Rajiv Gandhi. The Bhopal gas tragedy, Indira Gandhi’s death and the subsequent tour cancellations put the industry in desperate shape.

Rajiv Gandhi had unprecedented commitments to tourism. The Planning Commission has tripled its previous commitment to tourism spending and the National Development Council has accorded tourism official status as an industry.

After its stagnation in the early 80s tourist growth became significant. In 1986, for the first time, over one million international tourists visited earning India about Rs. 18 billion. By 1990s, 2.5 million arrivals have been estimated. The fifth phase growth is a reflection of several factors.

Political stability has been established but major tourist- generating markets have been stimulated by exposing India’s numerous attractions through several outstanding films and exhibits. Gandhi, A Passage to India, the Jewel in the Crown and the Par Pavilions has exposed tens of millions to the lure of India.

In addition, the Festival of India has attracted widespread attention to India. Private sector is encouraged to build one to three-star hotels. Immigration procedures and health checks are being simplified, and training centers for hotel industry staff are being planned.

Last five years of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister of India have proved to the most rewarding for the tourism industry, as national income from this source have gone up more than 100 per cent as compared to any other period of five years in the history of India’s tourism industry, and we hope that this process will continue for long if peace process to normalize Indo-Pak relation started by him, bear fruits.

There are countries that do not use tourism for development because they do not want tourists and so do not issue tourist cryptology, for example, Saudi Arabia. But Pakistan has failed to succeed in using tourism for development though Pakistan’s tourism potential is enormous.

The ethnic diversity of its 100 million people, the archaeological importance of Mohen-Jodaro, Harappa, Cab and lesser-known sites throughout the country; the religious shrines, the wide variety of terrain and the dramatic scenic beauty make it globe’s most popular destination. Despite all this, growth in tourism has not been very impressive. In 1980, 292,000 tourists visited Pakistan and since then there has been a gradual growth.

‘Pakistan is not known to the outside world as a tourist destination mainly because the foreign tourist is not aware of the attractions that the country has to offer and does not know what specific places to visit in case he does arrive in Pakistan.’

Tourist fit well with Bhutto’s design to reorient Pakistan westward following the 1971 war, without East Pakistan, the nation looked to the Middle East for trade and the cultural identity. Pakistan became a recreational oasis for Middle Eastern elites.

Bhutto accordingly promoted plans to build a casino in Karachi and other facilities to attract tourists. Middle Eastern rulers responded by vacationing in Pakistan and giving sizable grants.

Bhutto also saw in tourism development a way to make the society more modern and less parochial in its politics and social views.

Traditional barriers to the emancipation of women might erode if a large number of tourists arrive. Bhutto’s political and social vision of tourism was not given time to be tested.

The July 1977 coup replaced Bhutto with Zia-ul-Haq. Zia is more fundamentalist in his religious and social views that any of his predecessors, with deleterious consequences for tourism; Islamic injunctions against social mixing of the mixing of the sexes, consumption of alcohol and gambling adversely affected arrival of European and American tourists.

For Muslims, the most important travel is to Mecca, a trip meaning tremendous foreign exchange leakage from Pakistan. In fact, Haj has been given high priority in the tourism planning of the Government. Other forms of travel by Pakistani tourists involve summer trips to the hills.

Islamization or Nizami-i-Mustafa (Rule of the Prophet) of President Zia is not conductive to domestic or international tourism. One month during Ramjan, all restaurants and all catering facilities closed between dawn and dusk.

Even after dusk facilities for tourists are Spartan. All night clubs have been closed, strict prohibition is enforced. Folk dances as well as belly-dancing have been axed. Muzak has gone.

Sri Lanka, ‘the Pearl of the Orient’ is often referred to as the ‘Resplendent Isle.’ Sri Lanka has a 15 million population and is a ‘tourist Paradise’. Sir Lanka with a good infrastructural base of railroads, guest houses and administrative experience upon which it build its tourism programme. In 1967, 19,000 tourists visited Sri Lanka and spent US $ 1.3 million. In 1982,407,230 tourists visited Sri Lanka and tourism has become the fifth largest source of foreign exchange. Tourism has been the major casualty of ethnic violence in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives with a population of 150,000 has been discovered as a tourist spot in 1970. The country at the south west coasts of India and Sri Lanka consist of 1,187 tiny islands most of which are uninhabited.

In fact, the Maldives have not even bothered to build jails. Most offenders are put under house arrest and more serious crimes are punished by banishment to a remote atoll. By 1984, more than 40 resorts had opened in the Maldives.

The Government has taken an active interest in tourism development. The Government has offered some concessions to build hotels to the Taj Group from India.

“People Power, the Unarmed Forces of the Philippines” mean a new era in the Philippines. Expelling Ferdinand Marcos, Corazon Aquino like Marcos felt that tourism policy would be a useful political weapon.

The Philippines had the reputation of a lively democracy in the midst of the authoritarian nations of South-east Asia.

It was President Marcos who in 1972 demonstrated that tourism could be developed to convey and create regime legitimacy in ways not attempted before Marcos had to prove the legitimacy of his military law so that it might not jeopardize the flow of foreign capital investment into the country.

The imposition of martial law was a legitimate response of an emergency situation created by communist subversion. Tourism which had fallen off dramatically in the period immediately before martial law was quickly seized upon as a means to refurbish the Marco’s image.

Tourism now became a priority industry eligible for a variety of tax incentives and customs concessions. The regime had set up its first Department of Tourism (DoT) in May, 1973.

For sometime Mrs. Marcos had nurtured expansive and expensive ambitions to see Philippines and particularly Manila, blossom into an international oasis for the luxury traveller.

It was the IMF World Bank Conference in October, 1976 that stimulated the most politically motivated use of tourism.

Selective acts of terrorism against tourists had been increasing as the Marcos family became identified as the prime beneficiaries of the Government’s expensive tourism development programme.

In 1970s there were kidnappings of two Japanese tourists on the southern island of Mindanoo. This event had severe repercussions. A strong military police and stiff sentences for crimes against tourists were the Government’s attempt to keep lawlessness to a minimum in Manila’s tourist belt.

Tourism policy under Aquino had attempted to diffuse benefits more broadly than was true under Marcos.

Under Martial Law tourist brochures promised, “a tanned peach on every beach, sex tours including those for pedophiles” flourished and the Lady Marcos’s own notorious motels and massage parlors were exempted from the martial law curfew. Re-emergence of democracy was a tourist attraction in Philippines.