Thumbnail Image

Exploring local perceptions on visual media representations of climate change and last chance tourism in Tuvalu

This thesis seeks to explore local Tuvaluan feelings and perceptions on the visual representation of Tuvalu in international climate change media stories in conjunction with the island nation’s growing status as a last chance tourism (LCT) destination. The study assesses, from a local Tuvaluan perspective, common visual themes that feature in international media stories on Tuvalu, while also investigating the potential connections between climate change imagery and the implications of Tuvalu being seen as a last chance tourism destination by foreign tourists. Using a qualitative research approach, with talanoa-informed interviews in Tuvalu and open-ended questionnaires for individuals who have visited Tuvalu as tourists, the study recorded the feedback of average Tuvaluan citizens representing a variety of educational, professional and socioeconomic backgrounds. Findings from this research indicate that there are feelings of misrepresentation among local Tuvaluans in relation to visual imagery that features in media stories on climate change. Such imagery contributes to visual narratives that often portray Tuvaluans as powerless victims of climate change. In addition, there is evidence that misrepresentative media imagery, as perceived by local Tuvaluans, plays a role in encouraging last chance tourists to visit due to a perception that Tuvalu’s islands are rapidly disappearing, and the country’s very existence is under imminent threat. Although last chance tourism is a potentially viable source of revenue for Tuvalu, locals appear divided as to whether or not it would be an ideal approach due to a range of possible long-term negative implications. Furthermore, interviews with tourists who have previously visited Tuvalu suggest that pre-travel low expectations for the country are generally not fulfilled once the unique culture and relaxed lifestyle of Tuvalu is experienced firsthand. While visual media misrepresentations of Tuvalu are commonplace and should be avoided through improvements in professional photojournalistic practices, such imagery appears to be placing additional attention on the country and influencing foreign tourists to travel to Tuvalu. This research shows that these tourists often tend to arrive with expectations of witnessing abject environmental degradation and human suffering as is often portrayed in media imagery, only to discover the presence of a resilient local population who are dedicated to remaining on their islands despite the environmental challenges they face.
Type of thesis
Henry, T. M. (2019). Exploring local perceptions on visual media representations of climate change and last chance tourism in Tuvalu (Thesis, Master of Environment and Society (MEnvSoc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13307
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.