Tourism Research Paper

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1. The Subject Of Tourism

Mankind has traveled since ancient times, but the phenomenon of tourism is a new kind of travel born of modernity. The word ‘tourism’ began to be used only in the nineteenth century due to the development of modern transportation technology on the one hand, and the socioeconomic changes caused by the industrial revolution on the other. Before that travel was hard and used to require patience and effort. In fact, the English word ‘travel’ is related to the French word ‘travail’, meaning ‘labor.’

In the West in the second half of the twentieth century, the work ethic was transformed, and people’s desires for making life worth living through leisure and enjoyment became increasingly evident. The length of the working week decreased and paid holidays were lengthened. As a result, tourism as a form of leisure activity became widespread in the developed countries of the North.

Tourism has, then, become a phenomenon of enormous importance in the contemporary world. Against this background of a massive expansion in tourism, many countries, both developed and developing, are now pouring resources into the industry, which they see as a possible option for economic development.

2. The Anthropology Of Tourism

However, in the humanities and social sciences of the past, tourism was not taken seriously as a subject for research. Even among anthropologists it made its debut as a focus of research quite recently. The first academic symposium on tourism was held in conjunction with meetings of the American Anthropological Association in Mexico City in 1974. Up to then there had been a few pioneering efforts, but nothing systematic had been carried out. The results of the symposium were published in Smith’s (1977) book, Hosts and Guests. Focusing on the relationships between the ‘hosts’ (the society receiving the tourists) and the ‘guests’ (the tourists themselves), this book was the first edited volume to deal with the anthropology of tourism. During the 1980s, tourism became established as an item on the menu of anthropology, both for research and teaching.

The central task of the anthropology of tourism is to investigate the sociocultural implications of tourism. In fact, in many parts of the world it has become obvious that tourism is playing a culturally dynamic role. Amidst the ‘global cultural flows’ (Appadurai 1996), social boundaries are weakening and people are enjoying the benefits of the culture which is crossing them. As this happens, expressions of traditional culture on the one hand are being progressively fragmented, while on the other culture is being reinvented, especially in the context of tourism. Therefore, MacCannell (1992) wrote that tourism was a primary ground for the production of new cultural forms on a global base.

These circumstances present a challenge to the student of culture. It is becoming impossible to treat culture in the way that it once was, as a closed system of meaning and symbols. It is also increasingly difficult to use the old-fashioned ethnographic method of recording coherent, patterned cultural systems enclosed within discrete territories and peoples. As Hannerz (1992) has suggested, one must investigate culture in relation to the macrolevel system and the ‘global ecumene,’ a region of persistent cultural interaction and exchange.

3. The Tourist

Smith (1977) defines a tourist in the following way: ‘a temporarily leisured person who voluntarily visits a place away from home for the purpose of experiencing a change.’ Here, ‘work’ is contrasted with ‘leisure’ and time is structured as follows: tourists are released from work, this leisure time they devote to themselves, and they return to work refreshed once more. This structure of time is very similar to that of ritual as analyzed by Leach (1961) who suggested that ritual puts a stop to normal and profane time, and creates abnormal or sacred time. The end of the ritual signifies reintegration with normal and secular time. Based on this analogy with ritual, Graburn (1977) treats tourism as a ‘sacred journey.’ In fact, in Europe and many other parts of the world, pilgrimage, which provided the model for tourism, was simply a ritual journey.

Tourism, therefore, takes the place of ritual in the modern world. Just as rites of passage bring about a change in status or circumstances through the ritual experience, what the tourist is looking for is the experience of a change. The essence of tourism always consists of experiences that are different. As a result a trip is a success if a change can be seen in the self. People refresh themselves by traveling: they are ‘reborn’ with a new lease on life.

This difference in perception may also apply to tourist space in what Urry has called the ‘tourist gaze.’ Applying Michel Foucault’s concept of the ‘gaze,’ Urry (1990) states that the tourist experience is ‘to gaze upon or view a set of different scenes, of landscapes or townscapes which are out of the ordinary.’ Just like tourist time, then, tourist space is marked and ‘framed’ as discussed by MacCannell. Tourism is, as MacCannell (1992) put it, an ideological framing of history, nature, and tradition; a framing that has the power to reshape culture and nature to its own needs.

