Backpackers or Cruise Ships? Shaping the Tourism Policy Agenda for Small Island States and Coastal Communities

Submitting Institution

University of Kent

Unit of Assessment

Business and Management Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Tourism
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Dr Mark Hampton's research informs tourism policy for the world's 40 small island developing states (SIDS) and poor coastal communities. He generates data that challenge conventional wisdom about the value of large scale tourism for these fragile economies. His findings identify niche tourism as a more sustainable basis for economic growth. The Commonwealth, World Bank and individual governments, as well as numerous other NGOs and industry associations, are amongst those who draw upon Hampton's research findings in order to help vulnerable states formulate effective policies and develop appropriate tourism initiatives.

Underpinning research

Dr Mark Hampton joined KBS in 2005 and his research challenges established policy and practice on how to use tourism to alleviate poverty in poor island and coastal communities. Hampton's approach is broadly multi-disciplinary but with most input from development geography and political economy. His projects generally use qualitative methods during fieldwork, such as semi-structured, in-depth interviews with key informants, typically in conjunction with participant observation and digital site mapping. The data is used directly by NGOs and policymakers to promote the benefits of small scale tourism over cruise tourism and multi-national hotel chains.

Most of Hampton's work is externally funded, either by dedicated research funding agencies (such as the British Academy) or by NGOs and national governments. As fieldwork is usually conducted in partnership with policy and development organisations, Hampton's academic publications often appear after the policy recommendations and associated practical interventions based on his findings (3.1, 3.2, 3.3). Seven externally funded research projects (2006-2012) underpin this case study including:

  • Commonwealth Secretariat study (2012) on two issues facing SIDS: cruise ship tourism and sustainable local supply chains (with research associate Dr Julia Jeyacheya and Prof. Andrew Fearne — both also at Kent). This study examined international best practice from the academic, government and industry literature and incorporated a fundamental critique of the value of cruise tourism to small island economies, as well as practical recommendations on using local producers to supply tourist hotels.
  • World Bank study (2012) 'How can tourism promote inclusive growth in small island states?' with Prof. Donna Lee (Birmingham University), Prof. John Fletcher (Bournemouth University), Prof. Adam Blake (Bournemouth University) and Dr Julia Jeyacheya (KBS). This project involved fieldwork in the Seychelles in spring 2012 (including 24 interviews with key stakeholders). The report showed how international hotel chains challenge inclusive growth and highlighted the benefits of locally owned or operated niche tourism ventures.
  • British Academy study (2010) `Resilience or vulnerability? Local island community responses to environment change tourism' (3.4). This was part of a longitudinal study of a small tourism-dependent island in eastern Indonesia that Hampton had previously researched in the late 1990s. Findings from fieldwork interviews in autumn 2011 demonstrated the complex, dynamic multiple roles of local stakeholders and the tensions between traditional resource management and the increasing commercialisation of tourism with outside ownership.
  • British Academy (ASEASUK Research Committee on South-East Asian Studies - 2007) pilot study in South-East Asia on `Cross-border tourism: community perceptions and impacts in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.' (3.5). This involved fieldwork in three different cross-border tourism destinations including a large integrated resort, a city destination and a small coastal kampung (village) destination.

References to the research

3.1 Hampton, M.P. (2013) Backpacker Tourism and Economic Development: Perspectives from the less developed world. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415594189


3.2 Hamzah, A. and Hampton, M.P. (2013) Resilience and Non-Linear Change in Island Tourism. Tourism Geographies, 15 (1) pp. 43-67. DOI:10.1080/14616688.2012.675582. (2* ABS)


3.3 Hampton, M.P. (2010) Enclaves and ethnic ties: The local impacts of Singaporean cross-border tourism in Malaysia and Indonesia. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 31 (2). pp. 240-254. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9493.2010.00393.x


3.4 Research grant: - Hampton: Resilience or vulnerability? Local island community responses to environment change tourism, British Academy £3,000 (Hampton -2010)

3.5 Research grant — Hampton - Cross-border tourism: community perceptions and impacts in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, British Academy, £3,900 (Hampton - 2007)

Details of the impact

Hampton's research generates data that inform tourism policy for the world's 40 small island developing states (SIDS) and poor coastal communities. Consequently, his research is often conducted in direct partnership with the NGOs and governments needing evidence-based approaches to sustainable development for vulnerable economies.

The World Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat are the two major players in setting the poverty alleviation agenda for these countries and are now established research partners of Hampton's. As SIDS have limited resources and restricted access to tourism data, these NGOs promote effective policymaking by identifying and filling important data gaps. This generally involves two activities:

  1. Commissioning and publishing relevant data to aid policy decision-making
  2. Hosting workshops for government technical specialists and high level policy events for senior government figures, where data are disseminated and policy recommendations discussed.

Consequently, Hampton's research findings are incorporated into Commonwealth policy reports (5.1, 5.2, 5.3), for use by the agencies' in-house specialists and other government representatives. In addition, he leads discussions at workshops and policy events. Hampton is also commissioned by national governments to provide evidence, training and recommendations on implementing niche tourism strategies.

In these ways, Hampton provides a range of users with relevant and robust data that challenge assumptions about the economic benefits of cruise tourism, multi-national hotel chains and other large scale initiatives.

