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" Nobody Came Down " : The Effect of the Financial Crisis on Tourism in Two Roatán Communities

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This article examines the effects of the 2008 financial crisis on the tourism sector in the communities of West End and Punta Gorda on the island of Roatán, Islas de La Bahia (Bay Islands), Honduras. This article is based on ethnographic field research conducted in these two communities from April 2011 to April 2012 for a dissertation project. This project is both biocultural and political ecological in nature and utilizes a mixed methods approach incorporating participant observation, semi-structured interviews that delve into household livelihoods and foodways, and surveys that assess dietary diversity. Overall, the tourism sector on Roatán suffered a drastic setback from June of 2009 until 2010 and has recovered at different rates depending on the particular type of tourism work practiced by the household. Among other things, occupational group has a significant relationship with dietary diversity. From this research I make recommendations to improve income and dietary diversity for households engaged in sectors that have not recovered. This includes adjustments to cruise ship schedules to enable more souvenir and food sales, courses to improve local residents’ marketability in higher paying tourism jobs such as scuba diving instruction, and community gardens to improve access to food and dietary diversity. The primary goal of this article is to spark discussion of the differential effects of the financial crisis on tourist receiving locations through the detailed presentation of one empirical example of these effects.
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Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
“Nobody Came Down”: The Eect of the Financial Crisis on
Tourism in Two Roatán Communities
Racine Brown!
University of South Florida!
Abstract
This article examines the eects of the 2008 financial crisis on the tourism sector in the
communities of West End and Punta Gorda on the island of Roatán, Islas de La Bahia (Bay
Islands), Honduras. This article is based on ethnographic field research conducted in these two
communities from April 2011 to April 2012 for a dissertation project. This project is both
biocultural and political ecological in nature and utilizes a mixed methods approach
incorporating participant observation, semi-structured interviews that delve into household
livelihoods and foodways, and surveys that assess dietary diversity. Overall, the tourism sector
on Roatán suered a drastic setback from June of 2009 until 2010 and has recovered at
dierent rates depending on the particular type of tourism work practiced by the household.
Among other things, occupational group has a significant relationship with dietary diversity.
From this research I make recommendations to improve income and dietary diversity for
households engaged in sectors that have not recovered. This includes adjustments to cruise
ship schedules to enable more souvenir and food sales, courses to improve local residents’
marketability in higher paying tourism jobs such as scuba diving instruction, and community
gardens to improve access to food and dietary diversity. The primary goal of this article is to
spark discussion of the dierential eects of the financial crisis on tourist receiving locations
through the detailed presentation of one empirical example of these eects. !
!
Keywords: Tourism, political ecology, financial crisis
 !
Introduction
"With a great deal of scholarship extant regarding the biocultural and political ecological
eects of tourism on communities in developing nations (Leatherman and Goodman 2005;
Himmelgreen et al 2006; Torres 2003; Torres and Momsen 2005; Daltabuit et al 2006; Telfer and
Wall 1996), this article expands this literature through the exploration of the eect of the recent
global financial crisis on household ability to make a living through tourism in places that
already have a heavy investment in this sector. This article focuses on the challenges of
making a living in tourism in the communities of West End and Punta Gorda on the island of
Roatán, Islas de La Bahia (Bay Islands), Honduras, and how these challenges dierentially
aect household dietary diversity. The basis for the article is a dissertation project with
research conducted in the two communities from April 2011 to April 2012. It is my contention
that, while I have not been able to establish a statistical linkage between the financial crisis and
the vicissitudes of tourism work in these two communities in recent years, the preponderance
of semi-structured interview data, coupled with other examples of tourism in the wake of the
financial crisis (Li et al. 2010; Chan 2011) suggest a lagging eect of the crisis on tourism
income, but with dierent intensity depending on the type of tourism work. There may be an
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Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
eect on dietary diversity as well, as the occupational group least associated with tourism has
the best mean dietary diversity. In this article I begin by summarizing the theoretical
perspective of the project. In subsequent sections I explain my research methodology followed
by a results summary, discussion, and recommendations for future actions.!
!
A Biocultural Political Ecology of Tourism and Nutrition
"This research is couched within a broader theoretical framework of bioculturalism and
political ecology, with specific attention to the political economic and health eects of tourism
on diet and nutrition. While Alan Goodman and Thomas Leatherman (1998; see also Dressler
et al 2005; Ulijaszeck and Lofink 2006) define a biocultural synthetic approach as one that
integrates political economic, cultural, and biological factors in the study of the human
condition, Paul Robbins (2004; Hvalkof and Escobar 1998; Guha 1997; Bryant 1992) positions
political ecology as an approach which combines political, economic and ecological factors in
exploring how human societies and their environments aect each other. For instance, one
may use political ecology to link the cultural and economic processes of tourism development
with the consequences of this development to human health and local habitats. !
"According to much of the anthropological and geographic literature on tourism (e.g.
