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Tourism development in less developed countries.

By Paul Leung Kin Hang


The United Nations Research Institute of Social Development (UNIRSD) published a monograph after their workshop in Geneva 1994 on the development of Cambodia. Among the various issues the workshop revealed the pressing need for\ud research regarding the post-conflict economic strategy, the socio-psychological effects of the war, appropriate forms of foreign aid and delivery mechanisms, and the roles and responsibilities of different types of local, national and international institutions involved in processes of rehabilitation and reconstruction. In response to this fundamental quest for knowledge, this study is designed to investigate the development of tourism in the war-tom Cambodian economy in the mist of poverty and social problems. International intervention and assistance, the role of government and the Third Sector!, and community participation are key embedded units for the study. The thesis also intended to examine the appropriateness of the\ud approaches employed by the government and international aid in promoting tourism. Although this thesis focused on Cambodia, findings and discussions are highly relevant to other less developed countries (LDCs), especially those having a background of war and/or civil turmoil. The thesis also addresses questions related to tourism as a development agent for economic growth, social rehabilitation and political development. For example:\ud • How can tourism serve to reactivate processes of economic growth and social development without seriously affecting the allocation of resources and current structure of the economy? • How can tourism development be activated given the contextual limitations? • Why should government intervene in the development process and how does one\ud ensure the results will be accomplished with minimal disturbance to the social system? • What kind of new social problem(s) and/or distortions in the economy, if any,\ud have been induced by tourism and/or the liberalization of the economy? The delimitation of the study to tourism is for practical reasons. On the one hand, it is impossible to investigate the situation in Cambodia and make meaningful\ud recommendations without refining the scope of study. Tourism, on the other hand, is the world's largest single industry and one on which many countries have pinned\ud their hopes. It is renowned for its ability to generate income, to attract foreign investment, to create employment and as some including the World Tourism Organization and the Pope John Paul II even argue for its capability to promote peace2. This thesis developed a tourism system model by theoretical induction making use of Cambodia as the subject of study. The ultimate vision of the study is\ud to enhance the body of knowledge and thus to capitalize tourism as a development agent for the rehabilitation of a war-tom economy and social institutions to fight both poverty and marginalization. The findings of the study revealed the most current situation in Cambodia by applying the model of the tourism system and the model for tourism development proposed. The proposition that free-market capitalism might not work for less developed countries was tested and proved to be valid. This thesis revealed the barriers and potential of tourism as a development agent\ud for LDC by using Cambodia as the subject for investigation. Specific recommendations were given. Although it might seem controversial given the difficulties as illustrated in the analysis, Cambodia has very limited option for development. The thesis also argued that many obstacles in the development are administrative. Once the problems were addressed, a significant increase in demand can be expected.\ud This study attempts to provide answers to developmental questions. However, more questions and gaps in knowledge emerged in the process of the study. This study, as originally designed, is not an end in itself but a stepping-stone to further studies. To conclude, allow me to cite the words of Joan Healy, Overseas Service Bureau Australia, "to understand the meaning of this time we do well to see it\ud through the experiences and aspirations of ordinary Cambodians. Then our questions change. We ask about ways they see to ease suffering and contribute to peace. We face the fact that we do not know so many answers

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