Alternative pathways for socially sustainable tourism: the renovation of traditional places in Porto Novo (Benin)

Authors: Elizabeth Auclair*, Cergy Pontoise University
Topics: Tourism Geography, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Tourism, degrowth, culture, heritage, participation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Though the term degrowth can appear somewhat provocative in times and places of massive unemployment, social exclusion and poverty, the concept proposes models which foster growth moderation and environmental preservation, and promote values of social justice, local democracy and conviviality. Facing globalization and hard competition between territories, a major challenge is notably to limit intrumentalizing culture and heritage for tourism, territorial branding and economic matters. This means a theoretical and practical shift in tourism practices, since it supposes community based governance, collective decisions and inhabitant’s participation.
In this paper, we propose to study the case of the renovation process for the traditional places of Porto Novo, capital of the Republic of Benin (Africa). These places are considered as an important element of the city’s heritage, and a process of renovation has recently been launched, based on the inhabitants’ participation, and the involvement of local artists. The traditional places of Porto Novo – also called voodoo places - are urban squares, which combine religious, cultural, social and economic functions. This ongoing valorisation project addresses many contemporary urban issues and seems to perform a complex articulation between social inclusion, economic development, heritage valorisation, artistic creation, and responsible tourism. Against the radical and ambitious touristic projects planned by the government, but also by some local authorities, which correspond to the neoliberal economic model, this kind of inclusive, “soft” approach, appears as another pathway for socially sustainable tourism.

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