Why We Don't Need Tourist Facilities in Caspar
Looking at our local tourist economy, and at other similar economies (Maui, Thailand, Costa Rica) many of us have come to the conclusion that tourism does not build community or economic stability. In Hawaii, we have been told that for every tourist dollar spent in Waikiki, $1.07 leaves the island's economy (to the Japanese land owners, the suppliers of food on the mainland, to mainland banks and manufacturers.)
Devil's Bargains : Tourism in the Twentieth Century American West
Reviews of Devil's Bargains
A reader from Wilmington, North Carolina , June 18, 1999
"Devil's Bargains" presents a series of provocative histories recounting the development of resort towns and tourist sites across the inter-mountain West including the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe, Carlsbad Caverns, Steamboat Springs, Aspen, Vail, Sun Valley, and Las Vegas, among others. The book also codifies the history of tourism under a new interpretative framework which divides the development of tourism into three phases: cultural and heritage tourism, recreational tourism, and entertainment tourism. Beginning at the turn of the century with cultural and heritage tourism spawned by the transcontinental railroads seeking to expand passenger traffic, tourism evolved into recreational tourism made possible by the automobile and a growing fascination with exercise and the outdoors in the aftermath of World War I, and culminated after World War II with entertainment tourism dependent on the Jet airplane and the dramatic expansion of widespread prosperity, a leisure ethic, and a pervasive consumer culture. Rothman focuses on the Grand Canyon and Santa Fe to illustrate cultural and heritage tourism; various western ski resorts define recreational tourism; and Las Vegas embodies entertainment tourism. These three phases of tourist development reflect the historical transformation of tourism from an elite pastime to a more individualized, democratic experience, to a mass culture phenomena. They also reveal a process of economic development, reflecting the evolving strategies adopted by western communities to replace tapped out extractive economies.
Defining tourism as the quintessential service economy, the pinnacle of post-industrial capitalism, Rothman argues that the promises of tourist industries have been embraced as a panacea for economic decline in towns throughout the West. However, as his research reveals, locals and even "neonatives" have found tourism to be a bitter pill to swallow. Although the advent of tourist economies in places such as Jackson Hole, Steamboat Springs, and Sun Valley has resulted in phenomenal economic growth, prosperity has come with a price. As the book's title suggests, in the process of reviving the economy, tourism displaces locals with outside capital and corporate control, sapping a place of its soul, and leaving in its stead a facade of hollow images and a service economy manipulated by distant corporations whose only interest is the bottom line. What has emerged in places like Vail and Santa Fe is a two-tiered class system where workers who are predominantly people of color (Hispanic, African, or Filipino) hold low-paying, menial jobs providing for the comfort and amusement of wealthy second home owners and visitors. There is little room for an established community of year-round residents when the bottom line centers on the paying visitor. Las Vegas is the exception. In defining itself as the ultimate themed destination resort constantly reinventing itself to satisfy visitors' desires, Las Vegas remains one of the last places where unskilled workers can earn a middle-class income replete with benefits and job security. Las Vegas alone, according to Rothman, has succeeded at perfecting the service economy, becoming a model of sorts for the rest of the country. "The colony became the colonizer," he writes, exporting a model of entertainment tourism for a nation entranced by the spectacles of multi-media consumer culture.
In detailing the ways in which western communities reinvented themselves as tourist resorts, marketing an idealized western ambiance and a scripted history, and in the process losing control of the very community they sought to promote and preserve, Rothman provides a rich assessment of the social and political impact of tourist-based economies as they evolved from local ventures to corporate productions. But more than that, he presents a thoughtful and disturbing critique of the promises and realities of post-industrial, post modern capitalism as manifested in the twentieth-century tourist's West.
Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
A reader from Las Vegas , January 12, 1999
: : last updated 23 June 1999 : 14:06 Caspar (Pacific) time : :
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