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On and off the ethnic tourism map in Southeast Asia: the case of Iban longhouse tourism, Sarawak, Malaysia

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Abstract:

In the literature on ethnic tourism there has been considerable discussion of touristic images and descriptions of ethnic groups, the 'culture brokers' (tour guides, operators and so on) who produce these images, and the resulting alterations communities are required to make in order for destination image and reality to correspond. However, the actual process of matching image with appearance in ethnic tourist destinations is often left unexplored. Examining this process involves a discussion of the relationship between destination communities and tour operators and authorities. This paper examines how some communities come to be 'put on' and 'taken off' the ethnic tourism map in Malaysian Borneo through a case study of two Iban longhouses in the state of Sarawak. The negotiations that occur when a potential destination is identified by a tour operator and those that occur when a community is threatened with the loss of destination status are important points to consider in this relationship since destination communities throughout Southeast Asia continue to 'slip off' the tourist map as outside agents deem them no longer traditional or exotic enough for touristic consumption. This threat to destination status can mean loss of a community's major source of income simply at the whim of tour operators.

Keywords: AUTHENTICITY; ETHNIC TOURISM; MALAYSIAN BORNEO; SUSTAINABILITY

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616680210124945

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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