|dc.description.abstract||Interest in ecotourism as a development tool has emerged as a result of increased public concern for environmental sustainability and the potential negative socio-cultural impacts of mass tourism. In Pacific microstates such as Fiji, small-scale village-based ecotourism has been promoted as an alternative, more sustainable form of tourism. Alongside claims of protecting natural environments, the rhetoric of community participation within ecotourism has increased the justification for this form of development to receive bilateral aid.
In project implementation, donor policy has increasingly stipulated gender equity alongside poverty alleviation. This thesis addresses gender as a key issue in relation to the ecotourism development occurring within the indigenous community of Abaca village, Fiji. An integrated qualitative research approach was used, informed by feminist standpoint theories. Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques were adapted for use in tourism studies, in conjunction with gender analysis, participant observation and interviews. Analysis of the findings collated from the participatory research techniques and gender disaggregated data gathering established the social impacts of the project upon the women in the village.
The results of this research suggest that a range of dynamic, cross-cutting differences shape relations within the community. Local gender ideologies constitute an important factor in how indigenous providers experience ecotourism. Maintaining social approval and a high degree of intracommunal co-operation are key survival strategies within semi-subsistence rural economies, such as that of the case study village. Customary roles are clearly gender differentiated, and tasks ascribed accordingly. Involvement in ecotourism as an element of the globalised economy, by contrast, has the potential to disrupt gendered work patterns. In tum, this can exacerbate intracommunal conflict as the roles of women and men are renegotiated in the context of tourism.
The data also suggests that human resource capacity has not been strengthened significantly within the village. To date, there has been insufficient skills transfer for community members to effectively manage the ecotourism development themselves. The lack of clarity surrounding work contributions and the failure to distribute benefits equitably has further exacerbated existing tensions within the community. Women's experience of ecotourism is largely shaped by the cultural construction of hospitality. Thus, by building upon established patterns of social interaction within the village, tourism offers little to improve the quality of women's life and status.
Development of tourism occurs within a complex web of social relations, cultural realities and economic conditions. To date, this fact has not been fully acknowledged by bilateral aid policy. There are many different perspectives and many different stories (talanoa), even within one small community. Erroneous conceptualisations of a singular 'community' are misleading and have implications for the channelling of external inputs. Community experiences of the realities of ecotourism as a development tool may in fact be more diverse than alike, thus, the myth of homogeneity is unveiled.||en