MacLeod 2004; Juarez 2002; Faulkenberry et al. 2000; Brown 1999; Stonich 1998; Pleumaron
1994; McElroy and Albuquerque 1992; Mader 1992; Escobar 1999), tourism tends to have
profound, and often negative environmental, economic, and cultural eects on local
communities in much of the world; the evidence for this argument is especially strong in
developing nations. While the ecotourism ethos may sometimes mitigate negative
environmental impacts of this sector, other dislocations, such as to livelihoods and food
systems can persist (Himmelgreen et al. 2006). Susan Stonich (2000; Daltabuit 2000;
Leatherman and Goodman 2005; Juarez 2002) discusses the common phenomenon of the
planning and control of tourism development as outside the control of residents in the local
community. Donald MacLeod (2004; see also Stonich 2000; Stonich 2005) presents a political
ecological narrative of resort development causing substantial ecological changes including
competition with more traditional land uses such as cultivation and artisanal fishing. In the
Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Leatherman and Goodman (2005; see also Torres 2003;
Himmelgreen et al 2006) detail negative eects of resort development including the disruption
of traditional agrarian social relations and production, increasing commoditization of local food
systems, disparity in food access, increased malnutrition in some communities, increased
incidence of respiratory infections and cardiovascular disease, and increasing socio-economic
disparities. !
"The aforementioned studies, both political ecological and bicultural, validate Kathryn
Dewey’s (1989) assertion of increasing disparity in food access and dietary health in much of
Latin America is associated with increasing commoditization of food from the latter part of the
twentieth century to the present. Biocultural tourism research also touches on the eects of
malnutrition that precipitate from uneven access to the benefits of tourism development;
childhood stunting is of particular interest because it is associated with chronic undernutrition,
and obesity, which relate to chronic overnutrition (Leatherman and Goodman 2005;
Himmelgreen et al. 2006). Chavez et al. (2000; Allen 1984; Martorell 1980) define stunting as
low height for a given age. They link stunting to several long term negative eects on health,
including physical activity, cognition, somatic and reproductive development, severity and
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Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
duration of illness, and adult work capacity. In addition to undernutrition, the rise in
overnutrition and obesity in many parts of the world (Torres and Momsen 2005; Ellison 2005;
Eaton and Konner 2000) has implications for increasing incidence of metabolic disorders and
associated pathologies such as diabetes and heart disease, especially in areas experiencing a
rapid shift from low fat, high fiber diets, to diets more heavily based on “prestigious” processed
foods which tend to by high in fats and cholesterols, simple sugars, and sodium but low in fiber
and many micronutrients (Evans 1986; Barker 1995; Adair and Prentice 2004). !
"Many of these linkages among tourism, food commoditization, and health are also
present on Roatán, with evidence of a high degree of commoditization (Brown 2006; Evans
1986), decreasing dietary diversity, increasing reliance on delocalized and processed foods,
and health problems associated with overnutrition since the advent of tourism as a major
sector on the island in the 1980s (Evans 1986; Stonich 2000). In addition to the biocultural
implications of changing food systems, changing diets, and attendant health risks, there is also
a strong political ecological component to the study of tourism development on Roatán. The
cyclical association between environmental degradation and tourism is Of particular
importance; both Stonich and I (1998; 2000; Brown 2006) ) have found that while resort
development has contributed to habitat loss and degradation and decline of important food
species, the decline of these resources has also pushed people into the wage labor workforce,
particularly in tourism. !
!
Implications of the Global Financial Crisis
"Given the economic and nutritional processes of globalization discussed above, the
global financial collapse that originated in the U.S. housing sector in 2007 has important, if
unclear implications for societies in developing nations that have recently become enmeshed in
global capitalist economies with a heavy reliance on tourism. In concert, these events may
cause severe economic, cultural, and dietary distress for many communities around the world
(News Hour 2008; von Braun 2008; Zarger 2009; Richard 2008; Schiller 2008; Shah 2009; Chan
2011; Li et al. 2010). While tourism numbers for Honduras continued their positive trend in
2008, the robustness of this trend remains to be seen when the numbers become available for
2009, when the meltdown had a more dire eect on household income in the U.S. for the entire
year (Honduran Institute of Tourism 2010); due to the common attitude of vacations as
discretionary spending, a downturn in the number of visitors and in revenue may become
apparent once statistics for 2009-2012 are published. !
"Compounding these eects is the 2009 political crisis in Honduras that occurred in
which a sitting president was deposed by the military and a political stalemate, with concurrent
protests and international condemnation (Cassel 2009; News Hour 2009). These events
severely depressed revenue from tourism for a period of six to eighteen months thereafter (Jim
Black personal communication June 2011). While the presidential election of late 2009 tamped
down the international and domestic controversy surrounding the aforementioned events
somewhat, it remains to be seen what the long term economic ramifications will be (Miller Llana
and Faulk 2009; Rozenzweig 2010).!
