v14_2003h - 7 TOURISM AND THE POLITICS OF CULTURAL...

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Journal of Public and International Affairs , Volume 14/Spring 2003 Copyright 2003, the Trustees of Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~jpia 7 T OURISM AND THE P OLITICS OF C ULTURAL P RESERVATION : A C ASE S TUDY OF B HUTAN Marti Ann Reinfeld Marti Ann Reinfeld is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University ([email protected]). Tourism generates tremendous revenue for developing countries, but also serves as an instrument for the spread of Western cultural homogeneity. This article evaluates Bhutan’s tourism policy based upon three criteria: opportunity for foreign exchange, space for cultural evolution, and prevention of cultural pollution. While Bhutan has experienced some success in its synthesis of tradition and modernity, it is likely to face significant challenges in the future. Ultimately, six recommendations are provided to strengthen Bhutan’s tourism policy in light of its attempts to preserve its unique culture.
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1 I NTRODUCTION : C ULTURAL EVOLUTION The Need for Cultural Diversity The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) states that culture is “the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes . . . modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions and beliefs” (2002). Culture evolves with a people as a guidebook for living well with each other. Like biological species, the environment in which it is housed and the resources available to it guide a culture’s evolution. Cultures are living systems; they continually evolve as conditions, such as mounting population pressures and resource availability, change. The evolution of a culture also is influenced by its contact with other disparate cultures. When cultures interact, there is an inevitable exchange of ideas, values, rituals, and commodities. Ideally, the exchange is of the most effective and equitable elements of each society—those elements that lend themselves to the attainment of a socially and environmentally sustainable society. Cultural diversity represents the expanded opportunity for learning through intercultural dialogue. Because each culture has evolved in a unique environment with a unique set of physical and human resources, each has a distinct set of guidelines for living to add to the cultural pool. In theory, the opportunity for cultural learning in the 21st century is greater than ever. Globalization, in the form of world markets, free trade, and mass tourism, provides endless opportunities for the cultural interaction that opens the door for cultural dialogue. The current push for globalization, however, is overwhelmingly characterized by
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the assumption that Western culture is the most suitable model for progress. The language of globalization, for example “developed” versus “developing” in regard to
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