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Entrepreneurial networks in backpacker businesses in Mexico and Malaysia

Fricke, Jörn (2013) Entrepreneurial networks in backpacker businesses in Mexico and Malaysia. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94358) (KAR id:94358)


Backpacker tourism, as a niche market of international tourism, is experiencing on-going signs of massification and commodification, and it is served by entrepreneurs with a variety of business motivations that range from lifestyle-orientation to profit-motivation. Since its beginnings in the 1970s, increasing numbers of former backpackers have turned from consumers to producers of tourist services and resettled into popular destinations - often into so-called 'backpacker enclaves'. In these enclaves, they open small accommodation facilities or other services, but little is known about the development of backpacker supply services.

While network analysis has been applied in a variety of academic research areas, in the field of tourism studies, the study of networks has not been applied to backpacker tourism and its service providers. The subject of this research is therefore to shed light on the changing dynamics of social, communication and exchange networks between providers and consumers of services in the context of increasingly commoditised backpacker tourism.

In two well-established urban and two rural backpacker destinations in Mexico and Malaysia, in-depth interviews were held with backpacker entrepreneurs. Both countries have a history of backpacker tourism since the 1960s and are located on regional backpacker trails.

This research has shown that there the nature of backpacker tourism and its services is a reaction to the changing composition of the backpacker market and regulatory framework. Strategic skills in backpacker services that used to be acquired through strong social networks between hosts and guests have changed to exchange networks between growth oriented service providers and consumers. In Malaysia, as a result of weaker social and stronger exchange networks, the entrepreneurs' knowledge and innovation is now often acquired by means of copying other businesses approaches. In these highly commoditised and concentrated backpacker enclaves, the result is a strong division between producers and consumers, while in dispersed enclaves such as in the urban enclave of San Cristobal de las Casas, where backpackers spend extended amounts of time and lifestyle, entrepreneurs-run businesses, social networks between producers and consumers of backpacker services continue to thrive. As a result, not only are social networks stronger, allowing backpacker services to continue to innovate, but lifestyle entrepreneurs continue to run businesses successfully, and the division between producer and consumer is less clear.

Network analysis has proven to be a useful tool to explain the dynamics of the commodification of backpacker services, and with increasing commodification, the shift from social to exchange networks give insight into the development of backpacker tourist services, its massification and the reaction of service providers to that change.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94358
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5351 Business
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Department of Leadership and Management
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2023 10:39 UTC
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2023 10:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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