views updated Jun 11 2018


Leisure travel is usually defined as voluntary, round-trip, and not related to employment or permanent relocation. Within that broad description lies the story of the American tourist as a mirror of social and economic trends, including the democratization of experience, the contest between artificial and natural environments, and the fragmentation of travel interests into niche specialties. But it is also the story of a 300-year effort to use various sources of information to discover a balance between predictability and serendipity, image and reality, and active and passive forms of enjoyment.

Democracy and Discomfort

Leisure tourism has always been directly shaped by the availability, comfort, and price of transportation. Travelers from colonial times to the mid-nineteenth century lacked control over almost every aspect of the journey, including schedules, routes, and levels of amenity. Geography, the technological limitations of the age, and the whims of those providing the service were the primary determinants of the direction and distance of journeys. The more spacious comfort of ship travel was mainly available between major ports, forcing other travelers to accept the crude conditions of land travel. Native trails had often determined road routes. Even the so-called turnpikes were little more than dirt-surfaced gaps between the trees. Those who lacked their own horses were left to the mercy of unpredictable stagecoach schedules. Limited carrying capacity, crude springing, lack of good ventilation or heat, and seating composed of leather straps guaranteed an uncomfortable journey. Travelers were crammed together in a commingling of strangers of both sexes and all social classes, over which they had no control. Breakdowns, washouts, and wrecks were common.

The lack of choice in overnight accommodations posed another unavoidable problem. Inns were unpredictable extensions of their proprietors' personalities, and they varied in comforts; most were rude affairs. Travelers became temporary family members at smaller places, especially in the South, but even larger hostelries offered little privacy. Patrons slept in large common beds, undressed and dressed in front of strangers, and ate at long tables. Sleeping space and dining were first come, first served, especially the food, which emerged almost entirely from a frying pan filled with fat. The same fare was offered during the day to passengers on coaches that stopped to change horses and drivers. Travelers suffered passively, and even those who possessed one of the rare guidebooks to roads and inns that had begun to appear by the 1730s had no real control over where their coaches stopped. It was not until 1794 that the first structure built as a hotel opened in New York City. Boston's Tremont House (1829), with a lobby, parlor rooms, and private sleeping rooms, is regarded as the first modern hotel.

Besides the physical discomforts, leisure travel before the mid-nineteenth century encountered the constraint of general social disapproval. The religious upbringing of most Calvinists allowed nothing so frivolous. The issue was irrelevant to most Americans who labored under sixday work weeks and strict Sabbath observances. Health reasons provided elites who could get away from the daily grind of earning a living with the justification for travel either to escape the summertime epidemic season back home, or to "take the waters" or the clean air of spas, springs, and seashores for curative purposes. The town of Cape May, New Jersey, was founded in 1621 and began attracting seaside visitors around 1790. It grew as one of the earliest tourist areas because it became accessible by steamboat in the 1820s. By that time, Nahant, Massachusetts; Perth Amboy, New Jersey; and Newport, Rhode Island, all on the Atlantic, drew thousands of guests to large hotels, as did such inland places as Saratoga, New York. Improved turnpikes and stagecoaches also allowed the springs of western Virginia to become tourist destinations by 1830; White Sulphur Springs opened a new hotel in 1858. Gradually, the vigorous social life of parties, fencing lessons, horse racing, shopping, and gambling replaced the pretense of improving health. Saratoga Springs, discovered in 1767, began permitting games in the 1820s and opened a racetrack in 1863. By then, those who advocated leisure travel had begun justifying wholesome recreation as a necessary source of the kind of relaxation that would restore workers to peak efficiency without descending into vice.

The nascent travel industry quickly accepted any innovation and the resultant widening of choice. America's canal-building frenzy extended the range of leisurely sightseeing. The boat was smoother than land travel, but limited by fixed routes, seasonal shutdown, and the walking speed and frequent change of animals. Low bridges interfered with riding on the roof, the only place to escape the stifling heat of summer. Well-to-do leisure travelers often grumbled that the common table forced them to mingle with immigrants, native farmers, criminals in transit, and other travelers. And everyone inhabited a single cabin, sitting by day on cushions that were pulled out or placed on shelves let down from the walls at night. Only a carpet suspended from a cord separated the women's sleeping space from that of the men. Meanwhile, as sail gave way to steam, transportation on lakes and rivers became a quest for speed and luxury that was first enjoyed by elite passengers, who enjoyed the luxury of private stateroom, barbershops, libraries, and fine food.

Image and Destination

After 1850, the railroad not only brought major cities within a day's ride of hundreds of such new destinations as the Catskill Mountains and Cape Cod, but its new comforts changed attitudes about the landscape through which it traveled. The rising importance of images coincided with America's embrace of Romanticism and its emotional quest for beauty. Wilderness areas that had once been considered frightening and uncivilized wastelands attracted travelers in search of the kind of scenery depicted in paintings of the Hudson River School and described by such writers as James Fenimore Cooper. Nationalistic beliefs, which now held that the vast rugged territories were what set America apart from Europe, transformed the landscape to America's mythology and fed the fascination that made a visit to the now-precious wilderness a matter of patriotic pride. For instance, early-nineteenth-century travelers through Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, spotted what seemed to be the profile of the "Old Man in the Mountain." By the 1830s, a New England tourist industry had been born. Some even argued that the wilderness that had once been scorned should now be protected. As early as 1831, painter George Catlin called for "a nation's park containing man and beast, in all the wild and freshness of their nature's beauty" (p. 261). By the 1840s, there were early daguerreotype images of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

As the volume of tourism increased, aspects of travel became less costly and more diversified. Resort accommodations began to serve a broadening spectrum of classes. Trains and cheaper rooms allowed the middle classes to identify upward in their tastes. In the 1850s, the railroad allowed Atlantic City to become Philadelphia's accessible beach, displacing Cape May as the most popular coast destination. Even day-trippers out from the city could walk the sands once trodden by the very rich, who had already fled the hotels for more private "cottages," which were actually grand summer mansions. Other elites tried new resorts, some of which were built by the railroads. Rail traffic also initiated the earliest forms of urban tourism—to see human, as well as natural, wonders—which had first appeared before the end of the eighteenth century. Tourists not only visited the increasingly venerated patriotic sights of Boston and Philadelphia, but also gazed with wonder at urban waterworks and city parks, where nature had been tamed.

By the second quarter of the nineteenth century, a new and unexpected type of tourist had also emerged. Instead of seeking beautiful vistas, tourists of this type came to observe with macabre fascination the site of military battles or even the locations of tragic fires, steamboat explosions, and other events involving loss of life. After viewing images of these events depicted in popular lithographs or reading about them in a cheap book (part of the disaster genre that had begun to appear), they set out to see for themselves. The site of a deadly 1826 avalanche in New Hampshire's White Mountains became a major regional tourist draw. Visitors wanted to use these hallowed places in an attempt to share the experience of what happened there and to inquire about the larger significance of why it occurred. Even before the Civil War ended, veterans, families, and civilians began to flock to cemeteries and battle sites, transforming such places as the sleepy village of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, into a major tourist destination.

Western Parks and Eastern Images

The completion of the East-West rail link at Promontory Point, Utah, in 1869 established tourism as a coast-to-coast industry, but it was initially limited to elite travelers who rode the new Pullmans. Rail travel to the West grew primarily after prices became competitive, especially on the part of the trip east of Omaha. By the end of the century, the completion of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific routes also drove down Union Pacific fares and brought the vast West within middle-class budgets. These travelers were also responding to two new sources of information and image. One was the travel agent, who simplified the ticketing process, found the best fares, and influenced the choice of destinations. The other was the mass production of printed and photographic images of the West, which were consumed in eastern population centers. Popular fiction and travel guidebooks provided verbal accounts, while the steel engravings in Harper's Weekly, Frank Leslie's, and other magazines fixed visual images. By the 1870s, the mass production of stereopticons gave photographers influence over which scenic spots people would seek to visit. The use of lithography and four-color printing in throwaway brochures helped catalyze a popular fascination with these places that increased the market for tourism. City people thus joined in the concern that the westward expansion of agriculture might bring about the loss of places of natural beauty to development. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park, the first, established the model for the subsequent Sequoia, Yosemite, and Mount Rainier Parks.

As the first owner of the land, the federal government could set aside large preserves at minimal cost, but these spots were isolated from transportation and lacked money for amenities. The answer came, once again, via the railroads. During the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the carriers began building elaborate "railroad realism" palaces, which attracted tourists with a compromise between predictable urban hotel amenities and the surrounding cultural heritage. The Florida East Coast's Ponce de Leon Hotel, built in 1885 in Saint Augustine, reflected the state's colonial past, as did other railroad properties constructed during the 1880s boom. Throughout the Southwest the Santa Fe Railroad featured Native American imagery and the Spanish mission heritage in the architecture of hotels, restaurants, and depots. Thus, when the Great Northern built Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone in 1902 and Glacier Park Lodge eleven years later, both incorporated huge logs and stones, reflecting their natural surroundings. The visitor's dollar also bought atmosphere as well as shelter in other large non-park resorts, such as the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Urban luxury became part of the ersatz experience of "roughing it." These hotels coincided with the growing popularity of "outdoor sports," like hunting, fishing, and horseback riding. Vermont's first summer camps for children appeared in the 1890s. The railroads also moved into dude ranching, another artificial encounter with the West. In all parts of the country, the addition of observation towers, handrails, bridges, paved roads, cabins, wells, and other injections of human engineering were acclaimed as "improvements" over nature.

World's Fairs

World's fairs expanded the notion of tourism in new ways. The 1876 Centennial Exposition filled Philadelphia's Fairmont Park with a spectacular building that not only drew 9.9 million to celebrate the nation's emergence as an industrial power, but also advertised the notion of seeing the rest of America. Fast-growing Chicago was itself a tourist attraction when it wrestled the right to host the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition from older cities. Over its six-month run 27 million visitors crowded over 600 new hotels. Both fairs involved rearranging parklands to accommodate dreamlike exhibit buildings. Fair goers saw the trip as an efficient, yet thrilling, substitute for travel, since everything worth seeing from around the globe had been collected, cataloged, and displayed as if in some wondrous department store. Both fairs seemed to be windows into the future. Large natural wonders were reproduced in miniature, while some industrial displays such as the Centennial's Corliss Engine were of overwhelming proportions. Armies of workers kept the fairgrounds clean and safe, while the careful study of guidebooks enabled visitors to prechoose what they wanted most to see.

Souvenirs allowed exposition visitors to carry home physical reminders of a pleasant experience as well as remove all doubt that they had made the trip. It was an old custom. Such items as small stones collected at a scenic site also allowed nontravelers to share the experience by gazing upon or touching a part of the destination. (On a more spectacular scale, that has been the function of moon rocks brought back by astronauts.) Early souvenirs also included guidebooks and luggage tags. Commercialized souvenirs, which began to be produced and sold at the tourist destination in the mid-nineteenth century, not only enhanced profits, but also allowed the manufacturers, the sellers, and the host city or tourist attraction to control their own image. The 1893 Chicago fair brought a quantum advancement in souvenirs. There were trinkets of every description and huge books filled with the recently invented half-tone images. Visitors could send home the new picture postcards, recently approved by postal authorities. A well-placed "X" marked on the card often denoted where someone had stayed or eaten or stood.

One of the most controversial decisions made by directors of the Chicago fair was to demand license fees from amateur as well as professional photographers. Although the policy gave the exposition greater control of its own image, it ran counter to the developing trend of democratizing the tourist experience. When George Eastman decided in 1888 to broaden his market by making the photographic process inexpensive and simple, his portable Kodak camera gave its users the ability to customize their souvenirs and control their lasting visual histories of their trips. By placing themselves in the pictures, they were able to provide absolute proof of travel authenticity. The black box and the demand that everyone stand still for a shot became so ubiquitous that they helped generate the term "Kodakers" as a somewhat derisive term for ill-mannered tourists.

The city also remained the focus of various types of tourism. Rural folk in particular were curious about urban life and were commonly found clutching guidebooks and gawking at skyscrapers. Meanwhile, money, time, and information continued to limit access to leisure travel for the urban working class to summer Sundays. The bicycle, once limited to the wealthy because of its cost, dropped in price during the 1890s; this new affordability gave workers access to local tourism that was not controlled by fares and timetables, a hint of what the automobile would later allow. Those Philadelphians with funds for the railroad ride could visit Atlantic City, which erected a large wooden pier in 1870. For wage-earning New Yorkers, a railroad, ferryboat, or transit ride brought them to Coney Island, a hodgepodge resort, catering to all classes, that had emerged after 1870 and thrived for much of the next century. Enterprising captains transformed older ships into tour boats that circled Manhattan and ran to spots surrounding New York harbor. The Chicago working class crowded commercial beaches and lined up to ride weekend lake excursion steamers to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Michigan City, Indiana. It was the Midway of the 1893 fair, in particular, that expanded America's notion of leisure by combining the Ferris wheel and other amusements with anthropological displays that were designed to provide a popular form of fake travel to foreign cultures. They could even find artificial "danger" wandering among the Midway's foreign market stalls or looking out across Chicago from one of the Ferris wheel cars. Later, visitors who had traveled thousands of miles to see the Columbian Midway would be able to patronize the same kinds of passive entertainments at urban amusement parks.

Leisure in Prosperous Times

Prosperous times provide the volume of discretionary spending that invariably ignites growth in the tourism industry. Elites develop travel patterns that are out of reach for mass-market tourism. The 1920s saw the wealthy and upper middle class travel outside the United States in record numbers. Travel abroad on a new generation of luxury steamships allowed many to escape Prohibition in style. Americans in the hundreds of thousands poured over the sights of Europe or traveled around the world on a southern route that opened in 1927. Domestically, the railroads responded to competition from the automobile by increasing the class distinctions of their accommodations, adding premium-fare fast trains of luxury equipment. Pulling against the elitist trend was a combination of democratization and individualization of the domestic mass market to include modest budgets. Larger and more powerful autobuses made it possible to make over-the-road runs profitable. A local company that carried Minnesota iron ore miners to work consolidated its service with others and became Greyhound Lines. Buses became less expensive and geographically more flexible alternatives to rail travel. Moreover, the mass automobile ownership engineered by Henry Ford began to have an impact on leisure travel after World War I that was so great that rail ridership in America, which had peaked in 1920, began to lose passengers to the automobile. A planned auto vacation meant that prosperous working-class families could now afford the luxury of individualized leisure travel, setting their own route and schedule. Campers, tourist cabins, and Kodaks were part of what could be considered a new outdoor economy that altered the identities of whole regions. For instance, although improved railroad access to Cape Cod after the Civil War had resulted in a few scattered resorts, the automobile transformed the area into a unified destination in the 1920s.

Out west not only did the U.S. highway system simplify the process of staying on the right road, but the volume of traffic that these routes generated tended to create a linear tourist economy across states that had previously seen little spending from strangers passing through on trains. Grand Canyon and Zion (1919), as well as Grand Teton (1929) added to the roster of National Parks in the West, but the 1920s saw the concept applied to the East with the creation of Lafayette (1919), Great Smoky Mountains (1926), Shenandoah (1926), and Mammoth Cave (1926). It was also becoming clear that parks were subject to a self-destructive fate. That is, the democratic goal of encouraging all Americans to share the uplifting benefits of visiting the parks would result in crowds so large that they would destroy the natural reasons for creating the parks in the first place. That problem had not been considered during the first few decades of the National Park system and remained manageable in the era of rail tourism. In 1927 Scenic Airways began flying over the Grand Canyon, but the advent of automobile tourism brought the first bitter wrangling over the impact of traffic and the presence of private concessionaires to serve tourist needs in National Parks, a debate that continued into the 2000s.

It was perhaps appropriate that two individuals who had profited most from this new automobile tourism would fund two new tourist destinations that were born in the 1920s. John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil money paid for the archaeological research and physical rebuilding of the ruins of the colonial capital of Williamsburg, Virginia. Meanwhile, Henry Ford embarked on the creation of Greenfield Village, which consisted of dozens of historic structures from around the world plucked from their context and relocated in a re-created nineteenth-century small-town neighborhood. The adjacent Henry Ford Museum housed a variety of mostly industrial artifacts that rivaled the Smithsonian's collections. Both places were, in a sense, artificial destinations that became immensely popular.

