Tourism neoliberalism and the swamp as enterprise


  • The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG).


The expansion of globalised neoliberal capitalism has driven communities to seek innovative ways to commodify natural spaces. While in the past, environments in the developed world were cast primarily as sources of raw materials, today such natural spaces are commodified through a combination of conservation and tourism. This accumulation strategy seems to allow states and communities a way to both profit from and save environments by casting tourism as an ecological service. This study shows how nature-based tourism is developed as an ‘environmental fix’ for communities that are increasingly pressed to extract value without destroying their physical environs. To support this claim, evidence is drawn from the analysis of tourism in three large swamps in the US South. Though the Atchafalaya Basin, Okefenokee swamp and Caddo Lake have different histories, cadastral regimes and varieties of political/environmental protection, they all exhibit a common type of smallcraft swamp tour. Using experiences of these tours, interviews with guides and tourists, and policy sources, this paper shows how swamp tourism was employed as a way of producing a united ‘place enterprise’ where public and private entities and spaces are blurred. Under the neoliberal dictate to run protected areas ‘like a business’, tourism communities acted collectively not only to attract tourists, but to resist swamp development by extractive industries. A common landscape and use of nature-tourism as economic development connected these places, producing similar translocal effects. Despite common local perceptions of tourism, this sort of development is shown to be a furthering of the social and environmental relations that typify neoliberalism and thus can be grouped together with a host of other neoliberal natures.