!
Methodology in Brief
"This study is an ethnographic study combing an initial period of data collection and a
follow-up round over the course of a year-long period spanning from April 2011 to April 2012.
45
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
This project utilizes a mixed methodology based on participant observation, informal
interviews, semi-structured interviews, and surveys. More specifically, I have complemented
an overall framework anchored in participant observation with qualitative data collection via
informal interviews over a wide range of topics and semi-structured household interviews
eliciting occupational information and general ideas about important foods and changes in
food prices. While I have compiled data from participant observation by writing detailed field
notes at the first available opportunity, I have compiled data from semi-structured interviews by
taking notes during the interview and then fleshing out those notes later with transcriptions
from digital audio recordings of the interviews. Additionally, I have collected quantitative data
on food availability and price in local markets through market surveys, dietary diversity through
food frequency questionnaires (FFQ), and food security or insecurity through a Household
Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). For all semi-structured and structured interview
instruments, I have piloted the instrument with a few respondents outside the sample and then
adjusted accordingly to make the instruments more cogent and comprehensible to local
respondents. Data collection has also involved a constant process of building people’s trust
and adjusting to circumstance. For example, I was able to overcome residents’ initial
reluctance to participate by taking advice from and enlisting the help of well-respected friends
in each community. !
"In order to obtain the results presented below, I have utilized an analysis plan that
incorporates qualitative data from fieldnotes and semi-structured interviews and quantitative
data from surveys and anthropometric measurements. While the creation and analysis of
codes for the qualitative data have been mostly deductive processes based on the pre-existing
research question, I have also used inductive analytical techniques based on themes that
emerge with some frequency during the iterative process. Quantitative analysis has involved
the compilation of descriptive statistics of dependent variables based on dietary diversity and
food security. Specifically, I have found the mean and median for dietary diversity score and
food security score for the entire sample as well as broken down by the independent variables
of community, occupational group, income level (low, medium, or high), and tourism
involvement (no or yes). Table 1 below links the theoretical perspective and research question
of this project with the needed data, data collection methods, and analysis plan.
!
!
A. Theoretical
Perspective
B. Research Question
C. Needed Data
D. Data Collection
Methods
Political Ecology (of
Health)
·Food Access
Strategies
·Income/
Occupations!
·Changes in
Tourism Sector!
·Food
Availability and
Acquisition
·Participant
Observation!
·Informal
Interviews!
·Semi-Structured
Interviews!
·Market Survey
Biocultural Synthetic
·Dietary
Diversity !
·Food Security
·Dietary
Diversity!
·Food Security!
·Food Frequency
Questionnaire!
·Household Food
Insecurity
Access Scale!
46
Table 1: Research Design and Methodology Matrix!
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
Eects of the Financial Crisis and ‘Recovery’ on Dierent Types of Tourism Enterprises
"As the quantitative results on dietary diversity below indicate, one may have a more
reliable income and access to a broad diet from steady work in tourism or ownership of a fairly
well established tourism business than in engaging in a small scale enterprise. For the island
as a whole, the two main drivers of tourism are scuba diving and the cruise ship ports at Coxen
Hole and Mahogany Bay (in Brick Bay). Resorts and hotels island-wide are dependent on
scuba diving for much of their business and the cruise ship ports have helped spawn several
ancillary attractions and enterprises such as scooter rentals, zip-line canopy tours in the
rainforest, performances, and souvenir sales. Both scuba diving and cruise ship ports of call
show a distinct seasonality, with the high season running roughly from October to April and the
low season from May to September. Improved weather conditions on the island, combined
with continued winter weather further north make for a fairly steady stream of customers
January through March and Holy Week marks a high point of the year. For many hotel workers,
restaurant workers, and small scale enterprises, the low season makes for dire financial straits.
Many respondents report layos or decreased hours during the low season. Water taxi
operators and vendors may go a week or more without earning any income. !
"According to several respondents to the semi-structured interview for businesses,
revenue from tourism has suered since 2005. The businesses that survived until 2011
generally report a resurgence of business and revenue. A North American hotel owner stated:!
!
We saw phenomenal growth from 2005 to when the [2009 Honduran] coup happened. I
hope tourism returns to that level again. The growth on the island went from one cruise
ship a week to as much as four cruise ships a day. When the coup happened, the
problem was they kept closing the boarders, closing the airports, and people won’t
travel when there’s any uncertainty. There was no danger on the island… Borders were
closed… it dried up. So we made money up until the coup, then virtually nothing for
the next six months. Then the [financial crisis] hit and Americans weren’t traveling as
much… Whether there was less people traveling, or just fewer coming here, we saw a
significant drop in business.
!
This quotation indicates that the hotel owner was doing quite well until the Honduran political
crisis of 2009, then started to recover somewhat, but has not attained pre-coup revenue
streams yet. He opines that the global financial crisis may play a factor.!
