Author : Peter Varga
School/Work Place : Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne, Switzerland
Contact :
Year : 2013

The question how native societies cope with the increasing pressure of global values, such as sustainability, westernization and democratic institutions has been asked in the last decades (Smith, 1989; Honey, 1999; Nash, 2001; Honey, 2008). Ecuador, as an important tourism destination in South America, has focused on eco-oriented tourism practices since the last decade of the 20th Century. Due to this increased global interest in the country’s diverse natural and cultural settings, ethnic groups in tourism destinations have experienced the growing demand for sociocultural adaptation not only to the tourists’ behaviors and expectations (Doxey, 1976) but also to the organizational strategies of the external stakeholders. As one of the central interests in the discipline of anthropology of tourism, various scholars have been focusing on the impacts of today’s tourism practices in the host populations (Chambers, 1997; Burns, 1999; Mowforth and Munt, 2009; Macleod and Carrier, 2010).

The present research is interested in how a local, indigenous community, the Siona in the Ecuadorian Amazon, has been experiencing the growing presence of the externally-led tourism practices in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Ecuador. Tourism statistics show a sixty-three-fold increase in tourist arrivals between 1984 and 2010, indicating an important growth in the sector (Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism, 2010). The author of this paper carried out several anthropological field-works in the area since 2001 (twelve months in 2001 and some shorter periods afterwards), with the objective to understand the current changes in the locals’ social structure due to, primarily, the increasing presence of non-native tourism actors in the reserve and second, the growing competition for tourism revenues not only between indigenous communities, but also within native families. The research highlights the growing lack of “interactive-participation” of the natives in tourism dynamics (Pretty, 1995). As one of the various responses from the Siona in front of this degrading situation, some families established a new community and started to revitalize certain traditional practices as authentic elements of their culture in order to attract more tourism revenues (Urry and Larsen, 2011).

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