Social movements and community-based tourism: The case of Pichilemu

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Community-based tourism (CBT) is founded on the three dimensions of involvement, power and control, and outcomes. Mayaka, Croy, and Wolfram Cox argue that the more these dimensions are evident, the more idealised the form of CBT is. Nonetheless, they also argue that all CBT exists within a dynamic context, and it is continued efforts towards the ideal form that are important (compared to current demonstration). Indeed, we argue that these dimensions should be common features for any community’s engagement with tourism, not just in CBT cases. However, in many communities, tourism is given primacy, and the community is marginalised in involvement, control, and outcomes.

In this chapter, we focus on social movements as a dynamic contextual element of CBT. Social movements are a community-initiated tool to regain or obtain power and control, via involvement, to better achieve community outcomes. Social movements are traditionally a reaction to an adverse event, which mobilises a group in an attempt to modify institutional systems. The adversaries are those with power, supported by the current systems, whereas the demanded change is an attempt to displace or replace systemised power. In a tourism context, social movements have largely emerged in the event of what is now termed overtourism’ (e.g. in Barcelona and Venice). We define overtourism as when tourism has exceeded the community’s capacity to cope. Unfortunately, when overtourism occurs, it is often too late to implement any systemic change; only palliative changes are possible.

Within this context, we present the unique case of Pichilemu, a commune (administrative district) on the coast of Chile. The community has traditionally depended on fishing and low-scale tourism, with tourists particularly attracted to the surf break. In 2015, a developer purchased land for a resort project, which would also close beach access. The community, led by two champions, created a social movement, which stopped the development. This is unique within social movement theory as an actual adverse event has been theorised to start a mobilisation (compared to a perceived threat). It is also unique in tourism, where social movements have usually been initiated after the capacity inflection point has been reached. Even without these two trigger events, a social movement was initiated and was successful in changing the system. The system changed so much that a CBT enterprise was created. This chapter will profile the case in comparison to the theorised understanding of social movements and overtourism, and demonstrate the emergence of the CBT enterprise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Community-Based Tourism Management
Subtitle of host publicationConcepts, Issues & Implications
EditorsSandeep Kumar Walia
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780429274664
ISBN (Print)9780367223915
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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