"A local bar owner describes the impact of the coup on the otherwise steady trajectory
of his bar’s revenue over the last several years.!
!
Yeah. This year so far has been pretty good. About two years ago, when they had the
“pseudo coup” and all of those political problems was a bad year; because there were
about five things Honduras had bad press for. There was the swine flu; there was an
earthquake, riots about [price hikes by the Roatán Electric Company] when the
electrical prices went up, then the political situation. It was definitely a year when a lot
of businesses where going under. I’m very lucky [with this bar], because my family
owns the property [that the bar sits on]. In West End a lot of businesses closed down
because they couldn’t make the rent. That would have been 2009, which was the worst
year for [the bar] since it opened. Every year other than that, there’s been a steady
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Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
increase in business as we’ve become more popular in the World, through the internet
and through maintaining a high level of service…Actually, 2011 may turn out to be a
record year. !
!
In counterpoint to the aforementioned hotel owner, this bar owner has been recovering fairly
well as of 2011, with many loyal expatriates as customers in addition to tourists.!
"With the exception of the political crisis of 2009 and early 2010, most owners of
established tourism businesses and many of their employees garner some income during the
low season. The same is not always true of small scale enterprises. A water taxi operator and
tour guide describes the changes tourism has wrought in West End in recent years, including
the political turmoil of 2009.!
!
Oh, there’s been a lot of changes…especially with the cruise ship. We have had about
two cruise ships a week, and are going to go up to about nine a week at the end of this
month. Before time there were no cruise ships, so things have gone up with tourism.
Tourism has caused a lot of changes…The labor’s very cheap... That’s what mess up
our country is the labor’s too cheap. If it weren’t for that we’d be alright. The president
we just had [Mel Zelaya], he’s the one that brought the labor up to L5500 a month.
Before they were making L3000 [$158] a month. But the president fixed it so everyone
should make at least L5500, about $250 a [month]…I make more money now… Some
days are very slow; some days we don’t make nothin’ bro. We only work for [Jim Black]
about one day a week, until the end of the month. In October, it’s going to be raining,
but they’ll be a lot of ships. Our busiest time of year is winter, but you don’t get all the
days because it’s raining too much…it doesn’t rain every day and you get some good
days in between. At the end of this month, we get up to nine ships, which is good… !
!
Another water taxi operator sitting idle with a group of about eight idle water taxi operators in
May 2011 said, “…During Semana Santa [Holy Week], we were pretty busy. Now, it’s dead;
we’re lucky to get a few tourists in a week. My brother and I decided to move our location
from West Bay to West End to cut down on the competition for tourists, but so far we’ve only
had a few customers, and made a little bit of money…” During the periods in May, often
lasting up to four hours at a time, that I conducted participant observation on this particular
water taxi, the brothers saw a few groups of cruise ship tourists walk by their spot but never
had any tourists utilize their service. One or both of the brothers would sit in the boat, or under
a palm tree on the beach, and chat with other water taxi operators and food and souvenir
vendors, idling away hours of the day. This situation may be part of a larger trend of diminution
of spending by tourists in situation where they have greater discretion in spending, versus
scuba diving or the cruise tour itself, where a tourist must pay to participate. A common refrain
for many souvenir vendors goes, “…we have more tourists now than a few years ago, but they
are not spending as much money, they aren’t buying as many [souvenirs as before the coup]
…” This quote corroborates frequent observations of women roving the beaches and main
road of West End with containers of food or hand-made jewelry and only infrequently making a
sale. !
"Likewise, souvenir vendors at the few tourist attractions generally put forth a great deal
of vocal eort to attract tourists’ attention and were rewarded with at most one or two sales per
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Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
bus load, usually at a value of a few dollars each. A woman living in West End with her
extended family describes the sporadic nature of tourism work and other wage labor since
2005, “…My husband does masonry work. My father-in-law is a taxi driver. Santos is a
security guard at Sunset Villas. Alfredo does carpentry… My husband does the same work [as
he did in 2005]. My brothers used to cut brush [with a weed eater] and take tourists out for
charters in a [long narrow boat]…” This circumstance may well be associated with perceptions
of reduced discretionary purchasing power on the part of the visiting tourists, and
consequently reduced income for the vendors. !
"Overall, there is indirect evidence of a lagging eect of the financial crisis on tourism in
these two Roatán communities. While the immediate impact is not as obvious as that of the
coup in Honduras, the fact that many enterprises struggled more than a year after the U.S.
travel advisory was lifted indicates that other factors may be at play. The other salient point is
the uneven nature of the aftermath of the coup, with more established businesses such as
hotels and restaurants having recovered to a greater extent than most small scale enterprises
as of the fieldwork period. The vignette below further illustrates the precarious position of
many households focused on small-scale enterprises.!
!
