ABSTRACT

Participatory development has evolved in the course of rich and contradictory discussions on good life, democracy and colonialism towards a vision of alternative and small-scale tourism development, especially in the case of economically marginalized communities. While criticism of and scepticism about the real possibilities of participatory approaches in tourism have grown steadily in recent years, the existing literature has paid only cursory attention to the ideologies, values and ontologies underlying the idea of participation as such. It is argued here that instead of discussing the relational mode of participating – that of being, doing and knowing together – both practical and scholarly debates have paradoxically celebrated the free individual subject as the protagonist of inclusion and social justice. This chapter presents the course of the following research journey that focuses on encounters between rural communities and tourism experts in the Nicaraguan highlands and draws on postcolonial critique and hermeneutic phenomenology. Situating the idea of participation at the intersection of intersubjectivity, hospitality and ethics, this opening chapter asks: how do self and other, or hosts and guests, welcome each other in tourism encounters?