Ordering tourism, poverty reduction, and development organizations - An aidnography of 15 years pro-poor sustainable tourism development by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation

By ir. John Hummel
In the last two decades, international development organizations like SNV Netherlands Development Organization have cautiously become involved in tourism for development. The research project describes the complex and hardly studied political and technical elements behind the working practices, drivers and beliefs of a development agency seeking to reduce poverty through tourism development.

Following some of the conceptions of John Law, Michel Callon, and David Mosse the research analyzes the way heterogeneous entities – people, concepts and ideas, interest, events (conferences, workshops, training courses) and objects (country and project offices, departments, strategy documents, manuals and toolboxes, websites, subsidy agreements, reporting formats) – were tied together by translation into materially and conceptually orderings of tourism within SNV. In doing so, the focus is not primarily on whether tourism and development worked, but on how it worked. In other words, the issue is not whether linking tourism and development within SNV was successful, but how success in this organization was defined and pursued.

In 15 years time, SNV moved from an organization opposing tourism as a development tool, through developing and implementing Community-Based Tourism (CBT), a phase of expansion in tourism, linking tourism to the Millennium Development Goals, working in partnership with the Private Sector and an overall increasing need to show defined short term results, to a phase of closure. The research project explains how and why tourism became an important part of development work and how changing policy discourses and practices of international and national organizations influence the way tourism is practiced as part of development work. The research shows how SNV itself stimulated international debates about tourism and development. Relations between tourism and development remain highly contested and require a continual production of “success”. SNV has now almost closed down its poverty reduction through tourism work. The research project reflects on lessons learned from the SNV story.

prof.dr. Rene van der Duim

prof.dr. Jaap Lengkeek