Sustainable Tourism and Its Discontents | Honduras


Is an equitable sustainable tourism model possible, and if so how can it be implemented in a way that promotes the rights of indigenous and afro-descendant peoples? Examining the discourse and practice of sustainable tourism development on the Caribbean Coast of Honduras. Demonstrating the ways in which the Honduran state, international financial institutions (IFIs) and private tourism investors utilize the language of sustainability to promote tourism development projects that are ecologically destructive, and which threaten the territorial rights and autonomy of coastal peoples, especially the Garifuna.

10 thoughts on “Sustainable Tourism and Its Discontents | Honduras

  1. Until Christopher’s talk I have not heard of the Garifuna people. This for me was the most interesting presentation by far. To hear more about how sustainable-cultural tourism is using the culture of the Garifuna to attract tourist, but in turn displacing a community is hard to hear, but is unfortunately not surprising that it was allowed to happen. Greed can be found throughout the world and amongst those who have the power to do so, is acceptable. With some of the comments made during the question and answer, I was also taken back by the fact that the issue that was brought up was the basis of being indigenous versus the fact that it is an acceptable practice within Sustainable/Cultural Tourism to displace or dilute a culture, when that culture is the driving force for marketing. The entire time I kept thinking how Black people just can’t seem to get a break; I mean anywhere in the world. Not only did the project displace a community, it force tourism as the only means of work, and then not being able to get those jobs. Then on top of that with the decline of families living in Miami, the creation of a plan to be more in tune with the tourism project. For those families that stayed, anyone that comes can live in a traditional looking house, but not necessarily be or take on the traditions of the community. It is sad to hear especially when the community itself is not the ones profiting from any of these new plans or development at all.

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  2. Thank you Cacena for thorough feedback.
    By the way, the phenomena of tourism development at a social and ecological price extends beyond Honduras. It is occurring in many other places (i.e. the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean coast…etc)
    The commodification of culture makes increase its consumption by tourism.
    And I agree with you, the underprivileged class (black, tribal, poor, … or any un privileged group) seem to continue paying the price of capitalism and wealth accumulation with certain groups.


  3. Amir,

    I enjoyed Professor Christopher A. Loperena’s talk at Berkeley on Honduras and sustainable tourism, and added this web page as reference to MIT OCW-centric wiki Honduras World University and School – – so far only in English. Am particularly interested in Garifuna language World University and School eventually in Garifuna (accessible from here when we create it – ). Thank you Christopher and looking forward to staying in touch.


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  4. Hi Amir,

    Thanks. I also added the same reference I added to Honduras MIT OCW-centric World University and School (Chistopher, will you possibly please become its head and grow it to 1000s or 10s of 1000s of pages as a university in many Honduran languages?) to the Tourism Studies World University and School wiki subject here –

    Cheers, Amir and Christopher!


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  5. Ecotourism would seem to make sense on multiple levels, as environmental conservation (or restoration) is tied to economic gain, providing a dual benefit. This economic gain can provide motivation for interested parties to think about helping the environment even if they do not consider the environment to be of value in itself. However, as Christopher Loperena pointed out in his talk, some groups may be excluded from this economic gain. For example, few Garifuna community members have been employed in the construction of tourism projects, or trained to work there, even though they may have lost some territorial rights. The equation seems to be complicated again when we add in cultural resources. How can we balance the environment, cultural resources, and the economy? Involving more Garifuna community members in the tourism industry would seem like a potential solution because if the Garifuna have a means to make a living and sustain their community, it protects their cultural heritage.

    However, it should be acknowledged that any time there is cross-cultural contact (such as tourism), cultures are affected and changed. For example, even though tourists want to participate in the so-called “everyday life” of the Garifuna, surely the very presence of the tourists changes things by making the actions of the Garifuna into a self-conscious performativity. This performativity is reflected in the use of architectural “indigenous” typologies for tourist buildings that have concrete hidden underneath the traditional materials. Tourists seek the “authentic,” but what is real in this situation?

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  6. Thanks so much Jen….. I would like to add that, according to my research, Tourism (as well as ecotourism) is problematic as it bring this cultural encounters that create problems, economical injustice and stress on ecological resources. I like your question of:

    “…..The equation seems to be complicated again when we add in cultural resources. How can we balance the environment, cultural resources, and the economy?….. “

    And that is the question of my life 🙂


  7. This talk by Christopher Loperena really highlighted the vast complications and layered effects of developing a remote area, specifically where a local population already exists (as I imagine is typical in yet undeveloped areas desirable for development). Tourism is ultimately a controversial subject. Is there a way to do it right? Does it always have to lead to the displacement of locals and shift their livelihood away from self-sustenance toward tourism dependent?

    There are many unfortunate ironies in the case of Caribbean Honduras, which again are surely patterns elsewhere. On the one hand eco tourism recognizes the importance of ecologically unique sites and puts mechanisms in place to theoretically protect these zones. On the other hand this same process fails to recognize the existing indigenous (as we heard this is a disputed term) populations as an integral part of this ecosystem. Instead they are viewed as a removable and exploitable. This extends so far as to reconstruct a traditional village with modern building techniques in a location that currently has legitimate traditional structures.

    I am sad to say that as our global system exists, slowing, stopping, or changing new development like this is extremely difficult – it pretty much takes a large down turn in the economy. This is the scale of forces at play.

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  8. Patrick, you are absolutely right, and it seems that your last statement is very true.

    “….I am sad to say that as our global system exists, slowing, stopping, or changing new development like this is extremely difficult – it pretty much takes a large down turn in the economy. This is the scale of forces at play…..”

    It indicates that there is more responsibility on people like us (environmentalist, landscape architects, planners,….etc) and it seems that changing the world to the better is not going to occur with the current players.


  9. Honduras has been a growing nation, with the tourism industry growing continuously. Tel Aviv in particular has seen increased development with resorts and other luxury buildings sprouting up. The lecturer was very knowledgeable of the situation in Honduras and Garifuna and presented it very well.
    I thought the topic of the budding tourism industry was particularly interesting. The goal of Honduras to promote sustainable tourism and give the country a uniquely Honduran feel, is a very interesting government initiative that could be good if other countries embraced it. The Indura Project in particular has helped the country significantly. It halted all fishing and agriculture and made Honduras solely rely on their tourism industry. This led to the government improving infrastructure and constructing lavish resorts in an effort to bring people to the country. I thought this was a very interesting concept to look at embracing in the United States particularly for fishing. We have been having a great deal of problems from people fishing far too much and it is starting to have serious effects on our ocean. I am curious whether or not something like this would be beneficial to the United States.
    I do wish the presenter could have talked more about the effect that this project had on the surrounding communities. I assume that fishing and agriculture must have been large industries in the area and for those to be taken away must have had a tremendous impact on the local area. I would have like to discuss whether or not Honduras actually has a well off enough economy to support such a reliance on tourism. The Garifuna are already not being employed as much as white Hondurans so I am sure they would have some resistance to this policy. If this could have been covered more I think the lecture would have been even better.
    The lecture was incredibly interesting and presented an interesting case study in restricting industry to promote sustainability. I can see how a lot of these policies might be implemented in the United States to bring on positive change for our own sustainable development.


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