Two detailed examples on how Hampton's research shapes and informs tourism policy follow:

4.1 Small scale tourism on the international policy agenda

Hampton's partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat and World Bank ensured helped challenge the assumptions of at least 120 key SIDS tourism decision makers on effective tourism policies. His contribution to the process was:

4.1.1 Hampton was one of 35 discussants (alongside government ministers and representatives of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank) at a Commonwealth Secretariat expert meeting (Nov. 2011), designed to map out innovative growth strategies for small states and inform Commonwealth policy. Hampton's contribution drew on his British Academy funded projects (3.4, 3.5) on the risks of large scale tourism as an effective development strategy.

4.1.2 As a result of this contribution, the World Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat commissioned three new studies from Hampton and collaborators on cruise tourism, local supply chains and inclusive growth (5.1, 5.2, 5.3). The findings have been used by the two agencies' technical specialists to support evidence-based policy development. The Seychelles Finance Minister, Pierre Laporte, later gave his support to this approach at a 2013 World Bank annual meeting.

4.1.3 Hampton has also used these findings to advocate small scale tourism at high level meetings sponsored by these agencies. These included the Commonwealth Small States Biennial Conference (Sept. 2012), which was attended by 60 Ministers, High Commissioners and other senior representatives from Commonwealth countries. Hampton contributed to a session on sustainable tourism.

4.1.4 Hampton also worked directly with tourism specialists from 11 Caribbean countries at the World Bank's Caribbean regional meeting (Nov. 2012). Using findings from his commissioned project as a starting point, the workshops identified suitable data for local use and data gaps for future World Bank reports. Hampton also prepared the summary report of key outcomes (5.4).

4.1.5 Most recently, Hampton also worked with the Foreign Office and Europe-based High Commissioners or Ambassadors from small island nations in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean at the agenda-setting event Sustainable economic growth in small island states: challenges and opportunities at Foreign Office executive agency, Wilton Park (Nov. 2012). The impact of these events on participants is exemplified by an emailed statement from a Programme Director at Wilton Park (5.5):

"several of the participants commented on the usefulness of the information presented in terms of policy recommendations they would be making to their home governments. In particular, comments were made on potential actions to be taken as a result of conference participation as follows..."It has provided useful advice to government and will initiate further discussion with counterparts to seek new partnerships"; "I will follow up regarding lobbying Brussels to consider application of Vulnerability Index in classification of SIDS and push for progress on establishment of EPA Implementation Unit to take advantage of benefits"; "I will build the issue into Euro-Caribbean relations we are holding in 2013"."

The impacts from this activity are on-going and Hampton's most recent Commonwealth report (5.1) was launched at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meeting in October 2013.

5 National government policy and practical initiatives

Hampton also works directly with national governments, industry associations and NGOs on specific projects with practical outcomes, such as his 2006-7 study on backpacking in Malaysia (5.6) and workshops with NGO Swisscontact in Indonesia in May 2010 and September 2011.

A Malaysian Ministry of Tourism and Culture representative described the outcomes of the report that resulted from Hampton's backpacking project (5.6), as follows:

`As well as....filling out some significant gaps in our knowledge of the growing (backpacker) sector, the report has been an invaluable resource for tourism policy-makers... the report highlighted the importance of small-scale tourism to the Malaysian economy and fed into the decision-making for a number of initiatives including our successful `Homestay Program''.

As a result of the project, Hampton worked directly with the Malaysian Budget Hotel Association, the statutory organization representing the country's 10,000 budget hotels. His evidence-based recommendations were used to help with the development, location and marketing of the country's backpacker hostel facilities and develop training courses for hotel owners. The impacts from this project are on-going. In 2012, Hampton also started working with Malaysia's Iskandar Regional Development Authority's tourism specialists on a programme to grow backpacker tourism in the state of Johor, and is developing a similar initiative with the Indonesian government.

In summary, Hampton's research has helped shape the policy agenda for two international policy organisations (World Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat). He has worked directly with ministers or technical tourism specialists from at least 15 states and regions (including Malaysia, Indonesia, Bali, multiple Caribbean states and the Seychelles). As well as ensuring that small scale tourism has a place on the international policy agenda, the impact of Hampton's work can also be seen on small scale tourism initiatives that benefit specific communities.

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Hampton, M.P. and Jeyacheya, J. (2013) Tourism and Inclusive Growth in Small Island Developing States: Final Report. Commonwealth Secretariat. July. 132pp.

5.2 Hampton, M.P. and Jeyacheya, J. (2012) Cruise Ship Tourism in Small States: Final Report. Commonwealth Secretariat, London. August. 27pp.

5.3 Hampton, M.P. and Jeyacheya, J. (2012) Local Tourism Supply Chains in Small States: Sharing Best Practice. Final Report. Commonwealth Secretariat, London. August. 28pp..

5.4 World Bank/Commonwealth Secretariat meeting 'Data for Growth': Key Issues and Outcomes. (December 2012).

5.5 Statement from Programme Director, Wilton Park (21 June 2013).

5.6 Report to Malaysia Tourism Ministry TPRG (2007) The Contribution and Potential of Backpacker Tourism in Malaysia. Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. January. 188pp. by: Hamzah, and Hampton, M.P.

5.7 Statement from Strategic Planning and International Division Malaysian Ministry of Tourism (29 May 2013).