Sunshine States in World Markets - The Political Economy of Tourism-Led Growth

In this joint research project with Donato Di Carlo (MPIfG and EUI), we explore the role of tourism-led growth in Europe’s Southern periphery. From the early neo-corporatist literature to the varieties of capitalism and growth models scholarship, comparative political economy (CPE) has largely focused on manufacturing, high-end services and financialization. In so doing, however, CPE has neglected that within today’s predominantly services-based economies, the tourism sector has grown exponentially to become a full-fledged engine of economic growth and a source of employment creation. We aim to make three contributions to the ongoing debates on growth models. First, we demonstrate the remarkable economic importance of tourism for the Southern European countries and today’s economies more generally. By so doing, we aspire to bring tourism within political economists’ radar. Second, we unpack the dynamics of tourism’s growth and employment creation, classifying it as a specific type of export-led growth model. Third, through a detailed balance-of-payment analysis we show that this specific type of export-led growth based on tourism has been key to the macroeconomic adjustment of Southern Europe’s economies after the 2008 financial crisis. In this sense, the process of European integration has been a double-edged sword, simultaneously incentivizing and forcing Southern European economies to reap their comparative advantage in tourism. While European integration has created the preconditions for the expansion of intra-European tourism, monetary integration preempts macroeconomic management. Since the Eurozone crisis, internal devaluation and fiscal austerity have killed domestic growth drivers, inducing these governments towards an export-led growth strategy.


Current Working Papers

  • The Political Economy of Tourism-led Growth in Southern Europe (with Donato Di Carlo)

Ongoing Work

  • Tourism as a Developmental Strategy in Peripheral Economies (with Donato Di Carlo)
Reto Bürgisser
Reto Bürgisser
Postdoctoral Researcher

My research interests include political economy, comparative politics, and political behavior.