Depression, War, and Travel

The devastating business collapse and soaring unemployment of the Great Depression left many Americans on the road, but only to drift from place to place in search of work. The Grapes of Wrath could hardly be called sightseeing. Resorts cut services, seashore cottages sat empty, and several major city hotels went bankrupt. But the decade did lay the groundwork for the future, and travel was intimately connected to selling the idea that industrial design would contribute to an industrial revival. During the 1930s, railroads began to embrace lightweight streamlined equipment that promised not only to slash operating costs, but also to run at higher speeds that would attract Depression-era passengers back to trains. But declining ridership forced reductions in the frequencies of other trains.

Nothing expressed that idea more clearly than the decade's two major world's fairs. The themes of both events were futuristic, and leisure travelers arrived with the expectation of being uplifted, excited, and amused. The first, Chicago's Century of Progress (1933–1934), proved profitable despite the hard times. Corporate sponsorship, which was obvious in the overt commercialization of exhibits, eased funding, while a greater emphasis on amusement instead of enlightenment gave the affair a more escapist flavor than its 1893 counterpart. Hard times may also have enlarged attendance by making Americans believe that if they could afford only one trip it should be to a world's fair. Automobility not only reduced travel expenses, but the whole family was able to sleep in the car or at one of dozens of auto camps. The larger New York World's Fair of 1939 to 1940 drew on the same styles and themes. Visitors came to see what lay ahead for them, including television, superhighways, air travel, and the products of chemistry. As the world was moved toward an explosion in international relations, the 1939 to 1940 fairs also emphasized themes of democracy and government service.

Hard times also forced families on modest budgets to enjoy tourism close to home. The Works Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project produced new information sources in the form of inexpensive state guidebooks that encouraged city dwellers to visit museums and otherwise act like tourists in their own cities. The guides also suggested automobile touring routes and provided scenic and historical detail about the towns and sites along the way. This type of tourism inspired such communities as Sarasota, Florida, and Taos, New Mexico, to create celebrations designed to draw in the tourist dollars. Finally, in several states the Civilian Conservation Corps literally paved the way for future tourism by cutting roads in undeveloped areas and building log cabins and lodges that grew into state park systems.

World War II gasoline and tire rationing virtually halted discretionary automobile use, while military travelers took priority over civilians on trains and planes. The war also interrupted futuristic ideas that had been displayed at the 1930s fairs and were to impact postwar tourism. One was the superhighway displayed at the 1939 Futurama exhibit. The multilane, divided, and limited-access highway took realistic form in the construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which would be the model for postwar interstate travel. Not only were auto excursions cheaper for families and able to liberate them from timetables, but postwar cars promised new levels of comfort. Even streamlined trains with "vista-domes" for scenic routes, new economy sleepers, and fast all-coach trains could not stem the loss of railway passenger share. The railroads chose the hundredth anniversary of Windy City railroading to stage the Chicago Railroad Fairs of 1948 to 1949. These events advanced the techniques of creating artificial entertainment environments that attempted to re-create other places and time periods. Animatronic characters talked to crowds, which also filled grandstands for a pageant that celebrated an idealized account of America's history and technological progress. Although the fairs failed to stem the national decline in rail tourism, they were significant as a sign of Chicago's growing interest in attracting urban tourists to supplement its industrial base.

Leisure Travel: Everywhere or Nowhere

During the last half of the twentieth century, the tourist industry was pulled simultaneously in many directions, leaving leisure consumers with a bewildering array of choices. One model, the once-scorned landscape, could be found in the West, where tourism benefited from a broadening definition of the term scenic "destination." Artifacts of the disappearing mining industry took on new life as quaint tourist attractions. Played-out mines and ghost towns were part of Colorado's reinvention as a leisure destination, with a tenfold increase in tourists between 1946 and 1964. The same was true of South Dakota's old mining districts, as well as its desolate Black Hills. The 1941 completion of Mount Rushmore's four sixty-foot-high presidential faces represented the transformation of nature into human-made symbols; the sixteen-year process of carving them had served to advertise the feat. Later, such human creations as the Saint Louis arch were similarly designed to draw tourists.

Meanwhile, those who went west by car passed by hundreds of signs advertising such non-natural attractions as "Pioneer Village" in Minton, Nebraska, a large private museum funded by plastics inventor Harold Warp; "Rock City" in Georgia, which evolved from a private estate on Lookout Mountain, overlooking Chattanooga, Tennessee; and South Dakota's Wall Drugs, which offered free ice water in order to draw Mt. Rushmore traffic to a small-town pharmacy that later expanded into a giant general store. At a time when few people traveled with advanced motel reservations, the local economies of towns along the tourist corridors benefited from impulse stopovers inspired by roadside signs. These smaller attractions have amounted to small-town Chamber of Commerce tourism, a low-key and localized promotion. Gradually, towns and regions began to grasp at anything that might possibly bring in tourist dollars. Other manifestations of this type could be found within a few hours' drive of major cities. These places are characterized by the displacement of the original scenic attraction by fast-paced rides, museums, and shows that depend on shocking rather than stimulating the senses. For instance, in the late 1950s a Chicago radio personality named Tommy Bartlett introduced water-ski shows at the scenic dells of the Wisconsin River. This began the transformation of the adjacent town into a concentration of dozens of family-oriented amusements and eateries reminiscent of a carnival Midway. Similarly, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, remains better known for its mass of neon signs than for its original attraction, the splendor of the nearby mountains.

The postwar years also saw the principles of mass production, mass marketing, and nationalization combine to create corporate tourism. The rise of franchise food and chain motels during the 1950s was obviously a manifestation of an automobile culture, but it also resulted from what seem to be contradictory demands. Vacationing Americans increasingly sought new destinations each summer instead of repeat visits to the same cabins. But they also demanded greater predictability in getting there, in part because interstate highways, frequent jet departures, and greater media-provided knowledge of once-remote parts of the country created the perception of a shrinking nation. At the same time, lower long-distance telephone rates and the increased use of travel agents resulted in itineraries that were preplanned instead of impulsive. These advancements tended to promote the convenience and predictability of national chains of motels and franchised food.

This quest for predictability also promoted the concentration of a larger share of the tourist industry into a more limited number of highly advertised destinations. Serendipity gave way to theme park tourism, which grew out of the mind of Walt Disney. He understood more than almost any other leisure entrepreneur why American families sought predictability. His travel empire was rooted in several aspects of the World's Columbian Exposition, where his father, Elias Disney, had been employed as a carpenter. The young cartoonist visited the world's fairs of the 1930s, but later revealed that he had been influenced most by the 1948 to 1949 Chicago Railroad Fair. Disneyland, which opened in 1955, and its Florida counterpart (1971) offer a heavily promoted one-stop package that revived the 1893 characteristics of fantasy, ersatz danger, cleanliness, orderliness, family accommodations, and an overwhelming choice of activities. Meanwhile, Six Flags, Great America, and other theme park companies also used the 1893 formula, especially the Midway, as an outdoor department store of rides and attractions.

The rise and evolution of Las Vegas as a leisure destination is a recapitulation of modern tourism history. The original 1950s transformation of the insignificant railroad town grew out of gambling and the raffish reputation that accompanied a state where divorce was a principal industry. The town was a haven for those who defied the American scorn for gambling and excessive alcohol, but fans were willing to travel thousands of miles to see national celebrities manufactured by the entertainment industry. By the late 1980s, Nevada had lost its gambling monopoly when Atlantic City siphoned off East Coast business. Most states adopted ubiquitous lotteries that were geographically placeless, and many others licensed casinos that were regional draws. The 1990s saw "the Strip" hotels of Las Vegas replaced by Disneyesque resorts that combined gambling with safe, clean, family-oriented fantasy environments that imitated faraway times and places.

Tourism became a new cornerstone of the American economy, but many remained uneasy about it. The tourist endured as the object of scorn for critics who complained that leisure travel was by nature an artificial experience. Despite the jobs created by servicing postwar travelers, their presence also revived the debate over the idea of the self-destructive attraction: Did the crowds in fact overwhelm and alter the very attractions they came to see? The roads and campgrounds in the National Parks clogged, while the new technologies of snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, and hiking and climbing gear prompted some visitors to attempt to personalize their itineraries. Such debates were especially cogent as cutting-edge travelers broadened the variety of travel experiences. Some targeted exotic parts of the world for ethnic or cultural tourism; others based their journeys on the quest for new kinds of eating or even sexual experiences; still others created itineraries based on searching out the fine arts. There is also a continuing popular fascination with visiting the "shadowed ground" scenes of assassinations and disasters. Unexpectedly, something as simple—and artificial—as 100 highly decorated fiberglass cows drew tens of thousands of tourists to Chicago during the summer of 1999. By the end of the twentieth century leisure travel was so broadened in its definition that it was in danger of having no definition at all.

Unpredictability remains the most predictable characteristic of the leisure travel industry. Air-conditioning reduced the importance of climate as a motivation for escape and made the South an attractive summertime destination. The 1960s prognostications that everyone's shortened workweek would lead to long periods of leisure travel have reversed themselves into a trend of longer hours; the cell phone and Internet have begun to make it impossible for some to separate themselves completely from their work. When they can go, the short vacation has often replaced the multiweek family hegira of the 1950s. Moreover, surveys indicate that Americans continue to feel guilty about getting away at all. The slowdown of the national economy and the fear and the security-related inconveniences that followed in the wake of the 11 September 2001 tragedy demonstrated how the tourism industry sat atop a shaky foundation of discretionary spending. Foreign visitors virtually disappeared, and Americans chose to stay near home. Airlines cut fares and cities scrambled to find new lures. Las Vegas began to forsake "family entertainment" for the more adult themes of sex, liquor, and gambling.

Perhaps symbolic of the constant change: In May 2003, the great stone face of the Old Man in the Mountains—one of the oldest tourist attractions in American history and New Hampshire's principal symbol—tumbled off its mountainside. State officials were faced with the choice of accepting nature, trying to reposition the giant boulders, or replacing the formation with a fiberglass reconstruction.

See also: Air Travel and Leisure, Automobiles and Leisure, Niagara Falls, Railroads and Leisure, Summer Resorts, Urbanization of Leisure, Vacations


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Perry R. Duis


views updated May 14 2018


Tourism is an economic phenomenon with important sociocultural implications that acquired a fundamental significance in the last decades of the twentieth century. It is one of the economic sectors with the highest rates of growth, together with transportation, communications, and the computer industry, with which it works in a synergitic way.

According to a classic definition, tourism can be identified in the complex of relations and manifestations that rise from the travel and stay of foreigners when the stay is temporary and is not motivated by a lucrative occupation (Hunziker and Krapf 1942). "Foreigners" are persons who do not reside habitually in the zone in which the tourist activity is carried out; depending on wether the zone of residence is in the same state, one can distinguish between internal tourism and international tourism.

Other elements have to be considered in distinguishing fully-fledged tourism from similar activities. First, two "fundamental actors" have to be dealt with. On one side, there are tourists (active tourism), who decide to undertake this activity because of several motivations. This is one of the primary topics in the sociopsychological analysis of tourism. On the other side, there is passive (or receptive) tourism constituted by the technical and socioeconomic structures that exist in the zones of reception with the aim of hosting tourists. In modern tourism, a third actor, consisting of agents of tourist intermediation (travel agencies, tour operators, carriers, etc.), has assumed greater importance by connecting the demand for and the supply of tourism. The tourism described here is essentially a mass phenomenon that exists alongside elite tourism, which was the first type to appear.

Merchant writers such as Marco Polo, travelerexplorers, and missionaries, often accompanied by anthropologists and ethnologists, were the forerunners of tourists, but only after the "Grand Tours" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries can one speak of the emergence of the tourist phenomenon. The grand tour was considered a fundamental stage in the formation of young aristocrats and later of the children of the emergent high bourgeoisie. It consisted of a visit to the more centers of the culture of the age, with a predilection for southern Europe, in particular Italy and its remnants of classic culture.

Toward the end of nineteenth century, with the inauguration of the first seaside resorts, tourism began to acquire mass characteristics, a phenomenon that was facilitated by the improvement of transportation systems, especially the extension of the railway network (Urry 1990).

The transformation of elite tourism into a phenomenon that involved wide strata of the population did not occur until after the end of World War II and, in the more economically developed countries, the possession of the automobile as an individual and family means of transportation and the expansion of transcontinental and transoceanic flights.

Tourism is therefore facilitated, in addition to the elevation of individual incomes and better tariff conditions, by technical, political, and social factors. It also involves a psychological evolution in society, especially in the richer countries, where it provides an escape from the stresses of city life and the daily routine. A stronger desire for social intercourse has grown along with a desire for physical activity to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle.

Certain forms of travel have a demonstrative scope, since "to tour," in particular elite tourism but also mass tourism, may be thought of as an expression of one's prestige and social position.

Urry (1990) introduced the concept of the "tourist gaze," stating that "part at least of that experience is to gaze upon or view a set of different scenes, of landscapes or townscapes which are outside of the ordinary" (1990, p. 1). As Urry describes it:

  1. "tourism is a leisure activity which presupposes its opposite, namely regulated and organized work, . . .
  2. tourist relationships arise from a movement of people to, and their stay in, various destinations. This necessarily involves some movement through the space, that is the journey, and a period of stay in a new place or places,
  3. the journey and stay are to, and in, sites which are outside the normal places of residence and work. Periods of residence elsewhere are of a short-term and temporary nature, . . .
  4. the places gazed upon are for purposes which are not directly connected with the paid work and normally they offer some distinctive contrasts with work (both paid or unpaid);
  5. a substantial proportion of the population of modern societies engages in such tourist practices, new socialized forms of provision are developed in order to cope with the mass character of the gaze of tourist (as opposed to the individual character of "travel")
  6. places are chosen to be gazed upon because there is an anticipation, especially through daydreaming and fantasy, of intense pleasures, either on a different scale or involving different senses from those customarily encountered, . . .
  7. the tourist gaze is directed to features of landscape and townscape which separate them off from everyday experience. Such aspects are viewed because they are taken to be in some sense out of the ordinary, . . .
  8. the gaze is constructed through signs, and tourism involves the collection of signs,. . .
  9. an array of tourist professionals develop who attempt to reproduce ever-new objects of the tourist gaze. . . (Urry 1990, pp. 2–3 passim).


The modern growth of tourism (Prosser 1994, p. 19) has been referred to ironically by Lodge (1992) as the "new global religion," and a work on this phenomenon is entitled "The Golden Hordes" (Turner and Ash 1975). Prosser also supplies some data on a "phenomenon" that he describes by using the metaphor of the tsunami: By the mid-1990s, the tourism sector constituted 6 percent of world gross national product and 13 percent of the money spent for consumption and could be defined as the fastest-growing industry. According to the forecasts of the World Tourism Organization, in the year 2005, the tourist industry will involve 40 million persons.

Taking into account only persons who cross their state borders for tourism (perhaps equally important is the internal tourist movement), more recent data show, in approximately a decade, a near doubling of the phenomenon and also indicate that total revenues have increased to three times their original amount (Table 1).

The distribution of tourism in a wide range of countries has occurred in time span of only a few years. Tourism in the industrialized countries, while

Table 1
Arrivals and Revenues in International Tourism
yeararrivals ($ millions)revenue ($ billions)
source: world tourism organization.

declining in relative terms, accounts for ever 50 percent of the total, but the share of the developing countries has grown and now accounts for almost a third of the total. The countries of central and eastern Europe still suffer from the backwardness of decades of relative inaccessibility, but after the fall of the Berlin wall, their proportion of the world tourism has grown (Table 2).

France is the leader in tourist presence, followed by the United States and two countries of Mediterranean Europe, Spain and Italy. In fifth place is China, a country only recently opened to international tourism that has a large potential that bas been limited by a deficiency of infrastructure and receptive structures.

The forecasts of an increase of tourism are plausible because some countries of the former communist bloc already play an important role. Other developing countries (e.g., Brazil and South Africa), apart from China, have potential and will be able to play a more important role in international tourism if they stabilize their political and/or economic situation.

