Cultural tourism policy in developing regions: the case of Sarawak, Malaysia

Haigh, Matthew (2020). Cultural tourism policy in developing regions: the case of Sarawak, Malaysia. Tourism Management, 81, article no. 104166.



There is a need for empirical data that can be used to confirm or disconfirm literature that makes a case for functional linkages between cultural activity and tourism. This motivates a case-based investigation using Sarawak, a culturally rich state of Malaysia and which is currently trying to diversify and uplift its economy. Using interviews of tourism operators, artists and cultural brokers, visits to regional performance and art venues, and examination of documentary material, the paper identifies Sarawak’s cultural and tourism policies, their outcomes and the ways they have been received. The findings are interpreted using Adorno’s concepts of significance and function and Putnam’s (2015) parsing of political relations into their representational and concrete dimensions. It is found that tourism planners have exoticized local communities at the cost of developing a diversified economy. In order to marshal wider economic activity around cultural tourism and the cultural arts, a participatory policy model is suggested. Implications for the local political economy are noted.

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