Empowerment in tourism: A review of peer-reviewed literature

Yeganeh Aghazamani, Carter A. Hunt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This article presents a review of the peer-reviewed scholarship that explores the relationship between tourism and empowerment. The concept of empowerment has attracted much interest from social scientists, and we begin by briefly synthesizing those perspectives. Our query of scholarly databases reveals 53 peer-reviewed articles that focus either conceptually or empirically on the topic of tourism- related empowerment. A thematic analysis of these writings revealed five main areas of focus: (1) issues related to local residents, (2) issues related to gender, (3) issues related to employees of tourism and hospitality firms, (4) issues related to disempowerment, and (5) issues related to tourists. We emphasize three main summary points about this literature. First, empowerment is typically assessed via single-shot case studies that focus on outcome rather process. Second, subjects of research on empowerment are not limited to local resident "hosts." Third, although scholars have addressed a related notion of disempowerment, it is not clear whether this exists at the opposite end of a single empowerment continuum or if instead these are two distinct concepts, each occurring along a unique dimension. Finally, we build upon other social sciences and our synthesis of the tourism literature to offer a reconciliatory definition of empowerment as "a multidimensional, context-dependent, and dynamic process that provides humans, individually or collectively, with greater agency, freedom, and capacity to improve their quality of life as a function of engagement with the phenomenon of tourism." We conclude by suggesting several opportunities for further empirical research on tourismrelated empowerment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-346
Number of pages14
JournalTourism Review International
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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