Women's employment in mass vs. alternative tourism in Belize: A sentence to wage labor or opportunities for entrepreneurs?
Tourism is said to be the world's fastest growing industry and leading employer; however, many studies have documented numerous negative impacts associated with tourism. This dissertation examines the criticisms associated with working in mass tourism, specifically for women. Since alternative tourism is promoted as a strategy to alleviate some of the problems associated with mass tourism, women's experiences in mass tourism and alternative tourism employment in Belize are compared to determine whether alternative tourism addresses the criticisms aimed at mass tourism employment. Three main questions are addressed in this dissertation. First, does alternative tourism in Belize result in better employment opportunities for Belizean women than mass tourism? Second, does a woman's class status impact the extent to which she receives benefits through employment in alternative tourism? Third, does working outside of the home lead to changes in beliefs regarding gender roles for Belizean women, particularly in the alternative tourism sector?; In this dissertation the complexity of the experiences of Belizean women working in mass tourism, Belizean-owned alternative tourism, foreign-owned alternative tourism, and mass tourism are examined and illustrated. These women were not homogeneous, and neither were their employment experiences. Some women flourished in tourism employment, while others floundered. Often women received benefits from their experiences in tourism while simultaneously confronting difficulties in this industry. The extent to which some women were able to thrive in the tourism industry, while others were relegated to entry-level positions with few benefits, depended on various characteristics of the woman, the type of tourism in which she was employed, her family and other social connections, and her economic status before entering the tourism workforce. The goal of this project was to examine the nuances among these relationships to determine which women received the greatest benefits from tourism employment and what those benefits were while concurrently examining the negative impacts of employment in this industry.