There currently is a remarkable concentration of tourist destinations in which the top ten countries together account for over 50 percent of tourism and top twenty countries account for over twothirds (Table 3).

These figures suggest that the market for tourism will grow and become more differentiated, that there will be more specialization and segmentation of that market, and that organized travel

Table 2
Percentage Distribution of Tourist Presences
 1990 (%)1996 (%)
source: world tourism organization.
industrialized countries61.555.8
developing countries28.331.0
central and eastern europe10.213.2

packages will become more personalized to cope with the desire for greater individual freedom through a modular design of the product (Schwaninger 1989).


Mass tourism is the main concern of this article inasmuch as the current growth of the tourism industry essentially has resulted from it. Mass tourism is a "fickle" market in which status-elevating motivations are important. "If people do not travel, they lose status: travel is the maker of status" (Urry 1990, p. 5). The concept of conspicuous consumption (Veblen [1899] 1970) is operative here because in choosing a vacation, one takes into account the attributions of status defined on the basis of the place one visits and the characteristics of the other visitors.

One therefore is dealing with a market that is very sensitive to fashion and changes in values. The relative loss of importance of seaside resorts, which were the preferred destinations at the beginning of mass tourism, can be cited in this regard:

In the post-war period it has been the sun, not the sea, that is presumed to produce health and sexual attractiveness. The ideal body has come to be viewed as one that is tanned. This viewpoint has been diffused downwards through the social classes with the result that many package holidays present this as almost the reason for going on holiday. . . . Seaside resorts have also become less distinctive because of the widespread de-industrialization of many towns and cities so that there is less need to escape from them to the contrasting seaside. As the everyday has changed, as towns and cities have become de-industrialized and many have themselves become objects for the tourist gaze, with wave machines and other features of the beach, so seaside resorts are no longer extraordinary. (Urry 1990, pp. 37–38)

Tourism is therefore a fashion phenomenon that goes through all the typical phases of a product of that type, from discovery and emergence, to increasing popularity, saturation, attenuation of its appeal, and eventually decline. It is sensitive to the relationship between demand and supply, based the on perceptions, expectations, attitudes, and values of people, and therefore is subject to cultural filters:

The various contents and destinations of tourism, from the nineteenth Century to our days, seem to follow a standardized route . . . They are invented by individuals that live in conditions of originality and marginality in relationship to the 'world.' Subsequently they are consecrated by the notables: the monarchs and their families, followed by the artists and the celebrities . . . Finally they are diffused through the capillary imitation of the behavior of one social layer by the immediately inferior one. As soon as a place or a tourist fashion is known, there begins an emulation process that leads quickly to congestion; processes of distinction are then activated by groups that address to other places and invent other activities, reopening a new cycle. The succession of dissemination and invention cycles leads to the need for distinction to introduce more and more far and unusual goals. (Savelli 1998, pp. 92–93).

One can speak of the "pleasure periphery," as in the case of the increase of Antarctic tourism (Prosser 1994, p. 22). For this aspect, the model of Plog (1973) is relevant. Plog analyzes the personality of the tourist: Along a continuum, one can go from psycho-centered, expectant subjects preoccupied with the small daily problems and escaping to adventures, to subjects who are as allocentered, confident in themselves, curious, and adventurous. The places visited by these varied subjects are obviously very different. In the survey conducted by Plog among the inhabitants of New York, while the psychocentered subjects do not venture beyond Coney Island, the midcentered travel to Europe and the allocentered do not dare to face the Pacific or Africa.

In dealing with tourism from a socioeconomic point of view, the "positional goods" concept

Table 3
International Arrivals by Country, 1996
countrythousands of touristscountrythousands of tourists
source: world tourism organization.
united states44,791germany15,070
spain41,295hong kong11,700
great britain25,800greece9,725
mexico21,732russian federation9,678
czech republic17,205world total591,864

(Hirsh 1978) can be used. This term refers to social goods, services, jobs, positions, and other relations that are scarce or subject to congestion and/or crowding. The competition is zero-sum: When someone consumes these kinds of goods in excess, someone else is forced to consume less. The supply is limited because quality would lessen as a result of quantitative growth.

One also can trace a conflict of interest between the actors described in the first part of this article (tourists, agencies, and the tourism industry in the hosting countries) and environmentalists. Since natural and cultural resources may be irremediably spoiled, there is thus a conflict of interest between present and future generations (Mishan 1969).

Another peculiar characteristic of tourism is that "almost all the services provided to tourists have to be delivered at the time and place at which they are produced. As a consequence the quality of the social interaction between the provider of the service, such as the waiter, flight attendant or hotel receptionist, and the consumer, is part of the 'product' being purchased by the tourist. If aspects of that social interaction are unsatisfactory (the offhand waiter, the unsmiling flight attendant, or the rude receptionist), then what is purchased is in effect a different service product" (Urry 1990, p. 40). Production of services for the consumer, in fact, cannot be done entirely behind the scenes, far away from the tourist gaze. Moreover, tourists have high expectations about what they will receive, since the search for the extraordinary is an essential aspect of the choice to travel.

"Spatial fixity" is a crucial characteristic of tourist services (Bagguley 1987), and customers are more mobile and now consume tourist services on a global scale. This means that "part of what is consumed is in effect the place in which the service producer is located. If the particular place does not convey appropriate cultural meanings, the quality of the specific service may well be tarnished" (Urry 1990, p. 40).

Since the services offered are intrinsically labor-intensive, employers try to diminish the costs. However, this may undermine the extraordinary character of the tourist experience (Urry 1990, p. 41).


In an attempt to grasp the features that distinguish tourists from other kinds of travelers, Cohen (1974) singles out certain dimensions that are thought to be essential: duration of the travel, voluntariness, direction, distance, recurrence, and purpose. On the basis of these elements, a tourist may be defined as a traveler who moves voluntarily and for a limited period of time to obtain pleasure from the experience of novelty and change, following a relatively long and non-recurring route.

For the sake of clarity, distinctions are introduced in the form of a dichotomy. However, one can assume that in many cases there are different degrees of distance from "full-fledged tourism."

When the duration of the travel and stay is short (less than twenty-four hours in the definition of the UN Conference on International Travel and Tourism), there are trips and excursions. There is also an upper limit, more difficult to determine, beyond which one can speak of permanent travelers (wanderers, nomads).

When the element of voluntariness is lacking, one is dealing with the exile (sometimes voluntary), the slave, the prisoner of war, or the political refugee. The pilgrim also can be considered a type of traveler who differs from the full-fledged tourist inasmuch as in many cases there is a lack of voluntariness. This is the case because social expectations can determine the decision to travel and the stay (e.g., pilgrimages to Mecca by Muslim believers).

In terms of direction, tourists return to their countries of origin, while immigrants make a oneway trip. There are also intermediate categories that are less easy to classify, such as "tourist immigrants" and "permanent tourists." These people leave home as tourists but decide to stay for a longer time span in a foreign country. Persons such as the "expatriates" (e.g., the many foreign artists who reside in cities such as Paris) are also difficult to define. They decide to live in a foreign country for indefinite periods without completely cutting their ties with the country of origin.

If the distance is short, one can speak of excursionists and hikers, while if the distance is much longer, one could have spoken in the past of explorers. Today, nearly all the possible destinations on the face of the earth seem to be within the reach of the tourist. If the distance implies crossing a national border, there is the already mentioned distinction between internal tourism and international tourism.

When travel and stay have a season or weekend regularity (recurrence), one is dealing with the the habitué, who often is the owner of a summer house. This person is not properly a tourist, because the elements of novelty and change are lacking.

Finally, the purpose for the tourist does not have to be instrumental but can involve the seeking of pleasure. If the purpose is instrumental or has another specific nature different from the search for novelty and change, one is dealing with students, old country visitors, conventioneers, business travelers, tourist employees, and the like.

However, this criterion is not as precise as it might appear at a first glance. The noninstrumental character of the purpose and the search for novelty and change has to be considered from a social point of view. When an individual takes a vacation for reasons of prestige, this travel is socially defined as a pleasure trip even if that individual will not enjoy the experience. More likely, there will be the opposite case: The purpose is declared as instrumental, but other instrumental (and not) purposes are also relevant (Savelli 1998, p. 57).

Tourists' motivations also can be analyzed by distinguishing the push factors that lead to the desire to go on vacation from the pull factors that the various areas of attraction exercise on the tourist (Savelli 1986, p. 2269).

To show the "versatility" of the tourism phenomenon, a relationship can be seen between some of its forms and the fundamental needs listed by Maslow. Therapeutic tourism satisfies physiological needs, while the needs of security and belonging are satisfied by familiar and "identity" tourism. The need for social recognition is catered to by tourism à raconter, (The French expression à raconter refers to a tourist who leads you to extraordinary places where extraordinary things happen that one is very pleased to narrate to friends, thereby obtaining social status.) and people satisfy the need for self-esteem through sport and cultural tourism (Kovacshazy and people 1998, p. 58).

To describe the psychological and social situation experienced by the tourist, some authors propose an interesting analogy between the tourist and the pilgrim. Both move from a familiar place to a distant one and then come back. In faraway localities, they dedicate themselves—although in different ways—to the "worship" of sacred places. These can be described as "liminoid" situations in which daily obligations are suspended (Turner and Truner 1978): "There is license for permissive and playful 'non-serious' behavior and the encouragement of a relatively unconstrained 'communitas' or social togetherness" (Urry 1990, p. 10). The purpose of a vacation thus consists of overturning the daily routine: Middle-class tourists try to be a "peasant for a day," while tourists with a lower social rank try to be "king/queen for a day" (Gottlieb 1982).

In a survey carried out in Italy (Isnart 1997) by interviewing only persons who go on vacation habitually, only the expenses for food and daily living were judged "more necessary" than those for traveling. The expenses for car use and maintenance and those undertaken to dress were lower than those for the consumption of vacations.

There often exists a link among subjective motivations, perception of the visited localities, and the objective connotations of those localities. Some connotations are always valid (effectiveness and efficiency, a proper quality–price ratio, a satisfactory environmental quality, the hospitality and warmth of the residents). Other connotations assume a nearly cyclical course: They gain a special reputation for one or two seasons and then fade out.

However, five major categories of motivations more or less summarize what this article has described so far:

  1. Subjectivity: the sense of curiosity, interest, discovery, opportunity, and "digression" of the vacation
  2. Security: the sense of confidence that vacation places must transmit and the possibility of relaxing (nearly the opposite of the insecurity of large cities)
  3. Transgression: the willingness to have a good time, to push the limits, to have "extraordinary" and "sensual" experiences
  4. Budget: the search for something that does not divert too many resources from other needs and opportunities
  5. Status: the idea that travel is first of all social gratification, something to show, a reached goal (Isnart 1997, p. 16)

Among these categories of motivations, subjectivity prevails, with status and transgression not far behind. Obviously, budget is much more a concern of the elderly (who also appreciate security) and young people (who do not care much about status). Some of these differences are related to socioeconomic class.


The tourist's role is a total one: "He cannot hide his own externality from the local population and all his relations are imprinted and denoted, in the first place, by the tourist role. In the same way, he is recognized as such from other tourists, regardless, in some manner, of his social condition, nationality, origin and race" (Savelli 1998, pp. 129–130).

The tourist's presence therefore cannot pass unnoticed, and the increase of tourism can carry, besides the obvious economic advantages, some negative consequence in the countries that receive tourist flows. In this regard, there are pessimistic visions that are valid, especially for developing countries. These are the countries in which tourism can be expected to show steadily increasing rates of growth and in which there is more to earn from this development.

Tourist destinations are vulnerable, and one can even speak about economic colonialism, because investments and the largest part of demand are controlled by the developed countries. Exploitation can be not only economic but also social and environmental, inasmuch as community displacement, societal dislocation, and cultural transformation may occur (Ryan 1991): "Village farmland is appropriated, there is inter-generational stress as younger groups succumb to the 'demonstration effect' of tourist material wealth and behavior, intra-family stress as male-female role balance shifts, and community disharmony as religious ceremonies and artforms are commercialized" (Prosser 1994, p. 29).

Therefore, it is necessary to foster a sustainable tourism that tries "to sustain the quantity, quality, and productivity both of human and natural resources systems over time, while respecting and accommodating the dynamics of such systems" (Prosser 1994, pp. 31–32). This alternative form of tourism must "search for spontaneity, enhanced interpersonal relations, creativity, authenticity, solidarity, and social and ecological harmony" (Pearce 1989, p. 101).

The social relations between tourists and indigenous populations are complex and can lead to conflict as a result of several factors. Among the more important ones are the number of tourists who visit a place in relation to the size of the hosting population, the type of organization of the tourist industry, the effects of tourism on preexisting agricultural and industrial activities, economic and social differences between the visitors and the majority of the hosts, and the degree to which visitors demand particular standards of lodging and service, that is, the expressed desire to be locked in an "environmental bubble" for protection from the "disappointing" characteristics of the hosting society (Urry 1990, p. 90).

As a counterbalance of these potential dangers, one has to consider that the cost of a new workplace in the tourist sector has been estimated at £4,000, compared with £32,000 in the manufacturing industry and £300,000 in mechanical engineering (Lumley 1988, cited by Urry 1990, p. 114). These are older figures, and therefore are not necessarily still valid, but the ratios probably continued to be valid. The "tourist prescription" therefore can be recommended particularly for countries that do not have many financial resources.

For tourism to be sustainable and respectful of the natural and social environment, the attitudes and behaviors of the three main actors must change:

  • The attitudes of tourists must change. Tourists tend to believe that other tourists are the problem. Thus, their attitudes remain elitist and short-term.
  • The destination areas must assume a longer-term attitude. An equilibrium between optimization of the revenues and protection of the resources must be found. Populations must be involved in all phases of development: ideation and planning, construction and implementation, conduction and management, and monitoring and modification.
  • The tourist industry must find an equilibrium between opposing requirements. There is an unavoidable push for environmental control from foreign investors and operators in order to obtain greater profits that can be detrimental to local populations and governments. At the same time, the tourist industry feels the need to appear to be ecologically responsible (Prosser 1994, p. 32).

It has been proposed that tourism should be considered only a preliminary stage in which resources are obtained, that can be used later for "true" development through investment in other sectors. That is reasonable, because diversification is a key factor in economic security and stability, especially if tourism can be defined as a fashion industry. However, one may question whether the impact of other industrial initiatives is less harmful and more sustainable than that of tourism. This opinion results from a dated attitude characterized by an ideologically rooted prejudice that is disappearing: "In the last few years in Britain many Labour councils have enthusiastically embraced local tourist initiatives, having once dismissed tourism as providing only 'candy-floss jobs"' (Urry 1990, p. 115).


While the countries that receive tourist flows need to find a balance between the advantages and disadvantages and search for a sustainable "receipt," the benefits for tourists seem to be without shortcomings. Krippendorf (1987) speaks about "travel" that represents recuperation and regeneration, compensation and social integration, escape, and communication, intellectual expansion, freedom and self-determination, self-realization, and happiness.

The fact that the tourist industry continues to grow indicates that it is able to give a satisfactory answer to tourists' expectations; otherwise there would be frustration, and the phenomenon would recede. One can ask why tourists continue to travel and their numbers continue to increase in spite of the "alarm bells" that call attention to the problem of overcrowding and the relative nonauthenticity of the tourist experience.

This article has dealt with the problem of overcrowding in its characterization of the tourist product as a "positional good." This pessimistic thesis has been criticized by Beckerman (1974), who raises two interesting issues. First, the concern about the effects of the mass tourism is basically a "middle-class" anxiety (like many other environmental concerns) because the really rich "are quite safe from the masses in the very expensive resorts, or on their private yachts or private islands or secluded estates" (Beckerman 1974, pp. 50–51). Second, most people who are affected by mass tourism benefit from it, including the "pioneers," who, when they return to a place, find services that were not available when the number of visitors was small.

One also can criticize the applicability of the scarcity concept to the tourist industry. The implicit scarcities in the tourist industry are complex, and strategies can be adopted that allow the enjoyment of the same object by a greater number of persons. Thus, one must distinguish between the "physical capacity" and "perceptive capacity" of a tourist place (Walter 1982).

