Florida International University researchers have conducted an ethnographic study on how touristic escapism affected the health vulnerability of male tourism workers in the Dominican Republic (D.R.), a country with one of the largest tourism industries in the Caribbean. This study found that there is a link between the tourist’s risk behavior and the health risks that the local industry workers face.
In destinations where the GDP relies heavily on tourism, the tourism industry can have a dangerous effect on the local population, particularly when tourists can bring sexually transmitted diseases or engage in risk behavior while on vacation. Studies have reported significantly higher levels of sexual risk behaviors among tourists while they are on vacation in comparison to their home communities and a lower use of risk reduction behaviors, such as condom use.
Overall, their findings highlighted the fact that these workers may accrue greater health risks because of what their work exposes them to, including drugs and sexual encounters. Men who engage in informal solicited sex with male tourists, locally known as “bugarrones” in the D.R., report tourists’ requests unprotected sex in exchange for higher pay, a practice that workers may accept out of economic need.
“One of our participants, a taxi driver, explained that he puts himself at risk every time a tourist uses his services to buy drugs as he is, obviously, the one driving them to a drug dealer,” said Jose Colón Burgos, postdoctoral associate with The Center for Research on U.S. Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse (CRUSADA) at Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, one of the researchers in the study.
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