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Sabrina Tremblay-Huet

University of Sherbrooke (Doctoral Candidate)


The Reciprocity Problem of the “Right to Tourism”: Law and Literature as a Method for Uncovering Resistance to an International Discourse

Sabrina Tremblay-Huet, Doctoral candidate in law, University of Sherbrooke


The United Nations World Tourism Organization’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) consecrates what the “international community” considers to be the ethical manner of carrying out one of the most important economic activities of our time, tourism. As for many times normative texts have been claimed to speak for the “community” of nations, the GCET contains numerous provisions for which the purported universality is questionable. Reflecting the discourse emanating from other international entities, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the GCET embodies a perception of tourism as endlessly desirable for all parties, be it qualified as “sustainable.” The host communities are implicitly presented as naturally welcoming, the rhetoric of Global South development underlying an assumption for the attractiveness of mass tourism.


The notion of the “international” implies uniformity, as well as equality between parties.  The right to tourism, promoted by article 7 of the GCET, is yet another example of this fiction, as it obscures class relations. The so-called “leisure class” is the beneficiary of this right to tourism; most host communities will often times not benefit from a reciprocal right. Leisure tourism is more often than not unilaterally from the Global North to the Global South, a “development” avenue highly funded by international institutions. The long-term benefits of such tourism relations, furthermore, are largely repatriated by Global North actors (hotel chains, airlines, etc.), while the long-term adverse effects are left to the host communities (namely, environmental degradation). The manifest inequalities in the enjoyment of global leisure tourism are ignored in the GCET. I propose that the law and literature method allows for a conceptualization of a counter-narrative to this international discourse of equality and reciprocity, by offering to feel through the eyes of such accounts the frustration and despair that can occur from being on the non-dominant end of a naturalized discourse of Global North-Global South relations. Law, on the one hand in this case, consists of the GCET, the only international normative text wholly consecrated to tourism. Literature, on the other hand, consists of fictional literature emanating from Caribbean authors addressing tourism.


The objective for the uncovering of this resistance is to encourage a category of important actors, the Global North tourists, to question the international discourse on the naturalized desirability of tourism in the Global South. Rather than seeking to condemn leisure tourism from the Global North to the Global South, this contribution aims at a careful consideration of the forms that it embodies, and the legal norms that normalize and legitimate the privileges of the “leisure class.”