One also has to consider that in addition to the "romantic" tourist gaze, which emphasizes solitude, privacy, and a personal, quasi-spiritual relation with the observed object, there is an alternative "collective" gaze with different characteristics. The collective gaze demands the participation of wide numbers of other people to create a particular atmosphere: "They indicate that this is the place to be and that one should not be elsewhere." (Urry 1990, p. 46). This is the case for major cities, whose uniqueness lies in their cosmopolitan character: "It is the presence of people from all over the world (tourists in other words) that gives capital cities their distinct excitement and glamour" (Urry 1990, pp. 46).

Some people prefer to move around in compact formations because otherwise they will not enjoy themselves, while others prefer to travel in solitude. Therefore, Hirsh's (1978) thesis on scarcity and positional competition should be applied mainly to tourism characterized by the romantic gaze. When the collective gaze is more important, the problem of crowding and congestion is less marked. Moreover, the scarcity thesis would be totally applicable only if one maintained that there are severe limits to the number of "objects" worthy of the admiration of the tourist. However, "if Glasgow can be remade as a tourist attraction, one might wonder whether there are in fact any limits to the tourist, or post-tourist, gaze" (Urry 1990, p. 156).

Another issue refers to the nonauthenticity of the tourist experience. Turner and Ash (1975) describe a tourist who is placed at the center of a rigorously circumscribed world (the "environmental bubble"). Travel agents, couriers, and hotel managers are described as surrogate parents who relieve the tourist of every responsibility, protect the tourist from harsh reality, and decide for the tourist which objects are worthy to be admired.

Various types of tourists exist, and they are pushed by various needs and motivations for which various means are available to realize the tourist experience. In an age that is being defined as postmodern, the post-tourist also is being redefined.

The post-tourist knows that they are a tourist and that tourism is a game, or rather a whole series of games with multiple texts and no single authentic tourist experience. The post-tourist thus knows that they will have to queue time and time again, that there will be hassles over foreign exchange, that the glossy brochure is a piece of pop culture, that the apparently authentic local entertainment is as socially contrived as an ethnic bar, and that the supposedly quaint and traditional fishing village could not survive without the income from tourism. (Urry 1990, p. 100).

The post-tourist knows that "he is not a time-traveller when he goes somewhere historic, not an instant noble savage when he stays on a tropical beach, not an invisible observer when he visits a native compound. Resolutely 'realistic,' he cannot evade his condition of outsider" (Feifer 1985, p. 271). This means that many travelers appreciate the "not-authenticity" of the tourist experience and "find pleasure in the multiplicity of tourist games. They know that there is no authentic tourist experience, that there are merely a series of games or texts that can be played" (Urry 1990, p. 11).


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Giovanni Delli Zotti


views updated Jun 08 2018


the michelin red guide: automobile tourism and gender roles
the grand tour
taking the waters: spas and seasides
riding the rails and reading the guidebooks
bicycle and automobile tourism
conclusion: tourism and social distinctions

Until the late twentieth century, the history of tourism was not a serious subject for historical inquiry. Before the advent of social history, political historians duly noted where decisions and pronouncements were made, and the place of leisure travel becomes obvious only in retrospect: French Emperor Napoleon III met Count Cavour (Camillo Benso) in the comfortable French spa town of Plombières to plot what turned out to be a war of Italian unification against the Austrians; and King William of Prussia had been taking the waters at Ems when the Ems dispatch was issued in 1870, provoking the French to declare war. Even the emergence of social history initially left the history of tourism at the margins. Careful analysis of workers, peasants, the bourgeoisie, and eventually women, that is, specific social groups, eventually made room for analysis of cultural practices besides work, such as tourism. The neglect was unfortunate because the history of tourism has revealed just how much various social groups used travel to set themselves off from others and thus to construct differences of class and gender as "natural" social divides. In fact, tourism, like other forms of consumption, was as much a defining characteristic of social position as the work with which it was often contrasted.

the michelin red guide: automobile tourism and gender roles

In 1900, Michelin published the first Guide Michelin to France. In the preface, Michelin noted that "this work desires to give all information that can be useful to a driver traveling in France, to supply [the needs of] his automobile, to repair it, and to permit him to find a place to stay and eat, and to correspond by mail, telegraph, or telephone" (p. 5). Offering this new red guide free of charge, the company recognized that by encouraging automobile travel it fostered the consumption of tires. In essence, the guide offered knowledge about tires and about French towns, thus providing a sort of informational infrastructure for early automobile tourists.

Interestingly, the red guide and advertisements for it reinforced societal assumptions about sexual difference in early twentieth-century Europe. In an age when many wealthy men did not even drive their own cars, they were still portrayed as in charge in their planning of trips and management of the chauffeur. Women, by contrast, were presumed to be flighty, hopefully attractive, and concerned with maintaining their beauty.

Advertisements for the red guides played on the idea that men, the providers, needed to supply a comfortable place to stay for women, the presumed consumers. In one case, Michelin recounted the tale of newlyweds traveling without a red guide. After the chauffeur informed them that a mechanical breakdown would leave them stranded overnight, the Viscount René de la Ribaudière (a name suggesting bawdiness as well as aristocratic origins) and Giselle, his new wife (the text notes that "she was not yet [really] the countess"), got a room in a hotel that was, according to the owner, "the best in the region." After retiring to their room, they found a bat, and

it took a quarter of an hour and all of the eloquence that M. de la Ribaudière had in order to calm down Giselle. However, the little viscount did not waste any time, and he quickly addressed his very imminent wife the most legitimate compliments on the beauty of her legs and the finesse of her ankles, when suddenly he cried out in distress. "Ah! my God, what is the matter?" Giselle asked him. [He replied,] "my darling, where did you get this bit of red on your shoulder which was so white a moment ago?" The same exclamation came out of both of their mouths, "Bed bugs." They killed 10, then 100, then 577; they could not have fought off the yellow invasion with more ardor. Finally, overtaken by sleep, Giselle resigned herself to stretching out on her uncomfortable and hard bed. And the viscount wanted to begin the conversation again. "Oh, no, my dear," she told him…. When the sun rose, Giselle was still not yet Madame de la Ribaudière, though she looked like cream with strawberries [that is, her cream-colored skin had many red marks resembling strawberries]. ("Lundi de Michelin," Le Journal, 6 July 1908, p. 5)

By playing on the notion of consummation of the marriage, Michelin suggested that the viscount, how-ever desperately he may have tried, did not get to have sex with his new wife because he had not ordered a copy of the red guide, so he did not realize there was a fine hotel nearby. Having not fulfilled his role as good provider, the viscount could not fulfill his role as a husband in the act of sex. Thus, marketing of the red guide—which began ostensibly as a list of mechanics and places to buy gas—could assert assumptions about the appropriate behavior of men and women: men were supposed to take care of the practical details while traveling, by buying a red guide, and women were to worry about their appearance.

the grand tour

In the eighteenth century, the British had been predominant as early tourists. Before the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, many aristocratic and wealthy British families sent their sons on a Grand Tour of Europe. To have done a Grand Tour set a young English man apart from his contemporaries, not to mention his social inferiors. For the growing upper middle class, a tour of classical ruins was construed as cultural training, not unlike attending university. Lasting for several months, a tour usually included Paris and often other major European capitals and was almost always dominated by the Italian cities. Venice, Florence, Rome (including the digs at Pompeii), and sometimes Naples were must-sees, while Genoa and Turin usually figured as stopping points en route from the Alpine crossing to the south. Art collections, architecture, classical ruins, and brothels were the main attractions.

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars interrupted much international tourism, particularly by the British, until 1815. However, in the course of the nineteenth century, the idea of the Grand Tour remained an important image as the numbers of Europeans with the time and financial resources to travel grew. Napoleon's road building across France and through the Alps facilitated access by reducing travel times. Museums opened their doors, following the example of the Louvre, which became public during the Revolution. The populations capable of affording a tour grew. In addition, the number of women traveling, escorted by female family members, servants, and friends—and sometimes husbands and fathers—steadily increased.

Both evolving aesthetics and accessibility changed the destinations and the perceptions of early nineteenth-century tourists. The Alps, long considered a mere untamed obstacle en route to Italy, became a destination in their own right and an important stop on many a Grand Tour. Mountain climbing for the few and hiking for the many became primary attractions. Romantic sensibilities also led to interest in Gothic cathedrals along with the classical monuments. The few travelers to Greece in the nineteenth century, which seemed more accessible after its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, were in search of classical ruins overrun by vegetation and partially destroyed by time; here Lord George Gordon Byron's poetry was an obvious inspiration. During the period from 1792 to 1815, a heyday of early Romanticism, the British Lake Counties so dear to William Wordsworth became primary alternatives for wealthy British tourists unable to tour the Continent. With a volume of Wordsworth in hand, visitors sought the uncontrolled nature he had described.

taking the waters: spas and seasides

Named for Spa, a well-known spring of mineral water in what would after 1830 be known as Belgium, spas had long existed in Europe. The Romans had established baths filled with spring water, and some of those same baths remained in operation throughout the Middle Ages, attracting both local inhabitants and the infirm from farther away. In Hungary, baths experienced a boom in the eighteenth century. Improved roads and coach service made the baths more accessible, and towns such as Bath in western England, Vichy in south-central France, and Baden-Baden in the southwestern German state of Baden became important destinations.

Until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, baths frequently remained large pools in the open air, situated within the towns and open, without charge, to all who wished to bathe. Although only scattered evidence has survived, it appears that in the early modern period bathers of both sexes of all social groups wore little clothing, frolicking in the baths. By the early nineteenth century, as bourgeois usage grew dramatically, so too did the expectations for regulation of access. In France, the open-air pools largely disappeared, replaced by individual bathing compartments where a bather would not come in contact with anyone but spa staff. At least in France, the strict separation of the sexes and careful attention to appropriate attire resulted in part from women's complaints of men's behavior at the baths, so the institution of new norms of propriety may have resulted as much from women's increased presence as from a desire for social control on the part of the bourgeoisie in general. Nevertheless, a clear segmentation by social class clearly took place. The poor and working poor found themselves excluded from many of the baths, and an array of new hospitals for the poor requiring hydrotherapy segregated them from the wealthy bathers.

In the nineteenth century, doctors largely controlled access to the baths. Doctors developed a complement of hydrotherapeutic techniques, including hot and cold pressurized showers, hot mud packs for the body, and individualized boxes for prescribed steam baths. During an average three-week course of treatment, the majority of a patient's time was often not spent in the bathing pools themselves. Even when patients were in the bath, the duration of daily treatments was closely controlled by the spa's staff.

Social stratification was a defining characteristic of spa towns. Locals worked in the baths, in the hotels, and in the newly organized casinos. In towns such as Vichy and Aix-les-Bains (in Savoy), service to wealthy travelers was the primary employment for local residents. While the wealthy travelers registered their names, addresses, professions, and the number of accompanying servants—all markers of social station in the nineteenth century—before going off to the baths for their cures, locals lost their earlier (nonmedical) access to the baths. Spa employees and larger municipal police forces further kept the homeless and begging poor out of the casinos and off the important promenades, where their presence was assumed to damage the appeal of the spa town.

After 1750, first in Britain and then on the Continent, the aristocracy and increasingly the middle classes also began to flock to the seaside, spurring the development of resorts. In many parts of Europe, though sources are comparatively scarce, there is evidence of swimming or playing in sea water on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. As bourgeois interest in the seaside grew, so too did municipal regulations governing use of the beaches. In the first half of the nineteenth century, nude bathing was banned on most beaches, which were also usually segregated by sex. Although access to the sea remained open to people of all social classes, the primary beachfront connected to resort towns was largely reserved for wealthy travelers whose expenditures supported local economies.

Although Romantic interest in the sea as untamed nature was not unlike the "discovery" of the Alps, the motivation for travel to the seaside, as in the case of spas, was also ostensibly medical. For skin and particularly pulmonary ailments, especially tuberculosis, doctors often advised an extended stay on the coast. By the early nineteenth century, doctors also began to regulate immersion in the water. Doctors offered careful instructions as to the preparation, duration, and necessary movements during daily baths in sea water.

Doctors and bathers made an important distinction between men and women. While women in particular were prescribed strict guidelines, carried out by attendants who manned the individualized bathing boxes ostensibly for the preservation of female modesty, doctors exercised comparatively little control over men, who customarily treated jumping into the waves as a sort of male rite of passage, a proof of their virility. The medicalized control established at the seaside was thus inseparable from a broader social control of women's movements and their bodies in the nineteenth century.

riding the rails and reading the guidebooks

Although the network of European roads and coach services improved steadily in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, facilitating tourism among wealthy Europeans, the development of the railroad allowed faster and considerably cheaper transportation, dramatically increasing the number of people who could afford to travel. The greater accessibility made possible by the railroad did not erase social distinctions but rather altered their contours; just as the railroad had first-class, second-class, third-class, and even fourth-class carriage, tourist destinations changed to accommodate both greater social diversity but also the desire for social differentiation by those who could afford better.

The railroad had an ironic effect on established tourist destinations. For example, on the southern coast of England, Brighton had been a favored destination of the English nobility and royalty in the eighteenth century. However, when the railroad connected Brighton to nearby London, the middle and lower middle class of the city began to make day trips to Brighton. The royal family and social elite relocated their social season to the north, placing themselves outside the logistical and financial reach of these new tourists. In France, where the warm and more desirable seasides were in the south, the railroad made it possible for the wealthy of Paris and of Europe to easily make a journey impractical for those of limited means. The empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III of France, made Biarritz on the southwestern French coast a sought-after resort town once the railroad line was established. On the Riviera, the French annexation of Nice in 1860 facilitated the development of a French railway line from Paris. Nice expanded rapidly and its wintertime (the social season on the Riviera) population exploded as the international social elite swarmed in.

More tourists with more destinations sought ever more information about where to go, what to see, and how to get there most easily. Because tourists on land were by mid-century traveling almost exclusively by railroad, guidebooks adopted railway itineraries as their organizational framework. In Britain, John Murray published little red guides to sights and hotels of Europe, in a format quickly adopted by Karl Baedeker in Germany. With guides in several European languages covering western, northern, and southern Europe by 1914, Baedeker and his successors built a veritable empire of guidebooks, directing tourists where to go and what to see. In France, Adolphe Joanne launched a similar series published by Hachette, which had a monopolistic control of bookstores in French rail stations.

The Murray, Baedeker, and Joanne guidebooks, like their eventual competitors, offered practical information about the quality and prices of hotels, admission prices to museums, train schedules, detailed information about the sights a dutiful tourist should not miss, and even advice about appropriate behavior. In short, the guidebooks attempted to instruct the novice tourist in how to travel. By providing abundant information updated in frequent re-editions, guidebooks took some of the uncertainty out of travel, but arrangements remained entirely in the hands of individual tourists, who needed to negotiate not only with hotels but also with the multitude of different train companies even within a given country.

For the lower middle class and skilled workers with limited means, less time, and little familiarity with the profusion of train schedules and fares, Thomas Cook offered both greater certainty and moderate prices. A British cabinetmaker and minister, Cook organized his first tour by railroad for working men and women attending a Temperance meeting in 1841. In 1851 he negotiated prices with the railroads and lined up accommodations for some 165,000 British men and women who traveled to the see the Grand Exhibition in London (some 3 percent of visitors). By the 1860s, as railroad fares declined within Britain, often obviating the need for his services, Cook focused on tours of the Continent, beginning with Paris (1861), then Switzerland (1863), Italy (1864), and Spain (1872). In several respects, Cook and his competitors opened up touring to social groups that had not traveled in the past. Initially, "workingmen," usually skilled artisans or lower middle-class tradesmen on day trips, formed the primary travelers. Without this early group being abandoned, as the destination increasingly became the Continent, Cook's tourists also came from a broad spectrum of the middle class; not only doctors, lawyers, and salaried employees but also teachers and ministers, who had time but limited incomes, were a primary constituency.

