National Symbols and the Political Agency of Tourism
Scholars take the view that globalisation harbours a utilitarian conception of market rationality and competitive individualism and that globalisation makes the national and political boundaries messy by putting the market above all other forms of social and international engagement. Even amidst diverging viewpoints on the role of globalisation, there is an established line of inquiry that globalisation and assertive nationalism can go hand in hand and that they both reinforce and reconfigure national feelings and identity. For example, tourism scholars have associated the use of national symbols in tourism as an expression of nationalism which is grounded in the argument that tourism and nationalism are ‘cultural’ phenomena and complement each other. Informed by the above debate, this paper examines the deployment of the Nepali national flag in Nepali tourism promotion. The study applies a qualitative methodology and data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 17 purposefully chosen tourism stakeholders who are instrumental in the design and selection of the Nepal’s tourism promotion activity originally intended for Visit Nepal Year 2020. The study finds that the use of national symbols in tourism is an example of the political agency of tourism in which the ‘nationalist’ narrative is mobilised as a means to challenge the conditions of neoliberalism that undermine the perceived national autonomy and integrity of its national identity. The paper opens a new debate to study the engagement between tourism and nationalism through the lens of the political agency of tourism.