Whitewater rafting in Nepal : an anthropological analysis of participation in the global tourism industry
Van De Berg, William Roger
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This dissertation contributes to the theoretical and methodological advancement of the anthropology of tourism through a study of whitewater rafting in Nepal. First, it provides the first intensive ethnographic study of this relatively recent form of adventure ecotourism that is becoming increasingly important for tourists and receiving nations. Second, the dissertation demonstrates novel approaches to the field study of tourism, including use of multi-sited research, consensus analysis, and interdisciplinary tools from geography and economics. Third, the impact of civil and military unrest--in this case Nepal's Maoist insurgency--on tourism is ethnographically described. The role of Nepal's river-based tourism has played in generating positive and negative consequences for participating members of the host community was empirically researched. Five distinct groups of tourism participants--rafting company owners, river guides, company office staff, and local riverine villagers and rafting tourism clientele were studied. The specific objectives aimed to: (1) discern agreement within and between each of the four groups with regard to the cognized perceptions of social, environmental, and economic costs and benefits; (2) objectively assess the operational reality of the river tourism operations for two commonly used rivers. Results indicated that there was less agreement on the rafting industry’s costs and benefits within two of the five groups and more consistency between all five of the groups than was expected in the project’s hypotheses. Operationally, the rafting industry appeared to have a minimal environmental impact but a relatively significant economic impact with longer, remote river runs generating more non-rafting company related spending on river trips by clientele of rafting operations than shorter, roadside river runs. Although these results are specific to Nepal, it is hoped they can be used by policymakers throughout the world to craft more effective river tourism development plans.