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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A critical review of alternative tourism: full fare tourism? A case study of Mundo Maya Johnston, Alison M.


Many planners concerned about the serious social and ecological impacts associated with the tourism industry now promote a shade of tourism called 'alternative' tourism. The difference between regular tourism and alternative tourism is that the latter has the connotation of being 'full fare' or sustainable. Generally speaking, alternative tourism is no less exploitive than regular tourism. The set of tourism activities now labelled as 'alternative' is merely a sub-component of the notorious mainstream tourism model. It unleashes the same type of negative social and ecological impacts as regular tourism, because the same planning methodology is employed. Mundo Maya, an alternative tourism program launched in 1990 but marketed before proper planning had taken place, follows this trend. The problems arising from the tourism industry's interpretation of alternative tourism points to a need to revisit the theory of alternative tourism and look to the 'success stories'. If present forms of alternative tourism are not sustainable, then it is vital that a line be drawn between tourism purporting to be alternative tourism and true alternative tourism. Otherwise a valuable body of theory could be discarded on the basis of misguided implementation efforts and opportunistic marketing. Within Mundo Maya, several small-scale independent success stories exist. These illustrate the conditions under which tourism can be 'full fare'. When the gap between the theory and practice of alternative tourism is closed, alternative tourism is a viable and rewarding community development tool.

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