Tourism collaboration and conflicts with multi-ethnic communities: a case study in Taman Negara (Pahang), Malaysia

Authors: Sai Leung Ng, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Keng Hang Fan*, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Topics: Tourism Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: Tourism, ethnic relations, politics, conflicts, Malaysia
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Community-based tourism (CBT) emphasises tourism participation and management with ‘local community’. However, what if the ‘local community’ is not a homogenous but composed of multi-ethnic groups? Can they collaborate peacefully in tourism development? What are the possible inter-ethnic conflicts and how do they deal with them? In a unique case, I look at how tourism manifests with a multi-ethnic community in Taman Negara (Pahang), a popular tropical rainforest destination in Malaysia. The ethnic Malays, Malaysian Chinese and the Orangasli Batek (a semi-nomadic indigenous tribe) there have very different cultures, religions and lifestyles. From 2014-18, I lived with them in several occasions in order to understand the tourism development and politics there.

In general, it is found that tourism can indeed provide opportunities for inter-ethnic collaborations. Although each group plays a very different role, they have co-created a unique and successful tourism destination. Occasional conflicts, however, are unavoidable. These conflicts can be tangible (i.e. tourism commissions, land conflicts) and intangible (i.e. historical resentment and ethnic stereotyping). The complexity in a multi-group situation is that conflicts and collaboration can happen simultaneously. For example, conflicts between groups A and B can trigger new collaboration between groups B and C, which is coherent with the sociology’s ethnic boundary theory. In the long run, reconciliation can often happen through time and re-negotiation amongst the locals themselves, even without interference by the government or NGOs. Theoretically, my work contributes to the research gap on understanding ethnic relations and heterogeneity in community-based tourism development.

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