Tourism, telecommunications, and transnational banking: A study in international interactions
With its links to important economic and political institutions, international tourism is the world's largest industry and is a critical component of international relations. Using interviews, case studies, and archival documents, this study analyzes the convergence of technology and finance in international tourism to identify ownership, control, and distribution of capital and information as strategic resources affecting national sovereignty and power. In carrying out this analysis, special attention is paid to links among (1) airline frequent business traveler programs, (2) airline and hotel computerized reservation systems, (3) nonbank credit card corporations, and (4) legal and regulatory fora, such as negotiations for tourism services in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. A case study of The American Express Company illustrates how these trends converge in the operations of a transnational financial corporation involved in both tourism and international relations. A second case study investigates how cross-sector alliance structures in the tourism industry are operative in relations among nation states. Examination of tourism's role in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement (North American FTA) and the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative illustrates the increasing levels of regionalism and dependency in the international system. The telecommunications-based nature of the international tourism infrastructure provides an integrative and data-rich laboratory for understanding complex interactions in contemporary international relations. International tourism is an instrument of significant international political and economic power.