One Family’s Quest for Livelihood: Ethnography of Precarity
"One may say that collectively the MacLeod Lorenzo family is versatile. Most of the men
have at least occasionally worked in commercial fishing and the father of the family, Harold
MacLeod#, has had several years where he spent the majority of months on a shrimp or lobster
1
boat. His son Sydney has served in the Honduran military and has a certification as a backhoe
operator, but does not have full time work right now. Daughter-in-law, Bertha Forest, has
extensive experience cooking in restaurants and son, Bubba, is a fairly capable electrician who
works sporadically in this capacity and in other types of construction jobs. Currently, Harold
spends most mornings on the sea in his dory# and hopes to earn enough money soon to fix his
2
larger motorized boat and make regular extended fishing trips in order to earn income from
seafood sales. His wife Faith Lorenzo runs a champa, a type of small scale restaurant made
from local wood and other materials, near the beach across the loop road from their home in
Punta Gorda. !
"Recently, Harold embarked on a multi-day fishing trip in his motorized boat with
Sydney, his friend Jacob, a man called Eziquiel, and a curious anthropologist. They took the
boat to a key near the eastern tip of Roatán and used it as a base camp to fish for several
species of fish, conch, and lobster. While they managed to catch several hundred pounds of
fish, a few conch, and about fifty pounds of lobster, a tropical storm caused the boats hull to
spring several leaks and only a constant eort by the crew enabled them to return with most of
the catch unspoiled. The boat is out of commission until Harold can get fiberglass to repair the
leaks. The lobster was unsellable because trace amounts of diesel that leaked into the hold
have blackened the shells. Despite all the best eorts, the fishing trip did not yield as much
income as the family hoped it would.!
"!
49
In order to protect confidentiality, I have used pseudonyms for any respondent mentioned by name.
1
A type of small craft similar to a canoe, usually either made of wood from one tree trunk or fiberglass.
2
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
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Meanwhile, Faith’s champa has busy days and slow days. While on some weekends, she gets
several customers from nearby towns and even a few tourists, she can also go several days
without any sales. Starting in October, the community center across the road has several
busloads of cruise ship tourists most days, with many tourists looking in on the champa, but
relatively few sales. In one revealing incident, a tourist walks into Faith’s champa kitchen and
takes several photographs without asking permission, then boards the bus without buying any
food or beverages. Faith stands patiently and does not say anything during the encounter.
Indeed, it is dicult to make sales, as the tourists usually only have a maximum of fifteen
50
Figure 1: The Champa’s
Kitchen
Figure 2: The Fishing Boat with
Dory
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
minutes between the end of the entertainment in the community center and the departure of
the buses. This short time window is especially onerous when each dish is made to order.
Even with these challenges, Faith usually earns enough money in a week to help pay the
electric bill and buy more supplies for the champa.!
"As with most small scale enterprises in West End and Punta Gorda, Harold’s fishing
operation and Faith’s champa incur a certain degree of vulnerability. It is interesting to note
that when there is a strong flow of income, meals tend to include more meat, fish, and
vegetables. When income is short, meals tend to be more monotonous, with beans replacing
animal protein and a higher frequency of tortillas and fritas, or fried cakes of flour. !
!
Occupational Breakdown of the Sample
"By way of placing the forgoing vignette in broader context, this section details the
statistical relationship between household occupation and dietary diversity. In order to
conduct a more robust statistical analysis, I have placed the 81 households of the sample into
three occupational categories: tourism work; small scale enterprise; and shipping, seafood,
and oce work. The first category includes the owners of well-established businesses such as
restaurants, bars, or dive shops that have a permanent structure and paid employees who
work several hours a week. This category also includes tourism workers who have a relatively
high wage such as dive instructors and mid-level tourism workers such as dive boat captains,
restaurant sta, and hotel sta; these workers are not as highly paid as dive instructors but
have steady employment and pay year round or for the high season. The small scale
enterprise category includes people who sell food or jewelry on the beach or in stalls at tourist
attractions, water taxi operators, taxi drivers, tour guides, artisanal fisherman, security guards,
and construction workers. Small scale entrepreneurs have a more variable and less stable
income than other tourism workers and tend to be independent operators rather than paid
employees. The shipping, seafood, and oce category includes those employed by long
range commercial fishing operations, employees of seafood processing plants, and those who
work as sailors aboard commercial ships such as cargo ships or oil rig supplier ships. The
oce component of this category includes municipal and bank oce workers, sta at retail
businesses such as grocery stores or clothing stores, and miscellaneous occupations such as
cleaning houses or a pastor at a church. The frequency of each category for the entire sample
for both rounds of data collection appears below in Table 2 with percentages in parentheses.
!
!
!
!
Occupational Group and Dietary Diversity
"For the sample, I have calculated dietary diversity scores by adding up the frequencies
of each food item in each category of the FFQ (dairy, meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, starch,
drinks, junk food), and dividing that number by the number of foods listed in that category. For
Round of Data Collection/
Season
Tourism Work
Small Scale
Enterprise
Shipping, Seafood &
Office
Total
R1:Dry/Low!
