Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros19Tourism and Geopolitics: Actors, ...

Texte intégral

1This special issue "Tourism and Geopolitics: actors, issues, practices", hosted by the journal Via, brings together articles which bear witness to the importance and diversity of current events in these research themes. And following the journals Téoros1 in 2004 and Hérodote2 in 2007 each of which devoted a special issue to it, it is compelling to identify the way in which researchers grasp it today. Téoros had highlighted, around its invitation for "tourism at risk of politics", the effects and incidences of international crises and instabilities, including terrorism, on the promotion and practices of tourism that has become globalized. Hérodote, in "Geopolitical tourism," using the singular for these two terms, privileged analyses relating to the effects of inequalities and dominations as well as on the stakes of "rivalries of powers on territories with very different characteristics: from the global and international to tourist districts and seaside resorts” (Giblin, 2007).

2Using the plural of these terms “tourisms” and “geopolitics”, the journal Via calls for a broader treatment of “geopolitics”, with the latter concerning not only relations between States, but taking into account all the conflicting dimensions. - ideological, territorial, cultural - that the tourist sector encounters in the development of its promotions as in the actual practices that it generates.

3Thus, beyond the diversity of nations (China, Laos, Nepal, Ukraine, Georgia, Portugal, Israel, France, among others), or types of tourism - religious, ethnic, memorial, ecological - or practices - focus on modes of accommodation or visits - it is possible to identify at least three main dynamics. These reflect the geopolitical dimensions at work throughout the contemporary tourist system. They even participate, precisely, in the most significant current evolutions: mobilization of the social and cultural as "resources", elaboration of situated narratives – means of attraction - at the ideological and political intersection of History and Memory, and new values ​​of "authenticity" and "identity". The articles included here document and exemplify the processes of tourism, as a total social fact, systemically a producer and a product of a globalization whose market logics are inseparable, on all levels, from the design of the promotions and the motivation of requests.

4The first dynamic concerns the instrumentalization of the tourism sector as soft power. Making tourism a lever of international respectability, while earning the currencies it generates, is certainly not a recent phenomenon (Matelly, 2013). Today, Saudi Arabia or China are playing that card. But other modes of soft power, more subtle, are also used, focusing for instance on responsible intentions (ethics for example) or cultural enhancement (ethnic tourism), taking place within the very evolution of the tourism sector.

5This is how the article “Tourism and ‘eco-ethnicity’: the challenges of environmental soft power for minorities in high-altitude Asia (China, Laos, Nepal)” by Landy et al., examines the effects induced by eco-ethnic pitches and their effectiveness in terms of tourism in three Asian regions. The authors show both how eco-ethnicity can participate in the construction of a contemporary tourist imaginary, and how in return, it provides minorities with a useful lever to negotiate rights with local authorities or seek support from “global" environmental organizations. This “weapon of the weak” (Scott, 1985) is proffered, more or less openly, in the tourist advertising to counter situations of socio-cultural or political marginalization.

6The article by Chevalier and Lefort, “When tourism updates memories”, underlines the way in which the European Union, through its cultural routes, promotes a common geopolitical identity, intended to develop a new shared story, beyond singular national histories and beyond painful memories.

7The second line of force which brings together these texts, testifies to the essential multi-scalar combination of conflicts and/or political issues, from the local or regional to international scales. In other words, they clearly exemplify the way in which one-off tourism propositions, though territorially local, fit into and resonate on larger scales. In doing so, the tourist field illustrates a geopolitical embeddedness at all levels, inseparable from globalized economic and cultural issues. Power rivalries and inherent conflicts unfold there and document the plural of “geopolitics” of the attraction. And all the more so since the contemporary variation of the thematic qualifiers of tourism allows them to play in the cultural, ecological, heritage or religious spheres, even if obviously none of these operate independently.

8On a local or even micro-local scale, the article by Victor Piganiol, "Airbnb or the (globalized) geopolitics of contested tourist accommodation: From magnified disruptions to generalized conflicts ...” shows both the emergence and the existence of new conflicts, mixing actors with sometimes contradictory practices and representations - the host and the tourist, the host and the resident “next door,” the tourist and the permanent resident - linked through the deployment of the Airbnb accommodation activity.

9On another eminently conflictual theme, the article by Caroline Rozenholc-Escobar, “Implications, actors and geopolitical levers of tourism. Israel/Palestine: what religious places tell us,” illustrates in a paradigmatic way the challenges of tourism dedicated to religious practices (pilgrimage), in their original places and their copies in theme parks, powerful vectors of ideological transmission. This type of presentation marks the postmodernity of leisure and edutainment societies. The Israeli-Palestinian terrain, still with conflicting tensions, echoes that of the young Republics of Ukraine and Georgia, confronted, in their desire to open up tourism, with the geopolitical issues of the legacy of the Soviet bloc. The article by Nataliia Moroz, “During and after the USSR. How do post-Soviet states (re)build their tourism sector? The example of Ukraine and Georgia,” illuminates the challenges of promoting a unique opportunity, and developing new stories of identity aimed at attracting tourists.

10The third dynamic theme at work in this issue puts into perspective the strong relationship between heritage and geopolitical contexts. As heritage issues involve those of territorial and ideological identities, it is obvious that their mobilization within the framework of the production and promotion of tourist destinations can only be confronted with political and geopolitical issues. The aggrandizement of heritage, at all levels, is today a powerful vector for tourism development. This touristic “globalization” feeds new products as well as new destinations in which the UNESCO classification holds a very special place through its international range as well as through its universal qualifications. The article by Mark Bailoni, "Territorial development, tourism and protection of World Heritage sites: issues of geopolitical conflicts" using the unique example of the Alto Douro valley, analyzes the conflicts generated by the coexistence of a UNESCO-classified area and a project of economic value for a hydroelectric dam. Classification issues are also at the heart of the memory issues exemplified in the article by Chevalier and Lefort.

11In conclusion, although the current period is strongly marked by the Covid 19 epidemic and the reduction of travel (international tourism fell by 82% in Asia-Pacific in the first ten months of 2020 according to UNWTO-OMT), thinking about tourism through all its geopolitical dimensions undoubtedly invites us to reflect on the superimpositions of antagonistic relations or even borders - state, cultural, memorial, social - which shape power relations and produce social worlds. Reminding us of this is one of the main qualities of this issue.

Haut de page


Giblin, B. (2007), « Tourism, a Geopolitical Theater? », Hérodote, vol. 127, no. 4, pp. 3-14.

Matelly, S. (2013), « Tourism, a Geopolitical Object », Revue internationale et stratégique, vol. 90, no. 2, pp. 57-69.

Sarrasin, B. (2004), « Tourism, at Risk of Politics », Téoros [Online], 23-1 | 2004, Online since 20 November 2017, connection on 12 June 2021. URL:

Scott, J. C. (1985), Weapons of the Weak. Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. Yale University Press, New Haven.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Dominique Chevalier et Isabelle Lefort, « Tourism and Geopolitics: Actors, Challenges and Practices », Via [En ligne], 19 | 2021, mis en ligne le 26 juillet 2021, consulté le 01 décembre 2021. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Dominique Chevalier

MCF-HDR, Université Lyon1, Laboratoire EVS (UMR5600)

Articles du même auteur

Isabelle Lefort

PU, Université Lyon2, Laboratoire EVS (UMR5600)

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page


Nelson Graburn

University of California, Berkeley

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Via Tourism Review est mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Logo CNRS - Institut des sciences humaines et sociales
  • OpenEdition Journals
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search