Cook's tour came to embody the increased access to travel in nineteenth-century Europe. As a result, those travelers who could afford longer, slower, and more costly trips ridiculed the month-long Cook's tours to Continental Europe as offering no time for the real appreciation of the monuments, museums, and landscapes seen in a blur. The perceptions of social distinction shifted; for the modest, touring offered status, but for the wealthy the fact of touring the Continent often became less important than in what company and how one did.

The most obvious social change among tourists became in the nineteenth century the increased presence of women. Although a few women had done the Grand Tour or had taken the waters in the eighteenth century, in the course of the nineteenth century tourism by women unaccompanied by men became standard. The railroads and guidebooks (which were often, as in the case of the Baedeker, downright sexist even by nineteenth-century standards) facilitated travel, making it easier for women to travel without the company of men. In Cook's tours both single women and women traveling in groups were actually more heavily represented than men. While ease of transport was clearly one reason, the broader cultural changes in nineteenth-century Europe were another. Whereas men had been the primary collectors of art early in the century, women increasingly became connoisseurs of art, music, and culture generally, though the remunerated professions of artist, curator, or academic remained the preserve of men. Bourgeois women's predominance in the church was also a factor; in largely Protestant Britain women had an important role in the Temperance movement, sometimes necessitating travel by train, and in Catholic areas women were proportionately better represented in the organized group tours to

pilgrimage sites, such as the spring at Lourdes in the Pyrenees mountains.

By the end of the nineteenth century, growing nationalist and imperialist sentiment, laced with Social Darwinism, was also reflected in well-off Europeans' travel. Guidebooks could be quite nationalistic. In the 1860s, the Baedeker guides in the German language fervently claimed that French-held Alsace-Lorraine should in fact be part of united Germany. British guides frequently deplored the supposedly inadequate hygiene on the Continent, especially the absence of toilets flushed with water. In countries with expanding empires, most notably Britain and France, trips to the colonies gained in popularity among the wealthy. Although their numbers remained small, Britons and to a lesser extent other Europeans, very often under the auspices of a Cook's tour down the Nile, traveled to Egypt in search of cultural exoticism; by the 1880s they were reassured by the British protectorate. Britons also went to Palestine to visit the "Holy Land." Among the French, the colonies of Algeria and later Morocco were sometimes destinations. While traveling outside Europe, Europeans could congratulate themselves on their own national—in having a grander empire they could be superior to other Europeans—and racial superiority, presumably manifest in the vast material divide between them and indigenous peoples.

bicycle and automobile tourism

While the overwhelming majority of travelers in the early twentieth century continued to use the railroad, technological innovations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries placed renewed emphasis on traveling by road as well as rail. The "safety" bicycle with two wheels of the same size became a fashionable rage for sportsmen rich enough to buy one in the 1890s. In the first decade of the twentieth century, the automobile began to rival the bicycle among sportsmen, and it quickly became a means of tourist transportation for aristocrats and bourgeois Europeans. The automobile's price and extremely high maintenance costs made it a socially exclusive mode of transportation. An automobile allowed wealthy men, accompanied by women and usually a mechanic/driver, to make long trips, veritable adventures given the poor reliability of automobiles when compared to trains.

Both bicycle and automobile tourism necessitated a new infrastructure eventually provided by local and national authorities. Well-maintained, eventually paved roads with road signs became the subject of important lobbying efforts by tourists enamored of the new forms of transport. An array of nonprofit organizations emerged across Europe to advocate the interests of first cyclists then motorists. Inspired by the British Cyclist Touring Club, "touring clubs" funded by members' contributions and often public subsidies, worked with local and national governments to provide an infrastructure for all forms of tourism, though cycling received pride of place in the 1890s. After 1900, touring clubs, working alongside more socially exclusive automobile clubs, also argued for roadway improvements necessary for automobiles. In several countries, the touring clubs, while overwhelmingly bourgeois, were among the largest of associations. The Touring Club de France, founded in 1890, had nearly 100,000 members in 1914. The Touring Club Ciclistico Italiano, founded in 1894, dropped "cycling" from its name in 1900 and itself grew to 450,000 members in the interwar years.

conclusion: tourism and social distinctions

Before the 1790s, when the English term tourist, itself derived from the French term tour, first emerged in the English language, traveler was the primary designation used for what one might call the "leisure traveler." In the course of the nineteenth century, most European languages acquired a term equivalent to the English tourist. Since the nineteenth century, tourists and social observers have often distinguished between travelers and tourists. Late-nineteenth-century travelers condemned Cook's tourists as superficial. Travelers supposedly appreciated what they saw and experienced whereas tourists completed a list of things that "needed to be seen." Many historians and other writers have often accepted the distinction at face value, stressing the difference between the old bourgeois, aristocratic, and educated travelers and the late nineteenth- and twentieth-century hordes who supposedly understood little besides how to have a good time.

In fact, the terms reveal more about the people employing them to reinforce social difference than about any real difference between leisure travelers and tourists. Many middle-class travelers in the nineteenth century, even "Cook's tourists," could be far more interested in European art and architecture, which also offered them the possibility of a sort of cultural capital upon returning home, than the fabulously wealthy who spent much of their time simply enjoying themselves in the company of their compatriots. In short, the distinction that some have made between travelers and tourists, like the distinctions that post–World War II tourists often make between themselves and other, presumably less knowledgeable and culturally sensitive tourists, are not "real," measurable differences.

In the nineteenth century, social distinctions made between those who could afford to take the tour, take the waters in a spa, or go to the beach and those who could not mirrored the social segmentation of European society as a whole. Similarly, the prescribed roles for women and men further reflected widespread assumptions about the "natural" differences between the sexes. Tourism, having afforded some people the occasion to join their presumed cohorts and set themselves off from other people, thus provides a fascinating glimpse at the social hierarchies that characterized nineteenth-century Europe.

See alsoAutomobile; Cycling; Popular and Elite Culture; Railroads; Transportation and Communications.


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Stephen L. Harp


views updated May 11 2018



Traveling for relatively short periods, for social and cultural enjoyment or reasons of health, was a European invention of the late eighteenth century. Tourism was a product of, and contributed to, the dynamism of the industrial revolution, helping to create a new, broader spectrum of consumption. Its role in the growth of railroads, expanding their passenger service and lifting profits, has been generally underestimated. In terms of political and cultural life, the construction of national identities has also benefited from tourism, which cultivated and stimulated the development of scenic regions and specific locales.

By the dawn of the twentieth century, tourism had its codes, standards and practices, itineraries, services, and associations, together with its own commercial and industrial sectors. It had appropriated various recent inventions, such as the bicycle and amateur camera; soon to come would be the automobile. All these and more would influence tourism in decades to come.

Typically, tourists in these early years belonged to the wealthy urban bourgeoisie. Their activities—seasonal vacations and outings in the country, to health spas, or to various recreation spots—had a feminine cast and were large-scale and family-oriented affairs. They often justified large investments in equipment and considerable fitting out.

Although most early tourists were themselves European, Americans in the late nineteenth century, mainly from the East Coast, began visiting the great destinations—following in the footsteps of the fashionable British—such as Paris, the Swiss Alps, the ancient Roman ruins, Scotland, and the famous spas in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


The First World War, which stimulated the democratization of European societies, accelerated the progressive expansion of tourism that had already begun in the early 1900s. However, it was the local excursion—hiking or biking to discover the nearby surroundings—that first grew up around early reductions in working hours at the beginning of the century. The lower middle class, especially its youth, took an interest in leisure activities. They started to take journeys in "legs" and to go camping, which stimulated the development of youth hostels. However, contrary to received wisdom, tourism as a mass activity developed rather slowly in the 1930s. Paid holidays and vacations in most European countries did not arise as a demand from bottom up. Travel as a leisure activity was not in any way a working-class custom. Business associations or philanthropies, depending on the country and branch of industry, trade union, or political organization, working in close collaboration with government, created holidays and promoted paid vacations. These were developed in line with moral, hygienic, and educational goals. Public-relations campaigns fostered the idea, which involved considerable investment, including construction of vacation homes and hotels, campgrounds, hiking trails, and sports facilities, and the use of the reduced fare on trains and buses. In Fascist Italy from 1925 and in Hitler's Germany from 1933, centralized branches of government, responsible for distributing government propaganda, organized and eventually controlled various types of collective entertainment, such as the Ò pera Nazionale Dopolavóro (National After-Work Organization) or Nach der Arbeit (After Work), which later became Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy) . Hiking and outdoor sports, low-cost railroad travel, and even cruises represented an attractive program for using cultural activities to spread political ideology.

While the working class was assimilating a structured and healthy way to spend time off, sophisticated bourgeois tourists experienced the new freedom provided by new forms of individual transportation. Tire manufacturers such as Michelin and Dunlop published helpful guides. Drivers and bicyclists could go equipped with detailed road maps, specially adapted to the difficulties they might encounter, which also highlighted the interesting and beautiful sites not to be missed. Supported by various associations, such as influential touring and automobile clubs, which were able to finance road signs and even spur the construction of scenic highways, privileged travelers from urban and industrialized Europe could explore first their own country and then that of their neighbors. Isolated villages, historic places of note, and hard-to-reach nature sites were all listed, described, protected, and visited. They were photographed and the photos appeared on postcards. The rural became almost entirely touristic, which created a vision of it among the urban well-off that helped to nourish regionalism as a kind of glorification of patriarchal values that were embraced by the demagogic political movements in the interwar years. The first European nature preserves were created in this spirit. But, even as new tourist destinations emerged, the earlier vacation spots seemed all the more attractive, growing larger and expanding their clientele. In fact, however, they would remain successful only until tourists significantly changed their habits with the advent of new democratized vacations of the 1950s—namely the winter sports and Mediterranean summer vacations.


Winter sports came about with the need to extend profits beyond the summer season and justify the considerable alpine infrastructure—the hotels, railroads, and highways—that was built to serve the fad for mountaineering that developed in the second half of the nineteenth century, as well as from efforts to target tourists for the Swiss, Bavarian, and Austrian Alps. The invention of alpine skiing—popularized by the British mountaineer Arnold Lunn (1888–1974) with techniques derived largely from the Austrian Mathias Zdarsky (1856–1940)—stimulated winter vacationing at places previously known only as fancy summer resorts, such as Chamonix, Mürren, Saint Moritz, Davos, Zermatt, Sankt Anton, Cortina d'Ampezzo, and others. Its popularity made it possible for business to develop new resorts, such as Megève, Méribel, Sestrières, and Gstaad. These offered competing facilities such as ski lifts, which began to be popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s. This expansion of winter sports started up again in the 1970s, with government participation, especially in France.

During the 1920s and 1930s, in and around the French Riviera, where the wealthy clientele for winter tourism had been badly affected by the war and its political and economic aftermath—which included the Russian Revolution, the division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Great Depression—new patrons and investors created a fashion for summer vacations spent under the hot sun. They brought to the Mediterranean coast activities already going on, in less pleasant surroundings, along the beaches of the Baltic and the North Sea: free baths, swimming, beach sports, and outdoor lounging. Although a vacation on the Riviera still seemed somewhat odd at the end of 1920s, celebrities in business and the arts, many coming from the United States, would soon make it fashionable. They popularized Juan-les-Pins, the bathing resort on the Côte d'Azur that grew up between 1924 and 1927, financed with French and American money. Along the same lines came the summertime successes of Cannes, Antibes, Monte Carlo, and Rapallo.


After World War II, the quick revival of leisure travel embraced ever larger numbers of social groups. In France, tourism resumed soon after Liberation. Temporary housing of various kinds sprang up—campgrounds, youth hostels, vacation villages organized by youth movements or political organizations, and owner rentals—and this enabled a generation of young adults, encouraged by democratic ideals once again prevailing at war's end, to enlarge their horizons. The cultural model of the trip and of vacation travel finally became the norm, available to everyone though not affordable by all. Private and public investors would consequently begin building a new industry of tourism for the masses, which boomed during the 1960s. At first it developed on the coasts and shorelines where intense real estate speculation and promotion fueled urbanization. State intervention in financing became a crucial component, whether from an economic, political, or social point of view; and such government intervention generally encouraged, though did little to regulate, construction of huge developments that combined hostelry and a range of services. A vogue for resorts and standardized hotel complexes began to dominate the coast of the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the 1960s. This model was also adapted in the Languedoc-Roussillon region (La Grande Motte), much as it was on the Spanish coast (Costa Brava, Costa Blanca, Costa del Sol, Balearic Islands) and other places. These latter, with the introduction of charter flights in the late 1960s, became destinations for sun-hungry urbanites of northern Europe.

Sharply reduced airfare was a fundamental factor in the growth of mass tourism at the end of the twentieth century. The lower prices were stimulated by two main developments. First, advances in aeronautical engineering created larger jetliners by the late 1960s, which came to market as huge civil transport aircraft in the early 1970s. Second, the contemporary vacation package, already in use during nineteenth century, began to include transportation, hostelry, and services. By the 1970s over half of British vacationers bought packages. In the late 1980s some 65 percent of German travelers traveled abroad more than five days on vacation, and 40 percent of them purchased travel packages. Meanwhile, airfare deregulation, initiated by the United States beginning in 1978, led to intense competition among the carriers and finally to the emergence of new so-called low-cost airlines that created new markets in noncentral airports. The framework for these developments was the consolidation of the tourist industry—transportation, housing, real estate, car rental—and the dominance of international corporations, few of which were European.

Although the model of the standard vacation package spread through Europe in the early 1980s, operating in Portugal, Yugoslavia, and Greece, it also provoked rejection and a search for distinctive alternatives. Some of these new kinds of tourism were rapidly and widely commercialized by travel agents who organized trips for wealthy customers looking for what was presumably authentic and liberated. The most striking example was Club Med (Club Méditerranée), which had been founded in 1950. Along similar lines, specialized tour operators proposed cultural or high-end adventure excursions. Finally, other novel enterprises were the result of individual initiative on the part of millions of vacationers. Auto travelers accounted for more than 30 percent of tourists in the 1990s, staying in country houses and exploring rural areas and lands that had been set aside since the early twentieth century. Public policy toward preservation and cultural heritage—indeed what is sometimes called "museification"—was carefully prepared for tourists from the early 1970s.

Another counterpoint was a new type of guidebook, highly critical of mass tourism, published in the spirit of independence and originality, aiming to attract tourists from the intellectual rim of the middle class. The French series known as Guide du Routard and other similar guidebooks had remarkable success. In this way, the mainstream tourist industry generated its opposite, which itself had a tendency to create its own beaten paths. At all events, mass tourism and diversification are two aspects of the same reality—the extension of the pleasures of tourism to customers of all ages, cultures, value systems, and social backgrounds.


During the 1990s, the aging of the European population and reduced working hours meant extended time off for a growing segment of the population, with retirees wintering in moderate climates while active vacationers and their families filled up the summer season. This phenomenon led to a construction boom for apartment complexes and hotels in the south of Spain, for example, and the Canary Islands. It was also a promising time for the eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey, Bulgaria, and Croatia, where the tourist industry started to expand once war ended in the former Yugoslavia. Relative pricing played an important role. The growth of mini-vacations reflected their appeal to well-off young urbanites and couples without young children. Budget airlines and travel agencies made it easy to spend weekends in Florence, Vienna, Prague, Barcelona, or Riga at affordable prices, often decided upon at the last minute. This short-term urban tourism, by means of which tourists became consumers in their temporary surroundings, visiting historic public places and various museums and shopping districts, has had profound consequences for European urban policy decisions, including those developing in the formerly Soviet-dominated countries of Eastern Europe. Renovation of historic sites has become a central concern, leading to various shifts in the real estate market and social landscape. Constant cultural events and activities are required. Security is a principal concern. Luxury stores must be nearby. Hotel accommodations must be varied in service and of high quality. To the business rivalry among large European cities in all these areas was added further competition for conventions and congresses—business tourism is very lucrative—or, more generally, to attract employment-generating corporations or headquarters for international organizations. The boom in urban tourism at the dawn of the twenty-first century was a major aspect of the homogenization of the culture of the European Union.


