What's on the menu? : how the cuisine of large-scale, upmarket tourist resorts shapes agricultural development in Fiji : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Development Studies at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
Tourism is an economic backbone for many developing countries, especially small island development states (SIDS). Nevertheless, scholars have argued that tourism is a globalising and, potentially, colonising force that may not be a sustainable path for the economic and cultural development of such countries. Even though international tourist numbers are growing, economic leakages are high in developing countries. This is partly due to a significant share of food being imported for tourists, despite local food production. Research on the impediments of agriculture-tourism linkages in developing countries has so far taken mostly an economistic approach, finding a variety of supply, demand, marketing and policy related factors. To allow for a more holistic approach, this study takes a cultural perspective and investigates how the cuisine of large-scale, upmarket tourist resorts shapes agricultural development in SIDS, such as Fiji. Sahlins’ (1992) theory of cultural change is combined with the corporate community development framework (Banks, Scheyvens, McLennan, & Bebbington, 2016) to explore the agency of Fijians in negotiating the impact of Western-dominated tourism. This study employed ethnographic methods in a case study approach during a four-month field trip to Fiji. Participation and observation in a resort kitchen, field visits to other resorts, farms and food intermediaries, 38 interviews as well as document analysis enabled a rich representation of local viewpoints on food, culture and tourism. Large-scale resorts present Fijian cuisine either in the form of tokenistic ‘island night shows’, or in fusion concepts that cater to a few affluent guests. Fijian chefs rarely perceive their own cuisine as valuable, due to decades of Western-dominated tourism. The use of local produce is accordingly low and purposeful development of tourism-agriculture linkages is rare. Farmers, on the other hand, recognise resorts as a valuable market. Nevertheless, many Indo-Fijian farmers turn towards food exporters as a more reliable and predictable business partner. Indigenous food producers engage only to a degree that they deem valuable for their own socio-cultural needs and goals. Findings suggest that small-scale resorts, catering to niche markets, might be more conducive to local integration and sustainable tourism development. Policy-wise, developing the agricultural agenda of SIDS to match the requirements of Western diets might have environmentally and socially detrimental implications.
Tourism, Social aspects, Economic aspects, Resorts, Agriculture, Gastronomy, Fiji