Fortress tourism: exploring dynamics of tourism, security and peace around the Virunga transboundary conservation area

Lisa Trogisch*, Robert Fletcher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This paper examines the role of tourism in promoting peace around transboundary protected areas (TBPA) in conflict-affected regions through a case study of the Virunga TBPA straddling the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. Also praised as ‘peace parks’, TBPAs embody the rationale that stimulating a tourism economy in shared conservation spaces will provide incentives for formerly antagonistic states and actors to cooperate. Virunga TBPA exemplifies this strategy by promoting high-end gorilla tourism in a region scarred by longstanding conflict. Drawing on twelve months of fieldwork, we found that these optimistic aspirations are contradicted by militarisation of the three National Parks constituting the TBPA, as well as prevalence of violence and political segregation among the countries. As park authorities sell ‘feelings of security’ by framing their neighbours as threats in order to attract visitors, intrastate competition and conflict intensifies. Peace tourism rhetoric and revenues allow the governments to justify and finance the militarisation as necessary to protect ‘their’ tourists while concealing their security interests in protecting national borders. This contradiction between tourism’s ostensive ‘peace dividend’ and the violence it generates within transboundary conservation efforts poses the question: what kind of ‘peace’ can be generated through tourism, and for whom?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2020

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