In 2004 Europe remained first among tourist destinations worldwide, with some 52 percent of all receipts. Six European nations topped the list of the ten most visited countries in the world: France, the leader, was followed by Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Austria. European tourists are among the most active in the world, and they give priority to visiting European destinations. This encouraging account (with statistics furnished by the UN's World Tourism Organization) is probably only further enhanced by exogenous threats to international tourism such as political crises, terrorist attacks, public health emergencies, and climatic catastrophes; but it must be examined with some caution. Some destinations have grown old or are in decline, such as can be found in France, Italy, and Austria. Intense competition is rapidly developing in Asia, with increased visits to China (up 26.7 percent in 2004 over the previous year) and Hong Kong (up 40 percent for the same period), for example, as well as higher profits in these countries by comparison with countries in Europe such as England and Germany, where visits in 2004 were up 12 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, over the previous year.

See alsoLeisure; Popular Culture.


Ballu, Yves. L'hiver de glisse et de glace. Paris, 1991. Pleasant and easy to read; abundantly illustrated.

Baranowski, Shelley, and Ellen Furlough, eds. Being Elsewhere: Tourism, Consumer Culture, and Identity in Modern Europe and North America. Ann Arbor, Mich., 2001.

Berghoff, Hartmut, ed. The Making of Modern Tourism: The Cultural History of the British Experience, 1600–2000. New York, 2002.

Bertho-Lavenir, Catherine. La roue et le stylo: Comment nous sommes devenus touristes. Paris, 1999. Magnificent, original synthesis of the cultural and social history of tourism in the twentieth century.

Bray, Roger, and Vladimir Raitz. Flight to the Sun: The Story of the Holiday Revolution. London and New York, 2001. Interesting account of the activity of a British tour operator starting up charter flights.

Corbin, Alain, et al. L'avènement des loisirs, 1850–1960. Paris, 1995. A remarkable work, a pioneer in the French historical literature.

Inglis, Fred. The Delicious History of the Holiday. New York, 2000.

Tissot, Laurent, ed. Development of a Tourist Industry in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: International Perspectives. Neuchâtel, 2003. Excellent collection of scientific articles on a little-studied subject.

Claire Billen


views updated May 09 2018







Tourism is a complex phenomenon that can be conceptualized on several levels. It can be considered demographically, as the flow of temporary leisure migration across international boundaries (international tourism) or within the boundaries of a given country (domestic tourism). It can be thought of institutionally, as the system of enterprises (airlines, travel companies, touring agencies, hotels, resorts, guest houses, souvenir shops, restaurants, theme parks, and so on) and organizations (travel associations, local and national tourist authorities, and international tourist organizations) that process and serve that flow. Finally, it can be conceptualized socially, as the complex of attitudes, motivations, norms, and role models that regulate and shape that flow into a distinct institutional domain.

Traveling for leisure was common in many historical and premodern societies. Tourism as a socially recognized, separate institutional domain, however, emerged in western Europe only in the course of the nineteenth century.


There have been two major precursors of modern tourism: (1) pilgrimages to sacred places, which created basic services for travelers, such as hostelries, and formed routes that prefigured the itineraries of modern sightseeing tourism; (2) spas, or thermal springs, at which members of the European higher classes assembled to take the waters, which prefigured popular modern vacationing tourism on seaside beaches.

The Grand Tour of the British nobility and upper classes between the late sixteenth and the early nineteenth centuries was a form of secular pilgrimage to the centers of European antiquity and culture. In its course, an expanding core of major attractions and amenities developed, which constituted the basis of the emergent modern tourist system.

The development of modern tourism was made possible by major technological innovations in transportation, such as the steamship and the train, and later the car and the airplane, which facilitated the establishment of regular transportation services for large numbers of people. The demand for tourist services, however, was provoked by the economic and social changes that followed the Industrial Revolution: Industrial pollution and urbanization separated people from as yet unspoiled nature; the strains of modern life created demands for rest and recreation; secularization and imperial conquests led to a broadened outlook on the world and a growing interest in remote lands and people. The prosperous middle classes increasingly disposed of discretionary income, which enabled them to bear the costs of traveling, while the introduction of social benefits, such as paid vacations, enabled ever broader social strata to travel. The introduction by Cook, in 1841, of the package tour, was followed by other innovations in the organization of travel, such as the formation of travel companies and touring agencies, airlines, and hotel chains, which made traveling fast and easy, even for people with limited cultural capital.

The principal expansion of tourism took place in the second part of the twentieth century, and especially from the 1970s onward, with the emergence of mass tourism to popular destinations. Most citizens of affluent Western countries at the end of the century took at least one annual vacation abroad, and many took two or even more. Tourism from the non-Western countries, especially Japan, and, more recently, India and China, expanded at an accelerating rate; experts predict that by 2010, one hundred million Chinese will be traveling abroad.


Contemporary tourism is a massive phenomenon. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), there were 808 million international tourists in 2005, up from about 25 million in 1950. The scope of domestic tourism cannot be ascertained, but it is estimated to be three or four times larger than that of international tourism, totaling about 2.5 to 3.0 billion people per year.

Tourism is one of the leading components of world trade, accounting for about 6 percent of world exports of goods and services. In 2004 the total expenditures of international tourists amounted to $623 billion, up from about $2 billion in 1951. The great majority of international border crossings remain concentrated in Europe, a phenomenon ensuing partly from the relatively large number and small size of European countries. Six European countries are among the ten leading global destinations. France tops the list, with about 70 million visitors a year.

As of 2006 global tourism is growing at about 4 percent annually, but the rate of its expansion to non-Western destinations is significantly higher than it is in the old European core. This growth manifests a marked heliotropic tendency, a flow of tourists from the cold North to vacationing destinations in the warm South, particularly those around the Mediterranean, Caribbean, South Pacific, and Southeast Asian coasts.

Mass tourism is an important source of significant economic benefits, particularly to less-developed countries, but these are mostly unequally distributed. It has also generated undesirable and sometimes destructive environmental, social, and cultural consequences in popular destinations, which threaten the sustainability of local tourist industries. Small countries, particularly island states, in which tourism became the dominant industry while other sectors of the economy remained underdeveloped, are often utterly dependent on tourism, and thus often exposed to financial risks created by far-away political and economic crises.

In reaction to the problematic consequences of the hegemonic tourist industry, various kinds of alternative tourisms have emerged, such as green tourism, eco-tourism, low-impact tourism, and countercultural tourism, the latter espoused in the ideologybut not necessarily in the practiceof contemporary backpackers. Most of these alternative tourisms, however, have been eventually absorbed by the tourist industry, which has adapted its services to the particular needs and preferences of alternative tourists.

More recently, rather than seeking alternatives to the industry, environmentalists and other concerned individuals have sought to collaborate with the industry to ascertain the sustainability of tourism development projects. They thus hope to prevent the environmental and social ravages that unconcerned and often speculative developments wrought in sensitive sites in the past.


Sociologists have been slow in realizing the growing significance of tourism. Early commentators tended to disparage rather than analyze the phenomenon. Once its study was initiated, the principal issue of concern became the relationship between tourism and modernity (and, later on, post-modernity). Dean MacCannell (1973) proposed a distinctly sociological perspective on tourism, by conceiving of the tourist as a modern individual who, alienated from his own society, travels in quest of authentic experiences in other places and other timesin pristine nature, unspoiled, simple communities, or the traces of great civilizations of the past. In MacCannells view, however, this quest is thwarted by the locals at the destinations, who stage authentic tourist settings for the visitors consumption.

Though influential as a paradigm for the sociological study of modern tourism, MacCannells approach was also much contested. Critics argued that he essentialized the tourist, disregarding the empirical variety of touristic phenomena; while a quest for authenticity might be a modern cultural ideal, not all tourists are believed to pursue it to the same extent. Typologies of tourists and touristic experiences were proposed (Cohen 2004). Authenticity was shown to be a socially constructed concept, rather than a given fact. Ning Wang (2000) distinguished between three kinds of authenticity: objective, constructed, and existentialthe latter being a state of exaltation, of really living, virtually independent of the nature of the tourists surroundings. Wangs concept may help explain the attractiveness of otherwise overtly contrived attractions, such as theme parks.

The emerging discourse of postmodern tourism, or the post-tourist (Urry 1990), moved away from MacCannells paradigm. In a world allegedly devoid of originals, and dominated by simulacra (Baudrillard 1988), the quest for authenticity becomes senseless. The growing interpenetration of cultures in the twin processes of globalization and glocalization blurs the distinction between home and away, and between ordinary leisure and tourism. Sophisticated and reflective post-tourists are said to travel in quest of enjoyment of experiences that, while familiar, are of a higher quality, more abundant, more varied (and cheaper) than those available at home. They are particularly attracted to the world cities, such as London, Paris, or New York, which are the pacesetters in contemporary music, art, fashions, and cuisine, but they may also derive fun from visits to such contrived attractions as technologically highly sophisticated theme parks, of which the Disneylands are the prototype. Some researchers argue that the alleged fragmentation of the postmodern worldview, and of individual identities, is reflected in the post-tourists tendency to mix diverse experiences on the same trip (Uriely 2005), thus thwarting the possibility of constructing typologies of post-tourists.

In the contemporary world, tourism often merges with other institutional domains, such as education (study tours), religion (pilgrimage-tourism), sports ( extreme tourism ), and recently even medicine. Medical tourism, combining vacations with medical services, emerged in the last years of the twentieth century as a rapidly expanding phenomenon, with growing numbers of people from developed countries seeking a variety of treatments and checkups in developing ones. They are pushed by the escalating costs of private medicine, and the lengthening of waiting lists for socialized medical services, in their countries of origin, and attracted by the high quality and relatively low costs of treatments offered by top hospitals in several developing countries, such as Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey. Popular vacationing destinations, such as the islands of southern Thailand, offer package tours, combining vacations with medical checkups, cosmetic treatments, and even surgery. The phenomenon has led to an internal brain drain of qualified physicians from local to foreigner-oriented medical establishments, but it has also encouraged some who emigrated to the developed West to return to their home countries.


The alleged homogenization of the world under the impact of globalization is considered by some authorities as a disincentive for tourism; however, tourist numbers are in fact growing annually, and are projected to continue to grow even more strongly in the future, with much of the expected growth coming from newly prosperous non-Western countries. The tourist system has continually expanded into new regions, though large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, the South American interior, and Antarctica remain as yet relatively little penetrated by it. While it will probably yet expand into most of those regions, space is expected to become the new frontier of tourism in the twenty-first century. As yet affordable only to the extraordinarily rich, and facing apparently insurmountable technological, medical, and economic constraints, space tourism might remain restricted to only a few passengers into the foreseeable future; however, the current popularity of simulated space travel and of brief, commercial flights to the edge of space, offered to the general public, attest to a demand for the real thing. If such a demand persists, and is no mere fad inspired by novelty, it might provide the incentive for the necessary scientific breakthroughs in the more remote future. Whether and when space travel will become affordable to broad social strata, however, remains an open question.

SEE ALSO Cultural Tourism; Disney, Walt; Gaze, The; Leisure; Tourism Industry


Baudrillard, Jean. 1988. Selected Writings. Ed. Mark Poster. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.

Cohen, Erik. 2004. Contemporary Tourism: Diversity and Change. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

MacCannell, Dean. 1973. Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of Social Space in Tourist Settings. American Journal of Sociology 79 (3): 589603.

Uriely, Natan. 2005. The Tourist Experience: Conceptual Developments. Annals of Tourism Research 32 (1): 199216.

Urry, John. 1990. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. London: Sage.

Wang, Ning. 2000. Tourism and Modernity: A Sociological Analysis. Kidlington, U.K.: Pergamon.

Erik Cohen


views updated May 17 2018


The ancient Greek philosophers thought that leisure was a necessary component of human flourishing even though freedom from the demands of necessity was possible only for a few people. Modern industrialized countries have achieved economies that for many of their members facilitate leisure, or, as Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) suggested, the "non-productive consumption of time" (Veblen 1994 [1899], p. 43). In this context tourism is a form of unproductive consumption that is peculiar to the technologically advantaged. Tourism, however, also has become a major stimulus to economic production.

Purpose and Effects

Tourism is travel based on desires to relax, sightsee, appease curiosity, satisfy a sense of adventure or an adventurous self-image, compete with one's peers or colleagues, re-create images of paradise or luxury or the exotic, and escape. Tourism affects the economies and cultures of destination sites in both positive and negative ways. Those locales may organize their production activities around the satisfaction of tourists' demands for leisure, fantasy, adventure, or knowledge, activities that may operate to the detriment of local cultures.

As with any human relations involving production and consumption, even an activity centered on leisure, tourism thus calls for ethical and philosophical reflection. Only recently, however, has the phenomenon of tourism become a subject of ethical consideration, largely through its connection to other concerns, such as environmental degradation (to which "ecotourism" is one response), economic development, and cultural impacts.


The word tourism is derived from the Latin tornus and before that the Greek tornos, referring to a tool for making a circle (the word turn comes from the same root). Taking a tour thus implies circumnavigating, and the term tourism initially had depreciatory connotations of superficiality. In the early twenty-first century the connotations are more complex.

Tourism must be distinguished from other kinds of and motivations for travel. Economic and political migration, for example, is not new, but its increased extent is considered a significant element of globalization (Held, McGrew, Goldblatt, and Perraton, 1999). Contemporary economic migration includes the journeys made by migrant laborers and travel for business purposes in a postindustrial age of transnational corporations and labor markets, prompted also by international disparities in wealth and movement, especially between less developed countries and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. Political migration includes refugees from crisis or conflict areas. Tourism, in contrast, has no material imperative, although one could argue that advertising and the media create a perceived necessity for tourism.

Flâneurism, a form of consumption activity that is much closer to tourism, is leisurely and detached urban promenading among the crowds, allowing spontaneous perceptual encounters to determine the directions of one's movements and thoughts. Although the expression came from the poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), the philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) is perhaps the preeminent exponent of flâneurism through his writings on walking in Paris (Benjamin 1999). Voyeurism suggests a disengaged onlooker without a commitment to the local environment and thus overlaps with many common tourist practices. At its most benevolent voyeurism is the observation or immersion experience of other cultures in a way that allows one to extricate oneself when the experience becomes uncomfortable or problematic. The observation or experience, though perhaps immersive, allows a relatively easy exit from the situation, unlike the case for members of the local culture. There is a fine line between "authentic," engaged traveling and voyeurism.

Tourism is first and foremost an industry. It is one of the largest modern industries, accounting for hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and is the most significant industry for many countries. According to the World Tourism Association, which became an executing agency of the United Nations Development Programme in 1976, tourism grew from 456 million international travelers in 1990 to more than 700 million in 2002. Tourism appeared as both a word and a phenomenon in the early 1800s in association with increases in the means of transportation brought about by the construction of roads and highways, advances in carriage technology, and the building of the railroads. The current growth in tourism is due largely to the same processes and technologies that drive and constitute globalization and its consequences, including ease and frequency of transport and the growth of information and communications technologies. Economically advantaged people increasingly seek more far-flung and diverse destinations for vacation and pleasure.

The idealized motivation driving some forms of tourism is, as the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana (1863–1952) suggested, that "there is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, it fosters humor" (Santayana 1968, p. 15). Arguably, however, tourism today is much more epistemically ordered even when it takes on authenticity-seeking or adventurous forms.

Varieties of tourism or leisure travel have been distinguished in regard to the authenticity of the experience of other cultures and places (see Boorstin 1961). Dean MacCannell (1999 [1976]) suggests that actual gradations in the search for authenticity resist polar categorizations of tourism as authentic or inauthentic. Rather, destination places, tourist objectives and perceptions, local expectations and dependencies, "staged authenticity" (MacCannell 1999 [1976], title of chapter 5), and the dynamic nature of cultural activities and artifacts render such categories indistinct. The global journeying that through the years has created "backpacker meccas" in places such as Goa (India), Kathmandu (Nepal), and Lamu (Kenya) may seem a more authentic quest for rich cultural experiences in comparison to sheltered resort vacationing (enclave tourism), in which the actual place or culture is insignificant. Authenticity, however, is framed by the tourist's cultural expectations as much as it is a property of the experience of foreign destinations. The "inauthentic," moreover, may involve a relatively benign mutual exploitation or exchange between tourists and locals.

