Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Tourism Research Journal


International Political Economy


In addition to providing tourists with educational and nature-based travel experiences, ecotourism also carries the promise of encouraging empowerment and grassroots development in local communities throughout the developing world. This paper assesses ecotourism’s contribution to such features of empowerment as local benefits, decision-making power, and control in communities located in and around the island of Phuket in southern Thailand. Although some ecotourism companies in Phuket provide extensive economic and social benefits for individuals and companies, such efforts have proven difficult due to the cultural and political circumstances of southern Thailand. Moreover, the creation of local benefits, the defining component of economic empowerment, has come at the cost of local initiation and control, key features of political empowerment. This tension between benefits and control characterizes ecotourism in Phuket, but rather than indicating an absolute failure of foster empowerment, it signals more fundamentally the complete, imperfect, and localized nature of both ecotourism and empowerment.