International Development Discourse and Two Tourism Policies of Nepal
Public policies are the outcome of political processes (Hall and Jenkins, 1995) and are usually formulated to represent the political ideology of the party in power (Getz, 2012). Political parties take different approaches to the economy, social development and external relations. Their understanding of culture, leisure, sports and tourism is based on their value sets or party positions, and once in power they execute their vision through public policies. However, in this age of globalisation, political parties and nation states are not absolutely independent and policies are shaped by a considerable number of other influences which originate beyond national territory. As a form of transnational exchange, the international element is undoubtedly prominent in tourism. In the context of developing countries, economic ideology is also informed by international development ‘discourse’ that plays a large part in shaping their public policies. However, existing literature on tourism’s public policy extensively treats tourism policy as a national issue and pays little attention to the ideology of international agencies and their role in national tourism policy.
The international question in public policies is important for developing countries because they rely profoundly on the aid and support of international development agencies. For example, Nepal’s external aid represented about 20 percent of the national budget in 2014-15 and most development expenditure is financed by this resource, (Ministry of Finance, 2015) much of which comes from large institutional donors like the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). During the 1980s and 1990s, the WB and IMF endorsed neoliberal principles, which were associated with radical reform, such as privatisation and encouraging a market economy. This approach was later replaced by neostructuralism in the late 1990s which targeted poverty alleviation as the main goal (de Haan, 2009). Neo-structuralism differed from neoliberalism in its understanding that the state must intervene to ensure that peripheral economies move beyond resource dependent development and add value to their products (Murray and Overton, 2011). Such a change in development thinking was bound to make a huge impact in the public policies of the aid-recipient countries because these approaches are enforced on them when they seek debt relief or rescheduling through donor agencies. Thus, this paper is driven by the following research question: Does the change in development discourse play a role in shaping the tourism policy of a country? This paper explores the above in the context of Nepal.
The paper uses content analysis of two tourism policies and other documentary sources plus 12 Skype interviews with imminent tourism experts to compare the two tourism policies that were formulated at the time when international development ‘thinking’ was different. The findings suggest that seemingly ‘tourism’ policies are the outcome of ideological adjustment in domestic politics; however, they are not outwith the scope of international development discourse advanced by its development partners. The paper makes a useful contribution in understanding the much neglected role of international development ideology in tourism policy-making of a developing country.