23 (32%)
30 (37%)
25 (31%)
81 (100%)
R2:Wet/High!
22 (33%)
23 (35%)
21 (32%)
66 (100%)
51
Table 2: Occupational Group Frequencies for Both Rounds of Data
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
instance, the frequency of foods in the dairy category would be divided by seven and the
frequency of foods in the fruit category would be divided by five. This process corrects for the
bias to the results that categories with more items such as starch and junk food would
otherwise cause. Scores lower than 84 points fall into the low diversity category, scores
between 84 and 140 in the medium diversity category, and scores greater than 140 in the high
diversity category. Because the data for this variable do not have a normal distribution, I have
created ranked dietary diversity scores and used this ranked variable for all statistical tests and
models. Table 3 gives central tendencies for dietary diversity scores and categorical
frequencies broken down by occupational group for both rounds of data collection.
!
!A repeated measures analysis of variance (rANOVA) reveals significant cross-seasonal
variance among the occupational groups, with a p-value of 0.01, with post hoc testing showing
a significant dierence between the tourism work and shipping, seafood, and oce groups.
Though the mode for all occupational groups is medium dietary diversity, seafood shipping,
and oce has proportionally more representation in the high diversity category than other
groups while tourism work and small scale enterprise seem to be more heavily represented in
the low diversity category. Figures 3 and 4 depict the dietary diversity dierence between
occupational groups graphically for Rounds 1 and 2, respectively. !
!
Discussion: Implications of the Results
"On the whole, the benefit a household derives from tourism work largely depends on
the specific type of work in which its members engage. Livelihoods in tourism range from
ownership of fairly profitable tourism related businesses to steady wage work in an established
tourism business such as a dive shop or hotel, to small scale independent enterprises mainly
based on souvenir and food sales along the island’s beaches, at resorts, or by the roadside;
there is a wide disparity of income among these livelihoods. The owners and managers of dive
shops, larger restaurants, and hotels show markers of high income such as vehicle ownership,
ownership or rental of sturdily made dwellings filled with electric appliances and running water,
and steady access to resources such as internet, propane, and the ability to travel to and from
the island at will. Additionally, most dive instructors/masters (who are mostly western
expatriates) live in conditions that comport with basic Western standards. For workers such as
Occupational
Group
Mean
SD
Median
Ranked
Mean
SD
Low
Medium
High
Total
Tourism Work
R1
99.51
44.89
96.20
29.40
20.97
12 (46%)
11 (42%)
3 (12%)
26 (100%)
Tourism Work
R2
91.47
28.47
85.72
28.05
20.00
7 (32%)
14 (63%)
1 (5%)
22 (100%)
Small Scale
EnterpriseR1
120.15
48.27
111.57
42.68
22.75
5 (17%)
19 (63%)
6 (20%)
30 (100%)
Small Scale
EnterpriseR2
95.35
26.36
96.64
31.21
19.04
5 (22%)
17 (74%)
1 (4%)
23 (100%)
Ship., Sea., &
Off. R1
134.09
44.89
126.44
51.04
22.25
4 (16%)
10 (40%)
11 (44%)
25 (100%)
Ship., Sea., &
Off. R2
106.01
29.47
106.26
40.95
17.01
6 (29%)
12 (57%)
3 (14%)
21 (100%)
52
Table 3: Dietary Diversity Central Tendencies and Categorical Frequencies by Occupational Group for
Both Rounds
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
dive boat captains, hotel maids, cruise ship tour guides, and restaurant sta, work and income
may hold steady throughout the year or may vary sharply between the high and low season.
Most independent sellers of food and souvenirs report fewer physical assets and struggle year
round to make ends meet, but with even greater diculty during the low season than the high
season. The quotes from the water taxi operator and souvenir vendors above illustrate the
boom and bust nature of disparities in opportunity between the high and low seasons. This
disparity of the amount and reliability of income is based on two conditions. In the case of dive
instructors, this occupation involves specialized skills that limit the number of people eligible to
be certified, especially in the case of Honduran nationals who often have deficient math
education according to many informal interview responses. More broadly, tourists must pay to
have any substantial interaction beyond inquiring about prices and services with dive shops,
restaurants, or hotels. Especially in the case of dive shops and hotels, many tourists book and
pay for their services prior to arriving on island. In contrast tourists have much more leeway in
choosing whether or not to spend money after leisurely gazing upon the wares or inquiring
about the services of small scale entrepreneurs. !
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Figure 3: Bar Graph Depicting
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"According to most respondents of business-based and semi-structured interviews,
tourism did not visibly suer in 2008 when the global financial crisis became apparent, but in
the latter half of 2009 after President Zelaya had been put on a plane to Costa Rica at
gunpoint. In response to the turmoil in Tegucigalpa and other cities, the U.S. Department of
State issued a travel advisory for the entire country. While the Bay Islands remained calmer
and safer than many areas of the country, tourism on Roatán dwindled to almost nothing. The
consensus among business interviewees is that these dire conditions continued for
approximately six months after the coup, with an anemic recovery in 2010 and a more robust
visitor-ship and revenue stream in 2011. !
