The contribution of tourism towards Aboriginal economic development: a capabilities-based perspective

Pascal Tremblay

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report - ERA-eligiblepeer-review


The aim of this project is essentially to address the lack of theoretical development in the joint areas of economic regional development and research on Aboriginal involvement in tourism—as applicable to remote Australian contexts. It was itself driven by the absence of frameworks to assess the desirability of tourism as economic development option for remote Aboriginal communities or regions. The topic was approached through discourse analysis (including literature reviews and conceptual critiques), which required research stretching far beyond the typical realm of tourism research. The research examines reasons for the difficulties in connecting Indigenous tourism research to economic development, linked with the diversity of views concerning economic development objectives, as well as tensions relating to the nature of conflicts between cultural and economic sustainability objectives, and the political economy which has developed around these views. The report undertakes a review of some noteworthy interpretations of the purpose and Aboriginal economic development in an attempt to frame a conceptual basis and construct a model of its potential and likelihood in the context of remote, northern Australia. An approach referred to as economic capabilities or alternatively the growth of knowledge perspective, is adopted to shift the arguments relating to Aboriginal economic participation from the usual employment or business expansion performance towards the development of capabilities supporting evolving aspirations and know-how. In doing so, the claim is made that investments in any set of capabilities should be evaluated on the basis of the effect on the ability of Aboriginal people to develop the means for greater economic autonomy, as a condition for political and cultural revival, while recognising the limited connections existing at present between their life experiences and the more or less distant mainstream economy which they increasingly need to interact with, despite being unequally equipped to do so. The various layers of capabilities required to construct an economic base are discussed, and the significance of market institutions in supporting and promoting learning (as a form of re-investment in know-how) is discussed. From that perspective, the potential worth of participation in sectors such as tourism must be evaluated on the basis of the role it can play in building (creating, changing, eliminating and growing in general) capabilities that are likely to be retained in regions with small bases, and can provide paths towards sustainable economic activities, not necessarily tourism. In that sense, the perspective defended to evaluate tourisms’ contribution to economic development involves an assessment of the fit of the knowledge base it requires with the existing know-how found in the regions as well as with the prospective economic aspirations of the communities or regions involved in developing an economic base.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGold Coast, Qld.
PublisherCooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism
Commissioning bodyCooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism
Number of pages114
ISBN (Electronic)9781921658778
ISBN (Print)9781921658273
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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