Displacement caused by tourism

Bimini Protest WomenTourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.

Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.

Displacement can also happen gradually. The arrival of mass tourism can seriously disrupt thriving local communities; small businesses are forced to compete with well-established multinational companies; land prices and the basic cost of living commonly escalate, and competition over scarce natural resources, such as water, can intensify, with wealthy tourism developers usually winning out over the basic needs of local people.

Examples of tourism-related displacement include:

  • After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, coastal communities in Thailand, Southern India and Sri Lanka were permanently relocated inland while their traditional lands were earmarked for tourism development.
  • In Kenya, the Endorois were expelled from their lands to make way for a conservation area in 1973. They only received compensation 30 years later when they took their case to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.
  • The South African government stepped up its ‘slum clearance’ programme in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup in the face of fierce opposition from local groups.
  • In Burma, 5,200 residents of the ancient city of Pagan were forcibly displaced in the lead up to ‘Visit Myanmar Year’ in 1996.

Other countries where displacement of local peoples has occurred for tourism: Australia, Argentina, Bali, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Honduras, Jordan, Mexico, The Philippines, Namibia, Peru, Senegal, Tibet, Tanzania, Ghana, Honduras, Costa Rica, India, Burma


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