"Despite the fact that the coup has had a more apparent short-term impact on Roatán’s
tourism industry than the financial crisis, the long term impact of the latter may be more
complex. The fact that souvenir sales are still depressed despite the upturn in visitors in 2011
and early 2012 may indicate that the financial crisis is taking longer to manifest its full eect on
the economic health of Roatán communities than just the drop o in tourism that came in the
wake of the coup. This lag in souvenir purchases negatively aects vendors in both
communities, but has less of an eect on people pursuing other tourism livelihoods such as
cruise tour guide or dive instructor, where customers must pay a fee in order to participate. On
the whole, incomes have fallen since before the financial crisis and the coup, according to the
preponderance of household and business interview data.!
"The statistical analysis indicates that households in the shipping, seafood, and oce
category have the highest mean dietary diversity scores and significantly greater mean scores
than households in the tourism work group across the two rounds of data collection. This
situation may occur because all of the western expatriates in the sample fall into the tourism
work category. The FFQ is more closely attuned to the typical diet of local islanders and other
54
Figure 4: Bar Graph Depicting
Categorical Frequencies of
Dietary Diversity by Occupational
Group for Round 2 !
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
Honduran nationals who comprise the bulk of the sample than it does the reported diet of most
expatriates interviewed. There may also be a buering eect against the seasonal vagaries of
tourism in the form of wages and direct access to surplus seafood that the fishing operations
or processing plant give to workers rather than sell.!
!
Recommendations for Addressing Tourism and Dietary Diversity Issues
"Given the problems outlined above, this section outlines recommendations to improve
household livelihoods in tourism; these recommendations stem from participant observation of
tourism businesses and respondents ideas. The first recommendation deals with the
improvement of income generation opportunities for small scale enterprises, the second seeks
better equality of opportunity in the tourism sector, and the third seeks an alternative to income
for improving dietary diversity.!
"In order to address the problem of low income from tourism for small scale
entrepreneurs, adjusting the schedule of cruise ship tour buses to allow more time at
attractions may improve the situation. In many vending areas, it is evident that tourists only
have approximately ten to twenty minutes and independent vendors at these attractions make
disappointingly few sales. Coordination between cruise ship companies, municipal
governments, and local tour operators could ensure that tourists have more time at each
attraction, giving small scale entrepreneurs more opportunity to make food or souvenir sales.!
"Next, equal opportunity in the tourism economy seems problematic. At least one bar
owner stated that the majority of his sta is comprised of expatriates because Islanders# and
3
mainland Hondurans do not have a cultural understanding of customer service that is
conducive to maintaining customer loyalty among his mostly western clientele. Likewise, at
least one respondent stated that the dearth of Honduran citizens in his dive instructor corps
(one of the highest paying jobs in the community) is largely explicable by the fact that
Hondurans from any location do not have sucient math skills to pass scuba dive master or
dive instructor courses. The best way to rectify these disparities of opportunity is through
subsidized educational and training programs. One respondent suggested something akin to a
bartending school, but more comprehensive to train more people how to maximize their
relationships with customers and employers. Though such a course may entail some conflict
with culturally held attitudes, it would give low income households \ an opportunity to develop
skills in order to participate in a full range of livelihoods related to tourism. As many potential
students would be hard pressed to pay for instruction, a subsidy by the municipal government
or a group of business owners would be beneficial. It might even be feasible for students to
pay back all or part of the cost of instruction over time, at little to no interest, provided payment
could be deferred until students are gainfully employed and that installments are not too
onerous. Courses in English for Ladinos and Garifuna might also improve opportunity, as well
as a practical math course geared toward scuba related math. While some dive shop owners
also cited fear of scuba as a barrier, at least the availability of supplemental math and
language instruction, under the terms outlined above for customer service courses, would
55
In this case, the term Islander, or Bay Islander, denotes a descendent of settlers from the eastern
3
Caribbean dating from the 1830s or a Garifuna person descended from the Garinagu who were deported
from St. Vincent to Roatán by the British in the late eighteenth century. With the exception of the
Garinagu, Bay Islanders speak English as a first language, though most are also fluent in Spanish.
Student Anthropologist, Volume 3, Number 2
open the opportunity of a scuba career to Islanders and Ladinos who wanted to pursue this
avenue.!