4. The Tourist Experience

There are two important theories of the tourist experience. The first is the theory developed by MacCannell (1976) that tourism itself consists of the search for ‘authenticity.’ This starts from Marx’s observation that living in the modern world produces a state of alienation in which we cannot realize our real selves. The reason why people travel is, therefore, to escape from the real world of the present day, to experience a different world, and to discover the ‘authentic.’

On the other hand, Boorstin (1962), writing before MacCannell, observes that the authentic tourist experience is impossible in the contemporary world. Rather than being a journey in search of authenticity, travel is increasingly based on artificial images. Before setting out on a trip, tourists read the guidebook. They then go to the places written up in the guidebook, and take photographs similar to those in the guidebook. This is an experience that Boorstin has called a ‘pseudo-event.’ Thus, the tourist experience ends up oscillating between being a ‘pursuit of authenticity’ and a ‘pseudo-event.’ Cohen (1979), however, does not regard it as either of these two alternatives. He suggests instead that there are a number of different modes of tourist experience ranging from the recreational mode in search of mere pleasure to the existential mode in search of one’s real self. Thus, there are many different types of tourism (e.g., ‘historical tourism,’ ‘ethnic tourism,’ ‘recreational tourism,’ and so forth), and many different types of tourists. Further, tourist experiences may vary with ‘who travels, and where.’

Today, where the boundary between an original and a copy is becoming increasingly blurred in many areas, the very basis of the question of whether tourism is a search for authenticity or a pseudo-event has lost its meaning. Cannibal Tours, a film by O’Rourke (1987), illustrates this point. The film describes the ‘ethnic tourism’ to the villages on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. As Bruner (1989) says, the tourists already know that in New Guinea things like cannibalism no longer exist. If cannibalism did exist, or if there was no air-conditioned cruiser, they would probably not go to New Guinea. What they really want is to experience going from a safe, ‘civilized’ place to one that is ‘primitive.’ What they experience here is not something which is really primitive, but a reconstructed primitiveness. The substance of this ‘postmodern tourism’ is, then, the experience of a copy or simulacrum, and the copy becomes more important than the real thing.

Cannibal Tours also poses the critical question of how this type of tourism is based upon the issue of relations between the North and the South or ‘neo-colonialism.’ In fact, the majority of the world’s tourists are from the ‘northern’ countries: 57 percent from Europe and 16 percent from North America. Eighty percent of all international travelers are nationals of just 20 countries. In terms of expenditure on tourism, the world’s top five spending tourist countries in 1995—Germany, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and France—were responsible for 48.6 percent of the total (Mowforth and Munt 1998).

5. The Host Society

The anthropology of tourism investigates the interaction between hosts and guests. The central issue here has been the question of how the development of tourism influences the culture of the host society. Much of the debate along these lines has focused especially on whether its effects are beneficial or not.

On the relationship between tourism and culture, tourism has been often seen in a negative light, the general tenor of discussions being that it contributes to the destruction of traditional culture. For example, Greenwood (1977) described the case in Spain of a traditional Basque public ritual, Alarde, and discussed how it was commoditized and packaged for sale with the introduction of tourism, resulting in the destruction of the irreplaceable historical heritage of the Basques.

However, this line of reasoning is not necessarily correct. First of all, tourism is not the only influence on these societies. It is just one of many ways in which the contemporary world system brings about change in the societies within it. Local cultures are also transformed by other factors, including industrialization, urbanization, migration, the mass media, pollution, poverty, and civil war, as Greenwood (1989) himself admitted in his revised version.

It is useful on this point to recall Clifford’s distinction between two ways of narrating culture: metanarratives of homogenization and loss on the one hand, and of emergence and invention on the other (Clifford 1988). A narrative of homogenization becomes an ‘entropic’ narrative or one of loss, because modernization or Westernization means a loss of indigenous tradition. But such an analysis as the disappearance of an ‘innocent’ tradition that is not affected by modern Western civilization is often incorrect, because it presupposes the idea that a cultural tradition dates back to primordial times, which is actually seldom the case (cf. Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983).

