Philanthropic Gifting in Tourism: A Study of Guardalavaca and Varadero, Cuba
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Incorporating philanthropy into tourism, through practices such as volunteer tourism and non-governmental organization (NGO) work, is becoming an increasingly popular way for tourists to aid people of developing nations socially and economically. The roles and impacts of tourist philanthropy on developing nations have been discussed in the literature but one form of tourist philanthropy has, thus far, been missed. Philanthropic gifting, that is the bringing of gifts by tourists to give to local people of developing nations, has not yet been examined and its impacts have not been discussed in the literature. This study examines the knowledge and prevalence of philanthropic gifting among tourists and travel agents and analyzes the possible implications of philanthropic gifting on the economies of developing nations. These objectives are addressed through a mixed-methods research approach and a case study of two tourism areas in Cuba, Guardalavaca and Varadero. The findings of this study demonstrated that philanthropic gifting is prevalent in Cuba and that the knowledge of it among tourists is widespread. Motivation for participating in philanthropic gifting related to the fact that Cuba is a poor nation with strained ties with the United States of America in regards to trade and access to goods. Further research revealed that, though philanthropic gifting was prevalent, gifts were not distributed equally among groups of Cuban people in society, with people working within the tourism industry receiving the large majority of gifts. The main conclusion of this study is that gifting is likely a great source of economic assistance for Cuban people who receive gifts. The economic independence that could be created through receiving gifts is greatly benefitting these Cuban people. The fact that gifts are not equally allocated throughout Cuban society, however, suggests that philanthropic gifting is strengthening the divide between workers of the tourism industry and those outside of it. A greater effort should be made to ensure that gifts reach a greater number of Cubans so that the benefits of philanthropic gifting can be more widespread.