"In terms of improving dietary diversity, using small scale cultivation as a supplement to
food bought in stores may have some ecacy despite the fact that it is mostly practiced in the
breach. Not only could subsistence cultivation provide foods such as yucca, bananas, melons,
and others that may increase in price directly to households, those households that are able to
produce a surplus may be able to augment their income during slow periods of the annual
tourism cycle. The fact that many households have at least one adult who is unemployed,
under employed, sporadically employed, or seasonally employed suggests that many
households could supply labor to tend plantations. The major weakness of such a plan is the
lack of land access for cultivation for many households. There is also the issue of preservation
of remnant terrestrial habitats such as tropical forests on the island. The most workable
solution to these problems is for existing tracts of land currently or recently under cultivation or
pasturage to be used for something akin to a community garden. Owners of large holdings
could rent land to local governments or private cooperative groups that could then be utilized
to plant bananas, melons, beans, carrots, peppers, and other crops. Alternatively, people
without land to cultivate could volunteer time on Roatán’s few remaining large plantations and
receive a commensurate amount of food in return. As many crops are harvested during the dry
season, which is also the low season, households with an ebb in tourism income could
supplement their diets and food security in this manner.!
!
Conclusion
"Though further research into the issues treated in this article is necessary, it provides a
starting place for useful dialogue and action in improving dietary diversity in West End, Punta
Gorda, and possibly Roatán as a whole. It is vitally important to discern the particular contours
of economic distress and disparity in tourism work in the wake of the financial crisis because
nation-states and communities around the world have made a major investment in tourism and
many of these communities do not have the same natural or agricultural resources in reserve
as they did before tourism development (e.g., Leatherman and Goodman 2005; Himmelgreen
et al. 2006; Zarger 2009). In order to help those who have suered the greatest adverse eect
from the global financial crisis, it is imperative to outline the eects of this crisis in detail. This
article is one empirical example to contribute to the broader picture.!
!
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my advisor, David Himmelgreen, and all the other
members of my committee for their contribution to the research from which this article is
derived. I would also like to thank my friends and family, and the many people on Roatán for
their invaluable assistance and insight.!
!
Biography: Racine Marcus Brown graduated with a Ph.D. in applied anthropology from the
University of South Florida in May of 2013. His main research interests are economic
processes, dietary diversity, food security, and nutritional health. !
!
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... Daltabuit et al. (2006) offer a broad treatise on the environmental and political economic impacts of tourism development in locations along the Meso-American Barrier Reef, including Roatán. These works are similar to Leatherman and Goodman's (2005) take on differential benefit and vulnerability in the context of tourism development in poor and marginalized communities, an idea that constitutes a conceptual pillar of my own work on Roatán (Brown, 2006(Brown, , 2013a(Brown, , 2013b. ...
... For all fieldnotes and interview transcripts, only the respondents' numbers appear associated with discourse or other data. In the dissertation (Brown, 2013a) and any subsequent product, such as this article and a previous one (Brown, 2013b) cited respondents are assigned a pseudonym or described in brief but not named. All data are currently maintained in paper form in a secure room and in electronic form on a password protected laptop. ...
Full-text available
Article
The purpose of this article is to elucidate the differential recovery of household livelihood after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in the communities of West End and Punta Gorda on the island of Roatán, Islas de La Bahia (Bay Islands), Honduras; the emphasis is on livelihoods in tourism due to its economic importance on the island. The theoretical approach is a political ecology of tourism with an emphasis on differential benefits and challenges of tourism development at the household level. The study employs a mixed methods ethnographic approach incorporating participant observation, informal interviews, and semi-structured interviews for the qualitative component. While the tourism sector on Roatán has recovered since undergoing a severe contraction in the latter part of 2009 and continuing in 2010, this recovery has been uneven, with larger tourism businesses and their employees faring better than small scale entrepreneurs.
... Examples includeMacLeod (2004)in the Canary Islands, Juarez (2002), Torres (2003), and Richard (2008) in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, and Rainer (2016) in northwestern Argentina.Stonich (1998Stonich ( , 2000Stonich ( , 2005) outlines the concurrence of efforts to stop iguana hunting, control fishing, and stem habitat loss due to the activities of the poor and large scale reef and forest destruction in the building of resorts on Roatán.Daltabuit et al. (2006)offer a broad treatise on the environmental and political economic impacts of tourism development in locations along the Meso-American Barrier Reef, including Roatán. These works are similar to Leatherman and Goodman's (2005) take on differential benefit and vulnerability in the context of tourism development in poor and marginalized communities, an idea that constitutes a conceptual pillar of my own work on Roatán (Brown, 2006Brown, , 2013aBrown, , 2013b). However, one area the political ecology of tourism literature treats rather sparsely is what happens to the aforementioned tourism dynamics in the event of a significant disruptive occurrence, such as a worldwide economic collapse. ...
... For all fieldnotes and interview transcripts, only the respondents' numbers appear associated with discourse or other data. In the dissertation (Brown, 2013a) and any subsequent product, such as this article and a previous one (Brown, 2013b) cited respondents are assigned a pseudonym or described in brief but not named. All data are currently maintained in paper form in a secure room and in electronic form on a password protected laptop. ...
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