Urban tourism, poverty, and crime

Arcadio A. Cerda, Leidy Y. García


After the impact of COVID-19 on tourism, several cities have been affected by an increase in criminality, primarily in large urban centers that receive a significant number of tourists.  It's true that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global tourism industry. Many cities heavily reliant on tourism as a source of income were severely hit by the decrease in travel and the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the virus. Urban tourism, poverty, and criminality are complex aspects that can be interconnected in urban areas in various ways. Here's a perspective on how these three elements can relate:

a) Economic Impact of Tourism on Poverty: Urban tourism can generate economic opportunities by creating jobs in sectors such as hospitality, transportation, and services. However, it's important to consider whether these jobs are of quality and whether they benefit the entire community. In some situations, jobs in the tourism industry can be temporary, poorly paid, and lack benefits, which might not be sufficient to lift people out of poverty.

b) Inequalities and Gentrification: Investment in tourism infrastructure and the development of tourist areas can affect gentrification, where housing prices increase, and low-income residents are displaced. This can increase poverty in certain areas while benefiting investors and tourism businesses. Local communities might lose access to essential resources and be pushed out of their homes due to transforming their neighborhoods into tourist zones.

c) Relationship between Poverty and Criminality: Although poverty is not a direct cause of criminality, there is a correlation between the lack of economic opportunities and an increased likelihood of engaging in criminal activities. People in poverty situations might face obstacles in accessing quality education, adequate healthcare, and stable employment, which can contribute to their vulnerability to criminality.

d) Rise in Crime in Tourist Areas: While tourism can have a positive economic impact, it can also increase the opportunity for criminal activities in tourist areas. Tourists are often perceived as easy targets for theft, scams, and other crimes due to their lack of familiarity with the environment and their willingness to spend money.

Proper management of urban tourism, poverty, and criminality requires approaches that address inequalities and promote equity. This involves ensuring that the economic benefits of tourism reach all layers of society, as well as implementing measures to prevent gentrification and improve the living conditions of local communities.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-235X2023000100001

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Esta Revista es Editada por la Facultad de Economía y Negocios, Universidad de Talca, CHILE, 2 Norte 685, Talca. E_mail: acerda@utalca.cl o riat@utalca.cl -  http://riat.utalca.cl