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Ethnic Tourism and Entrepreneurship: Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China

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Entrepreneurship is crucial to tourism development. However, only limited attention has been paid to entrepreneurship in tourism and virtually no academic attention has been paid to entrepreneurship in ethnic tourism development. This research employs observation and interviews to examine the role of entrepreneurs and their perceptions of ethnic tourism in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China. The current situation is explored and socio-cultural issues facing entrepreneurs are addressed. It is revealed that entrepreneurs play a powerful role in developing ethnic tourism and they are crucial to the commodification and marketing of ethnic culture. However, most entrepreneurs in tourism businesses are not members of ethnic minorities; instead, they exploit minority resources for their own benefits. It is argued that there is a need to foster ethnic entrepreneurship and to encourage community-based and minority-controlled business in future ethnic tourism development. True 'mutual' economic development and 'reciprocal' relationships should also be established between tourism developers and minorities if long-term harmonious development is to occur and tensions are to be avoided.

Keywords: China; Entrepreneurship; Xishuangbanna; ethnic tourism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, USA 2: Department of Geography, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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