Ethical Issues

The paradox of the authenticity-seeking traveler is that the more tourists vacation in a particular place, the more a tourism infrastructure is developed and the more that place comes to resemble the tourist's home, causing local cultural and environmental deterioration. Pico Iyer (1989) has written about the unusual juxtapositions and hybrids of different cultures one finds across the globe as a result of the forces of globalization and tourism. This paradox creates a dilemma regarding whether to visit a place or to tour at all. The question for anthropologists and environmentalists is whether it is appropriate to visit a fragile culture or a pristine environment when one's visitation contributes to its alteration. Furthermore, as a tourist destination becomes more developed and attracts increasing numbers of visitors, many tourists may look elsewhere for less-traveled destinations. As a consequence they may perpetuate the same cycle, and some overdeveloped areas ultimately may witness a decline in the visits on which their economies depend.

From the perspective of those who welcome the local tourist industry may provide much-needed income and infrastructure development, but the cycle of unmanaged tourism development ultimately places those economic benefits at risk. Although income is generated locally from the industry, the distribution of benefits is uneven, and there may be severe damage to local cultures, other parts of local economies, and the natural environment. Such considerations have generated antitourism and protourism positions, with the former generally concerned with the environmental and cultural impact and the latter with economic development.

Tourism raises specific and clear ethical and cultural concerns in regard to some of its manifestations, for example, sex tourism and reality tourism, with the latter involving poor or oppressed people inviting visitors to observe and experience their living conditions (an example of voyeurism). Opponents of tourism point to increased child labor, greater crime rates, and increased prostitution.

Tourism may contribute indirectly to resource conflicts and tensions with traditional land-use practices in addition to eroded cultural values and commodification of traditional practices. Economically it can lead to increased prices for basic goods for local people and higher costs for infrastructural development, diverting resources from other critical social sectors. Environmentally tourism may lead to the depletion of natural resources and pollution (air pollution, sewage, solid waste) in addition to problems such as coral reef anchoring, trampling, construction and deforestation, and disruption of ecosystem processes. Other common foci of criticism include the large amounts of fuel burned by airliners transporting tourists to and from their destinations, the construction of golf courses in environmentally fragile areas, and the aesthetic pollution of overdevelopment.

Proponents of tourism point to new infrastructure development for residents, greater civic participation, and reinvigoration of cultural traditions in addition to the mutual understanding and respect that may result from cultural exchange. Tourism may contribute to state revenues and foreign exchange earnings, increase employment opportunities, and help local economies grow. Environmentally tourism may contribute to new investments in conservation efforts, lead to regulatory measures and improved management practices, and provide new forms of employment. It also may indirectly involve the development of better technologies for conservation programs through technology transfer and the growth of science-based programs for environmental management.

The distinction between negative and positive effects depends principally on the specific contexts, rendering the prospects of a global management program extremely challenging. Environmental impacts, however, can have a far-ranging effect beyond the particular tourism context. This contributes another dimension to already complex ethical questions of obligations beyond borders, especially in a globalizing era.

The expansion of ecotourism is a major response to such concerns over environmental and cultural degradation and an attempt to invigorate local economies that otherwise are dependent on environmentally unsustainable practices. In some cases such practices are directly related to the tourism industry (for example, deforestation in the Himalayas for wood-fire cooking); in others the practices may be the sole (and sometimes illegal) source of income (such as rain forest logging).

Ideally, the goals of ecotourism are to combine ecological and cultural awareness with sustainable local economies and resource use and preserve local cultural identities and values. Ecotourism may include what is sometimes referred to as "scientific tourism." This form of tourism may range from volunteer fieldwork in the collection of scientific data to tourism accompanied by an ecologically informed guide. The growth of ecotourism in some areas, however, often represents a superficial assuaging of tourists' environmental concerns and expectations rather than an actual advance in conservation practices. Cheating on the ecotourism designation is common in some areas in the form of advertising regular activities, accommodations, or management practices as "eco-friendly" to attract unsuspecting tourists concerned about ecological impact. This has prompted efforts to certify and monitor ecotourism companies. Nevertheless, genuine ecologically benign tourism, even if it is possible, seeks to attract tourists to fragile places, thus re-creating the paradox mentioned above.

More recently these collective considerations have found expression in international forums. The World Tourism Organization (WTO), which is affiliated with the United Nations, has drafted a "Global Code of Ethics for Tourism" (1999). The code consists of ten general principles intended to guide "stakeholders" and supplement the tourist industry's emphasis on the market and private enterprise aspects of tourism. The WTO seeks to encourage "sustainable tourism," encompassing some of the considerations raised above. The United Nations Environmental Programme also attempts to integrate tourism considerations with international agreements such as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

The intersection of facilitating technologies, economics, and culture, along with environmental impacts, generates ethical considerations and dilemmas involving tourism. The new directions of tourism remain to be seen as globalization proceeds. Some places focus on the tourist industry to boost economies whose other industries may be stagnating or nonexistent. However, as a result of the fickle nature of tourism and its potential for the destruction of local environmental and cultural resources there is urgent cause for concern over dependency on tourism, particularly in developing countries. Ecotourism may provide only a temporary answer to economic and ecological realities without a more closely regulated and monitored industry or different global economic arrangements. If tourism is inevitable, perhaps the best option is the development of a global regime of "sustainable tourism." The Kingdom of Bhutan may provide an educative example, as it limits the numbers of visitors per year in the name of sustainable environmental and cultural considerations while trying to sustain economic well-being.

These issues perhaps may be overcome through shared, direct experience of places such as the Nepalese Himalayas, the biodiverse rain forests in Costa Rica, and the coral reefs of the South Pacific or of the peoples of New Guinea, Lapland, and central Africa. Perhaps what is needed is an ethics of tourism that is attentive to character, obligations, equity, and rights so that the benefits of tourism may flourish without doing harm. Perhaps there is also a need for a practical ethics of tourism that can admit that sometimes it is better not to be a tourist at all.


SEE ALSO Benjamin, Walter;Consumerism;Science, Technology, and Society Studeis.


Benjamin, Walter. (1999). The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Boorstin, Daniel J. (1961). The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Harper and Row.

Fussell, Paul. (1980). Abroad: British Literary Traveling between the Wars. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Held, David; Anthony McGrew; David Goldblatt; and Jonathan Perraton. (1999). Global Transformations. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Iyer, Pico. (1989). Video Night in Kathmandu and Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East. New York: Vintage.

MacCannell, Dean. (1999 [1976]). The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Santayana, George. (1968). "The Philosophy of Travel." In The Birth of Reason and Other Essays, ed. Daniel Cory. New York: Columbia University Press.

Smith, Mick, and Rosaleen Duffy. (2003). The Ethics of Tourism Development. New York: Routledge.

Veblen, Thorstein. (1994 [1899]). The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Penguin.

World Tourism Organization. (2002). Tourism Market Trends. Madrid: Author.


World Tourism Organization. (1999). "Global Code of Ethics for Tourism." Available from


views updated May 18 2018


In the closing months of 1819 and into the winter of 1820 readers throughout the United States eagerly awaited installments of a provocative travel narrative by one of America's rising literary stars, Washington Irving (1783–1859). His whimsical and thoughtful mix of travel sketches and short fiction would become the first formidable salvo in a battle for an indigenous literature in the young nation. It was no accident that The Sketch Book, at its core a travel book, would become such a popular and critically acclaimed work of American literature. It tapped into the essential nature of the country, a culture defined by movement. Irving effectively captivated an audience eager both to celebrate its sense of self and to venture out into the broader world.

Americans would be unable to inundate the rest of the world until technological advances meshed with an increasing economic vitality, which allowed a much broader range of Americans to travel in the second half of the nineteenth century. The tourists and travel writers in the two generations following The Sketch Book would nonetheless shape the aesthetic purpose that has since informed American tourism. In the years between 1820 and the Civil War, American tourists, representatives for the most part of the nation's economic and social elite, established the first American identity on the world stage. These tourists were keen to be acknowledged and respected as members of the great hope for a civilized future. If Irving seized on a growing mood of Americans to define themselves as both a part of and apart from the Old World, the growing developments in travel infrastructure began to make such forays possible. Early limitations on travel would be erased at a remarkable rate as steam navigation both on land and sea steadily chipped away at the time, danger, and expense of travel. Until the 1840s, when steam-powered ships began to make regular trips across the Atlantic Ocean in two weeks, the journey to the Old World for Americans demanded at least six weeks in sailing packets. With the advent of steam navigation, the world opened to Americans on a substantially larger scale. No longer wholly subservient to the vagaries of the winds, ocean travel became relatively dependable, and Americans were ready to exploit the new opportunities.

The result of such technological advance was inevitable. By the 1840s the interest in both tourism and travel literature had evolved into an outright phenomenon. In the May 1844 issue of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, for example, Henry Tuckerman notes, "our times might not inaptly be designated as the age of travelling. Its records form no insignificant branch of the literature of the day" (p. 527). The American curiosity about faraway lands combined with the increasing availability of quicker and cheaper transportation, creating a boom in foreign travel. More Americans were physically and economically able to travel abroad, and as the number of commercial and passenger ships sailing the Atlantic Ocean multiplied, so did the number of tourists who could afford to make the trip to the Old World. Christof Wegelin notes that the steadily increasing numbers from 1820 to 1849 exploded by 1860. U.S. citizens returning yearly to Atlantic and Gulf ports, according to Wegelin, fluctuated between just under 2,000 to just over 8,000 in the three decades following 1820, but in 1860 the returning tourists in the four largest Atlantic ports numbered 19,387 (p. 307). With the dramatic technical advances in steam-powered ships, voyages between the continents became commonplace. Tuckerman continues, "steam is annihilating space. . . . The ocean, once a formidable barrier, not to be traversed without long preparation and from urgent necessity, now seems to inspire no more consideration than a goodly lake, admirably adapted to summer excursions" (p. 527). These new tourists not only wanted to test themselves in a foreign context but they also traveled to learn.

In an age of a democratization of knowledge that glorified self-improvement, the burgeoning, literate middle class clamored toward anything perceived as educational. This social quest was intricately intertwined with tourism. The Unitarian clergyman William Ellery Channing (1780–1842) effectively captured the growing mood in his "Self Culture," a lecture first given in Boston in 1838. Channing defined "self culture" as "the care which every man owes to himself, to the unfolding and perfecting of his nature" (p. 354). He insisted that the goal of the American people should be "to fasten on this culture as our Great End, to determine deliberately and solemnly, that we will make the most and best of the powers which God has given us" (p. 371). The time-honored and socially respected art of traveling, in and of itself connoted self-improvement, whether or not tourists actually changed substantially or learned anything. Tourists could always say—once back at home—that they had been there, wherever "there" was, and no matter the nature of the experience, that fact alone could hold sway in any salon discussion or social occasion. Traveling to learn, at least ostensibly, therefore established itself as a valuable part of touristic performance.


Europe offered the strongest lure for American tourists, who sought to understand where they came from in order to know where they were going. The United States had successfully separated itself politically from England, but it had yet to sever the undeniable emotional and intellectual ties to European cultures and institutions. The European travel experience helped these tourists, who were overwhelmingly of European descent, reconcile opposing impulses: to reject the past by concentrating only on an American future or to embrace that legacy and the rich associational identity it fostered. By traveling to Europe, Americans could wander among the accomplishments of their ancestors and celebrate them, all the while affirming their belief through direct comparison that America was a land of the future and Europe of the past.

Washington Irving is the first significant writer to give a resonant voice to this impulse. In the "Author's Account of Himself," the introduction for The Sketch Book, Irving wistfully captures a prevailing and enduring sentiment through the voice of his fictional narrator, Geoffrey Crayon:

But Europe held forth the charms of storied and poetical association. There were to be seen the masterpiece[s] of art, the refinements of highly-cultivated society, the quaint peculiarities of ancient and local custom. My native country was full of youthful promise: Europe was rich in the accumulated treasures of age. Her very ruins told the history of times gone by, and every mouldering stone was a chronicle. I longed to wander over the scenes of renowned achievement—to tread, as it were, in the footsteps of antiquity—to loiter about the ruined castle—to meditate on the falling tower—to escape, in short, from the common-place realities of the present, and lose myself among the shadowy grandeurs of the past. (Pp. 14–15)

Irving makes calculated word choices as he describes the attractions of Europe: "ruins," "times gone by," "mouldering stone," "ruined castle," "falling tower," and "shadowy grandeurs of the past." Taken together, these not-so-subtle associations encouraged readers to view Europe as a culture long past its prime. Irving's tone is that of a romantic dreamer touring a cemetery that is aesthetically charming, perhaps, but marked by death nonetheless. Irving was by no means alone, and subsequent generations of tourists would likewise lose themselves among "shadowy grandeurs," and many would whistle along the way as they echoed his enthusiasm and "youthful promise."


As he had with the American perspective to European charms, Irving reflects a common attitude of nineteenth-century American tourists in relation to the American natural landscape. He writes that "on no country have the charms of nature been more prodigally lavished" and goes on to expound the virtues of those "charms":

Her mighty lakes, like oceans of liquid silver; her mountains, with their bright aerial tints; her valleys, teeming with wild fertility; her tremendous cataracts, thundering in their solitudes; her boundless plains, waving with spontaneous verdure; her broad deep rivers, rolling in solemn silence to the ocean; her trackless forests, where vegetation puts forth all its magnificence; her skies, kindling with the magic of summer clouds and glorious sunshine;—no, never need an American look beyond his own country for the sublime and beautiful of natural scenery. (P. 10)

The energy of this passage serves as a striking contrast with the "shadowy grandeurs of the past" that dominate his romantic musings of Europe. In his description of the natural beauty of America, he highlights the vitality of life—"teeming with wild fertility" and "spontaneous verdure." If American tourists went out into the rest of the world, especially Europe, with insecurities about their cultural and intellectual status, they could at least be highly confident in the potential of the land itself, a continual source of national pride.

Whereas travel writers and readers looked eastward to the past of the Old World, they looked to the interior of North America and westward to their supposed future. If Europe represented the "treasures of age," then the West promised an "image of perpetual juvenescence" (p. 15), according to James Jackson Jarves, author of Scenes and Scenery in the Sandwich Islands (1843). The promise of the New World was embodied most dramatically in the beauty of its natural landscape, which stood in stark opposition to the ruins of the Old World. It was a new Eden of possibilities. One of the most popular travel writers of the century, Bayard Taylor, named the narrative of his journey to the West Coast Eldorado; or, Adventures in the Path of Empire (1850). Tourists could take part in this cultural production with a confident imperialistic tone. The American quest for cultural stability influenced the popularization of travel books on the whole. The slow but steady American conquest of the West, moreover, gave epic significance to any journey through the region. The number of travelers who ventured west, as compared to the number of those who visited Europe, was small, however. The infrastructure for travel to the West was virtually nonexistent in the first half of the nineteenth century, and travel beyond the Mississippi River was reserved for comparatively few. Between 1820 and 1840 most continental tourism focused on travel within the original thirteen colonies. Toward the midpoint of the century, of course, many more tourists embarked on tours farther westward, but travel remained dominated by emigrants and entrepreneurs. The message from these early tourists resonated to readers still hugging the eastern shore.


Americans of the nineteenth century had a powerful need to define their place and identity in relation to, or, more frequently, in opposition to the rest of the world. Many Americans felt a contradiction between wanting to respect the accomplishments of Old World cultures and wanting to debunk them. As is made evident by the quantity of travel books published during the era, American tourists often became obsessed with Europe's past as an object lesson for the idyllic future inherent in the United States. In looking toward the other horizon, tourists to the New World and, by extension, the South Seas, most often sought to define themselves by dismissing the accomplishments and integrity of native cultures, or, in a more benign condescension, viewing them as simplistic and romantically alluring as residents of a new Eden. As self-appointed messengers of a new world order, nineteenth-century American tourists typically patronized the peoples they encountered. As representatives of what they saw as a beneficent civilization on the rise, they provided a strong cultural framework for aggressive late-nineteenth-century political imperialism.

