Frontier tourism development and inequality in the Nepal Himalaya

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This article proposes ‘frontier tourism development’ as an apt analytical lens through which to understand contemporary tourism development in rural peripheries. Based on a rich case study of more than 90% of households across seven villages in the Manaslu Conservation Area, the article analyses local-level inequalities in participation and benefits from tourism development in one of the world’s most remote peripheries—the high Himalayas of Nepal. The analysis documents that distance to the trekking trail running through the area significantly determines engagement in the tourism sector and that, among participating households, the wealthier obtain significantly more tourism income. These local-level findings show how development initiatives intended to engender a more equal distribution of tourism income at a regional scale may end up increasing income inequalities at a local scale. Interpreting these findings though the notion of frontier tourism development as a particular kind of commodity frontier, the article highlights challenges to market-oriented inclusive tourism development in the face of composite rural economies and rapidly changing livelihood conditions. It documents bubble-like barriers to trickle-down and backward linkages at the frontiers of tourism development; illustrates the need for broader analytical alternatives to dominant value chain approaches; and encourages a more robust integration between studies of rural tourism and the wider political economy perspectives of critical agrarian studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Number of pages22
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

    Research areas

  • development, frontier, Himalaya, inequality, livelihoods, Nepal, Tourism

ID: 336456790