Host Communities and the Refugee Crisis A Case Study of Kos Island, Greece

University essay from Malmö högskola/Kultur och samhälle

Abstract: During an extraordinary political current event, how does a host community’s reputation change, and how does the media attempt to influence public opinion towards, or away from, such a destination? What is the host community’s perception of and response to these representations? This topical study explores the effects of the media on a refugee host community, through the conceptualization of the host and the discourse of hospitality. Significant to this study is the framing of tourism as a cultural exchange and expression, how hosts and guests view the realm of “place” and boundaries, and the volatility of the tourism industry with regards to communication mediums, socioeconomic and current events. This study acknowledges the gravity of the current refugee crisis, and the refugee and migrant experiences on Kos Island from May 2015 to present, while exploring and attempting to understand a host community’s reality while balancing political and ethical considerations in terms of hospitality towards guests, whether “invited” or “uninvited”, and the related media representations. By applying concepts of hospitality, i.e. accommodating strangers, and the social constructs of hospitality, imagined communities and how these are shaped by the media, I seek to acquire a broader understanding of development communication in terms of the human rights that both communities are entitled to, as opposed to the reality afforded to them. Using media content analysis and qualitative methods, this exploratory study focuses on the case of Kos Island, Greece - one of the main entry points for refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - due to the island’s proximity to Turkey. By presenting a media content analysis, I frame how the host community was portrayed in the media to shape public opinion, by pinpointing the frequency and prism under which Kos Island was mentioned in the UK press during the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. I also conduct semi-structured interviews with local and international tourism industry gatekeepers, to uncover effects of the crisis on Kos Island’s tourism industry. This qualitative data is reinforced with a personal ethnographic account from the summer of 2015. I anticipate that the topics surfacing from this discussion allow readers to gain a broader perspective into development communication, through the power relations between hosts and guests/tourists (including refugees and migrants), the importance of public spaces and how they are used by host community and guests (tourists and refugees), and the ethics of hospitality.

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