The role of land tenure in livelihood transitions from fishing to tourism
Coastal tourism has been supported by the growth of middle-class tourist markets, promoted by governments who view it as an important avenue for economic growth and backed by environmental organisations who regard it as an alternative, more environmentally sustainable livelihood than capture fisheries. How policymakers and households in coastal areas negotiate the challenges and opportunities associated with growing tourism and declining capture fisheries is increasingly important. Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork from the Philippines between 2006 and 2018, this paper examines the transition from fishing to tourism and the consequences for one coastal community. I focus on land tenure as a key variable that shapes the effects and opportunities associated with livelihood transitions from fishing to tourism. While tourism has not been inherently positive or negative, the ability of local households to negotiate the boom and obtain the full benefits out of it is questionable. Many fishers have switched their primary livelihood activity to tourism, including the construction of tourist boats, working as tour guides or providing accommodation. However, the growth of tourism has prompted several attempts to evict the community, including from local elites who aimed to develop resorts on the coast and a recent push by the national administration to ‘clean up’ tourist sites around the country. I argue that land tenure in coastal communities should be more of a focus for researchers working in small-scale fisheries, as well as for researchers working on land rights.