Economic and social up(down)grading in tourism global production networks: findings from Kenya and Uganda

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This paper presents preliminary field research findings on tourism global production networks (GPNs) in Kenya and Uganda. It addresses the questions of whether economic upgrading in the tourism global production network leads to social upgrading for workers, small producers and community members in tourism localities, and what conditions support it. It further examines whether the relationship is different in mass vs. community-based tourism. The paper finds that: social upgrading outcomes can follow economic upgrading, but typically only for certain groups of workers; practically all firms use multi-labor strategies and make independent decisions on strengthening labor protection and standards; ‘mass’ tourism subsectors are more likely to lead to social upgrading than small-scale, community ethnic tourism; and there are acute racial, ethnic and gender divisions between firm ownership, job placement, and sub-segments in the GPN.