Associate Professor, Recreation, Sport and Tourism
Tourism is big business. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, there were 940 million international tourist arrivals in 2010, a nearly seven percent increase over 2009. The UNWTO further observes that tourism is one of the main sources of foreign exchange income for developing nations, where it also creates opportunities for employment and development. Tourism, however, is more than the sum of travelers and economic impact; there are also social and cultural implications.
It is these implications that Carla Santos investigates in her research. She is particularly interested in communicative practices related to tourism, including how people use media to guide their tourist experiences and how a balance is struck between the needs of tourists and those of the communities they visit. Dr. Santos has investigated the promotion of volunteer tourism, in which travelers combine the desire to travel with the desire to make a contribution to the community they’re visiting, as well as the use of ethnic neighborhoods to promote tourism. She is currently investigating the relationship between the way American media portray Brazil as a destination and the socioeconomic realities of Brazil. Once viewed as an underdeveloped country and a cheap destination, the Brazilian economy has changed significantly. "How do we reframe the existing conversations about Brazil in mass media and travel writing to reflect Brazil’s economic growth and development" she said. "Have socioeconomic realities become part of the way we describe Brazil as a tourist destination, and its tourism product?"
Because tourism plays a central role in how we see the world and how we talk about "the other," Dr. Santos' goal is to develop resources for developing and planning high-quality tourism programs and services that are culturally and socially sustainable. She wants her work to demonstrate that the needs of both sides of the tourism experience, the traveler and the host, must be and can be addressed and negotiated so that both benefit. In so doing, she believes, one can acknowledge that tourism is a business while enhancing social justice and well-being of the host community.