In relation to the theme of creation of culture in tourist contexts, therefore, special attention should be paid to Clifford’s narrative of emergence and invention. Culture in this perspective is observed as something emerging: it is not something static but a dynamic, evolving process. An example may be taken from Bali, Indonesia. In Bali, traditional culture, and particularly the traditional dances such as the famous kecak dance, have been elaborated and refined since the 1930s under the ‘tourist gaze.’ ‘Traditional culture’ reconstructed in this way not only has become ‘symbolic capital’ for developing tourism but also has been appropriated by the local people to assert their own identity. As Picard (1996) puts it, tourism has neither ‘polluted’ Balinese culture, nor kindled its ‘renaissance,’ but made the Balinese self-conscious about their culture.

Therefore, it is simplistic to consider only the ‘impact’ of tourism as an exogenous force, assessing its effects as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (Lanfant et al. 1995; Yamashita et al. 1997). What is at stake is not simply the impact of tourism on local cultures, but rather how the local cultures develop during the dynamic process of making use of tourism to redefine their own identities.

6. Touristic Culture

Culture in this context is not the unconscious custom with which conventional anthropology has been concerned. Rather it is an object of conscious manipulation within a broader social, economic, and political context. In other words, in the context of tourism, what is involved is not an ‘authentic culture’ but a newly created ‘staged culture.’

Staged culture in the tourist context, or what Picard (1996) calls ‘touristic culture,’ including examples such as dance performances, cultural exhibitions, or souvenir production for tourists, is usually disparaged, because it is not ‘authentic.’ However, in the case of Bali, as was seen, it is rather the ‘tourist gaze’ that has stimulated creativity in their arts. What, then, is the mechanism for the emergence of touristic culture, particularly tourist art?

As an example, Sepik carvings, the souvenirs of Cannibal Tours, originally were used in ritual contexts. At the end of the nineteenth century, however, they were designated ‘primitive art’ by western explorers, and were seen as having objective, ‘authentic’ value by western scholars. Now they have been transformed into ‘touristic art,’ by being taken up by the tourist guidebooks to be sold to tourists. This kind of transformation occurs in the scheme of what Clifford (1988) called the ‘modern art-culture system.’ The Sepik carvings have, in this way, been transformed from cultural (ritual) to artistic objects, and then to tourist (commercialized) objects (see also Graburn 1976).

What is necessary for describing these phenomena is not an ‘entropic narrative’ of traditional cultures which are vanishing. Rather, it is a narrative of new cultures emerging in the context of tourism. It is in this point that tourism has become a catalyst for contemporary cultural production.

7. Tourism And Sustainability

The notion of sustainability became something of a buzzword from the 1980s, with the increased awareness of environmental and other problems to which particular kinds of tourism could lead. In 1989 in Zakopane, Poland, the theme of the first general meeting of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism was ‘alternative forms of tourism’ such as ‘appropriate tourism,’ ‘responsible tourism,’ and ‘ecotourism.’

Sustainable tourism can be defined as development which will benefit the people of today without harming the resources to be shared by future generations and their prosperity. It is promotion of development which maintains a balance between the ecosystem and the society and culture concerned. According to de Kadt (1992), the sustainable development involves the following traits: ecological soundness; small-scale production; recognition of needs other than those of material consumption; equal consideration of the needs of all (including future generations); and political involvement from below.

However, human societies at present are experiencing problems that they are unable to cope with only through local knowledge. What matters most is the way in which the local people handle the process of adapting themselves to the macrosystem surrounding their own region, under the name of development.

8. The Lesson Of The Study Of Tourism: Anthropology On The Move

In reviewing research in the anthropology of tourism, Crick (1989) argues: ‘Anthropology has often been defined as the study of human beings in culture and society. Tourism is thus an odd anthropological object, because international tourists are people out of culture in at least two senses. First, they do not belong to the culture of the destination country, and second, they have stepped beyond the bounds of ordinary social reality into what has sometimes been referred to as a ‘ludic’ or ‘liminoid’ realm.’ The lifestyle of international tourists that involves living a double existence, inside and outside culture and society, as well as work and leisure, means that people are separated from their home areas, and move across international boundaries in the transnational age.

Following this, rather than tourism being an eccentric object of study for anthropologists, it is on the contrary an essential object of study if anthropologists are to change the object of their research. Anthropologists formerly used to assume that, in a given area, a given people lived with a given culture. This kind of static anthropological viewpoint cannot deal with the ‘realm in between.’ A new kind of anthropology that extends to lifestyles on the move must be shaped in the gaps between cultures and between societies. The anthropology of tourism presents one challenging attempt to do just this.


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