The tourists of the mid-nineteenth century established the dominant cultural perspectives that would continue to define American tourism for generations to come. Although their impact was significant, by 1870 the world of tourism was on the verge of an upheaval that would be driven by the more far-reaching forces of economic and political power weight gained by sheer numbers of tourists. The publication of Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad in 1869 signaled the impending shift to mass tourism and imminent American muscularity. In the concluding pages of his narrative of a highly publicized five-month tour of the Old World, America's first pleasure cruise, Twain noted that he and his fellow tourists "always took care to make it understood that [they] were Americans—Americans!" (p. 645). If the earlier generations of American tourists endeavored to define a young nation, subsequent tourists were increasingly capable of redefining the world.

See alsoAmericans Abroad; Exploration and Discovery; The Innocents Abroad;Nature; Travel Writing


Primary Works

Channing, William Ellery. "Self Culture." In The Works ofWilliam E. Channing, D.D., 4th ed., vol. 2, pp. 347–411. Boston: James Munroe, 1845.

Irving, Washington. The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon,Gent. 1819–1820. Author's rev. ed. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1860.

Jarves, James Jackson. Scenes and Scenery in the SandwichIslands and a Trip through Central America. Boston: James Munroe, 1843.

Tuckerman, Henry T. "The Philosophy of Travel." UnitedStates Magazine and Democratic Review 14 (1844): 527–539.

Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad. 1869. Edited by Shelley Fisher Fishkin. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Secondary Works

Baker, Paul. The Fortunate Pilgrims: Americans in Italy,1800–1860. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964.

Buzard, James. The Beaten Track: European Tourism,Literature, and the Ways to Culture, 1800–1918. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Lueck, Beth L. American Writers and the Picturesque Tour:The Search for National Identity, 1790–1860. New York: Garland, 1997.

Mulvey, Christopher. Anglo-American Landscapes: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Travel Literature. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Perry, Lewis. Boats against the Current: American Culture between Revolution and Modernity, 1820–1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Schriber, Mary Suzanne. Writing Home: American WomenAbroad, 1830–1920. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

Stowe, William W. Going Abroad: European Travel inNineteenth-Century American Culture. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Wegelin, Christof. "The Rise of the International Novel." PMLA 77, no. 3 (1962): 305–310.

Jeffrey Alan Melton


views updated May 21 2018


TOURISM. Food has always been a component of tourism. As a physical necessity and as a prominent arena for expressing creativity and for embodying cultural and individual identity, food has functioned as destination, venue, and vehicle for tourism. As destination, food is the primary experience sought. The preparation, consumption, and even the viewing of a foreign dish gives the tourist a sense of otherness and the exotic. As vehicle, food offers an entry point for viewing another culture. The sensory attributes of food enable consumers to feel a deeper level of experiencing; by ingesting food representing another culture, they can feel that they ingest that culture. As venue, food offers a site from which a culture can be explored. These aspects can be commercial or domestic, public or private, festive or ordinary. Restaurants, festivals, cookbooks, grocery stores, private festive food events, cooking classes, cooking shows, advertising, literature, films, tourism brochures, food tours, and other such sites are physical loci for experiencing tourism. They also offer a tangible, knowable base from which other facets of culturehistory, religion, artistic traditions, customscan be understood and experienced.

Tourism is generally thought of as an activity in which individuals explore a culture that is foreign to them. Valene Smith defines a tourist as "a temporarily leisured person who voluntarily visits a place away from home for the purpose of experiencing a change" (Hosts and Guests, p. 1). The theme of tourism as spiritual and emotional quest appears frequently in scholarly works. Dean MacCannell sees tourism as a modern phenomenon in which tourists are on a quest to recover lost authenticity: it offers a way for modern man to explore the "real life" of others (A New Theory of the Leisure Class, p. 91). Mark Neumann suggests that "tourism is a metaphor for our struggle to make sense of our self and world within a highly differentiated culture" ("Wandering Through the Museum: Experience and Identity in a Spectator Culture," p. 22). Most scholars of tourism now see tourism both as a state of mind in which anything, including the everyday and the local, can be subjected to the "tourist gaze"to borrow John Urry's book titleand as a continuum of types of experiences involving otherness. Erik Cohen offers a typology of tourists based on their concept and concern with authenticity: existential, experimental, experiential, recreational, and diversionary tourists ("Authenticity and Commoditization in Tourism"). Valene Smith, in Going Places, outlines a typology of tourists based on aspects of culture being explored and on the motivations of the tourist: ethnic, cultural, historical, environmental, recreational. Maxine Feifer adds the "post-tourist" who sees tourism as a game and inherently inauthentic in its experiencing of another culture.

Culinary tourism is a theoretical framework for analyzing the role of food in tourism. It refers to the "intentional, exploratory participation in the foodways of an Other." It is voluntary and consciously contains an element of curiositythat is, people eating out of choice, not only physical need.

The term "foodways" involves all the other aspects of food, referring to the network of activities and systemsphysical, social, communicative, cultural, economic, spiritual, and aestheticsurrounding the product itself: procurement, preparation, preservation, presentation, consumption, clean-up, and conceptualization. In this sense, culinary tourism can occur in any aspect of foodways, from purchasing familiar ingredients from a new grocery store to adding exotic ingredients to a familiar recipe. It can also include behaviors connected to thinking and talking about food: collecting recipes, watching televised cooking shows or films incorporating food, conversing about restaurants, reading cookbooks and food columns, reminiscing about food experiences.

The culinary Other is simply anything different from the known and familiar. It can be broken into six overlapping categories. National or cultural identity is the most commonly perceived category and includes "ethnic" foods as well as "foreign" foods. Foods become a cultural Other by being placed in a context in which they are different. Thus, kimchi is standard fare in Korea, but is ethnic and foreign in the United States.

Region is the second category of Other and refers to groupings within a culture, differentiated by geographic location and physical resources. Within the United States, regional foods from areas such as the South (grits, fried chicken, hominy, corn bread), New England (baked beans, lobster, boiled suppers), the Southwest (chili peppers, Mexican-based foods), the Mid-Atlantic states (crab and seafood), and even the Midwest (meatloaf, mashed potatoes); and from specific cities, such as New Orleans (gumbo, jambalaya), Kansas City and Memphis (barbecue), and San Francisco (nouvelle cuisine) are advertised as culinary Others appropriate for tourism.

Time as Other refers to both past and future. Foods from the past are commonly found in museums, reenactment events, and cookbooks, and are used as a way of touring a historical era. Similarly, visions of the future can be translated into foodwaysastronaut foods, freeze-dried ice cream, foods compressed into pills and vitamins. Ethos and religion as Other offer foods representing different or novel worldviews and value systems. Religions specifying food taboos or guidelines, such as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, can be explored as tourism by experiencing their foodways. Vegetarian foodstextured protein, veggie burgers, and foods commonly used in the United States as meat substitutes, such as bean curd and tempehare frequently tried out of curiosity rather than ethical belief.

Socioeconomic class is another category of Other. Gourmet foods, fine wine, and expensive restaurants are associated with the upper class, and individuals can get a taste of that lifestyle through these foodways. Conversely, foods associated with lower classeswhite bread and bologna sandwiches, junk foods, processed "cheese food," opossum meat or roadkill, meager portionscan be tried in order "to see how the other half lives."

Gender represents the final Other. Although strict taboos do not exist in the United States, there are certain foods associated with each gender: women eat salads, "light" foods, poultry and fish, dainty portions; men eat red meat, large portions, hearty foods. By trying the foods associated with another gender, an individual can try out that identity.

Culinary tourism involves three realms or continua of experience: the exotic, the edible, and the palatable. Based on the perceptions of consumers, the exotic ranges from those food experiences that are familiar and commonplace to those that are strange, new, and different. The edible-to-inedible continuum represents concepts of which items are physically, conceptually, and morally possible for ingestion. These concepts are culturally constructed but also draw upon the consumer's personal ethos. Palatable refers to pleasant and satisfying tastes, and represents individual preferences as well as social trends identifying desirable foods and designating their symbolic associations. Since the placement of foods and food experiences within these continua is a matter of perception and experience, this placement can shift over time or place and between individuals. Foods, therefore, that are perceived as appropriate for culinary tourism can become mundane and familiar, and then may be eaten out of hunger or taste preference rather than curiosity. For example, in the United States, foods that were recently touristic but have become standard fare in many American diets include Japanese sushi; Thai noodles with peanut sauce; Chinese chop suey, chow mein, and egg rolls; Mexican tacos and burritos; and Middle Eastern pita. These and other foods range in the extent of their adaptation to American tastes and resources. As these foods become more familiar, those eaters seeking more touristic experiences tend to seek more authenticity and depth of understanding of a foreign cuisine.

Food will be a part of tourism as long as people are curious about the world around them, but both are multivocal and multivalent domains of activity. And it is important to remember that although foodways can offer an entry into another realm of Other, culinary tourism is frequently not as much a window into other cultures as a mirror on our own.

See also Comfort Food ; Gender and Food ; Travel ; United States: Ethnic Cuisines .


Cohen, Erik. "A Phenomenology of Tourist Experiences." Sociology 13 (1979): 179201.

Cohen, Erik. "Authenticity and Commoditization in Tourism." Annals of Tourism Research 15 (1988): 371386.

Feifer, Maxine. Going Places. London: Macmillan, 1985.

Long, Lucy M. "Culinary Tourism: A Folkloristic Perspective on Eating and Otherness." Special Issue of Southern Folklore 55/3 (1998):181204.

Long, Lucy M., ed. Culinary Tourism: Eating and Otherness. Special Issue of Southern Folklore 55/3 (1998).

MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973.

Mintz, Sidney. Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Culture and the Past. Boston: Beacon, 1996.

Neumann, Mark. "Wandering Through the Museum: Experience and Identity in a Spectator Culture." Border/Lines (Summer 1988):1927.

Smith, Valene. Hosts and Guests. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.

Urry, John. The Tourist Gaze. London: Sage, 1990.

Lucy M. Long


views updated Jun 08 2018


When people travel from their place of residence for short periods of time for relaxation or exploration, they engage in tourism. Latin American countries, with their indigenous cultures, archaeological sites, beaches, great biological diversity, and rich histories, draw millions of tourists from all over the world every year, mainly from North America and Europe. Tourism is an important source of income for many Latin American countries as well as of foreign currency for the region, and a driving force behind economic development. The tourism sector not only provides a great number of jobs, it is also a recipient of considerable public and private investment. For example, in Mexico and Argentina tourism represents approximately 10 percent of their GDP and in Mexico it is the fourth largest source of foreign exchange.

Development of tourist services varies greatly from region to region. Mexico and Central America (and Costa Rica in particular) receive approximately 50 percent of the tourists visiting Latin America; the Caribbean (Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba) receives another 30 percent; and South America (Brazil, Argentina, and Chile), 20 percent. In 2004 the Latin American countries most visited were Mexico (20 million tourists), Brazil (4 million), and Argentina (3 million). Despite its natural, cultural, and historical attractions, Latin America still receives a small portion of world tourism: Approximately 10 percent of tourists choose the region as a destination. The sector's growth rates since 2000 have been slightly lower than those of Pacific Asia and the Middle East. The main reasons for these differences lie in the relative distances between travelers' home countries and destinations and in the unequal availability of appropriate infrastructure and equipment.


Modern mass tourism emerged after World War II and has grown at a fast rate since the mid-twentieth century. International tourists numbered 25 million in 1950. The World Tourism Organization (WTO) predicts tourists throughout the world will number about 1 billion by 2010. The determining factors in the rise of mass tourism have been an overall increase in income and free time, the development of the leisure culture, and technological progress in the transportation and communications industries. Technological improvements in transportation shortened traveling distances while the cost of traveling became affordable to a larger percentage of the world population. However, this exponential growth in tourist activity throughout the world has provoked criticism because of harmful effects on the environment, disruption of indigenous communities and their folk traditions, and an excessively commercial bias in the sector's operation. In Latin America these concerns have prompted demands for "responsible tourism" and greater government control.


Mexico is one of the countries most visited by international tourists; in 2004 it ranked eighth in the world tourism sector. After World War II the Pan-American highway was a significant promoter of tourism in Mexico, facilitating travel from the United States to Acapulco on the Pacific. Other important tourist destinations in Mexico include the Aztec ruins at Teotihuacan and the beach resorts on the Yucatan peninsula (Cancun, Playa del Carmen). The work of the great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco and of the painter Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) and the exceptional National Museum of Anthropology of Mexico are of particular cultural interest. Tourism is also significant in Central America, where visitors seek out the ruins of Copán and the coastal city of La Ceiba in Honduras; the Maya ruins of Tikal and the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala; the archaeological site of Tazumal and the beaches of El Salvador; the colonial buildings in the city of Granada and volcanoes in Nicaragua; the rainforests and canal in San José, Costa Rica; and the cultural and musical attractions in Caribbean Panama.

The islands of the Caribbean receive 30 percent of the tourists to the entire region. In the 1970s various governments promoted development of the tourism sector, and in the twenty-first century it represents a significant portion of their gross domestic product. Cuba was one of the pioneering countries in receiving considerable influxes of tourists, mainly from the United States, until the revolution of 1959. In the early twenty-first century the country is visited by tourists from Europe, Latin America, and Canada. Havana (with its unique culture and history) and the beaches of Varadero are its principal attractions. Other frequently visited destinations in the Caribbean are the beaches of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and Aruba, an island in the Lesser Antilles, as well as the beaches of Barbados, Jamaica, and the Bahamas.


Tourism in South America has expanded at a relatively slower rate than in other areas of the continent. Nevertheless, the region's governments have realized the importance of international and national tourism to their nations' economic activity. Two of the three most visited countries in Latin America are Argentina and Brazil. The impressive landscapes of Argentine and Chilean Patagonia, with their large winter sports centers operating from July to September; the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina; and the Iguaçu Falls on the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, are some of the region's attractions. Bogota's Botero Museum, displaying the works of the Colombian painter Fernando Botero (b. 1932), and the Colombian and Venezuelan beaches; Carnival at Rio de Janeiro (one of the biggest in the world); Brazilian beaches and the samba; tango music in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the indigenous culture and handicrafts of Peru, along with the archaeological ruins of Machu Picchu and the world-famous Inca Trail, are some of the reasons why millions of tourists visit South America each year.

As tourist destinations, the countries of Latin America offer a unique opportunity to experience indigenous cultures, the customs inherited from the colonial era, and Latin charm. Tourists can learn about the Aztec, Maya, and Inca indigenous civilizations (located mainly in Mexico and Peru) by viewing archaeological sites; they can also take in the visual riches of the architecture of the colonial era as well as natural landscapes and beaches, serviced by a modern tourist infrastructure. The lively nightlife of the principal cities of Latin America—Bogota, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Santiago de Chile—is also of great appeal to visitors. The region is currently facing the challenge of reducing social inequality and poverty. Appropriate responses to this challenge will do much to increase domestic as well as foreign tourism. All predictions indicate that the tourist industry will continue to grow.

See alsoArchaeology; Art: Pre-Columbian Art of Mesoamerica; Art: Pre-Columbian Art of South America; Art: The Colonial Era; Art: The Nineteenth Century; Art: The Twentieth Century; Art: Folk Art; Travel Literature.


Dahles, Heidi, and Lou Keune, eds. Tourism Development and Local Participation in Latin America. New York: Cognizant Communication Corporation, 2002.

Getino, Octavio. Turismo entre el ocio y el negocio: Identidad cultural y desarrollo económico para América Latina y el Mercosur. Buenos Aires: La Crujía, 2002.

Organización Mundial del Turismo. Compendium of Tourism Statistics. Madrid: World Tourism Organization, 2004.

                                        Vicente Palermo


views updated May 18 2018


For centuries the main reasons for travel to Ireland were religious and political. In the early medieval period students from Britain and continental Europe received educational training at Irish monastic foundations, and sites like Saint Patrick's Purgatory in Lough Derg were European places of pilgrimage. The political travellers followed later in the wake of the Anglo-Norman and Tudor conquests and were generally concerned in their accounts with justifying military takeover and economic expropriation. The defeat of the Jacobite army at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 meant the end to the military threat from the native Irish, and Ireland was perceived in the eighteenth century as a safe country to visit. Improvements in the road system, the introduction of coaches, and the extension of the canal system from Dublin made traveling quicker, more comfortable, and less hazardous. Later in the century, George Taylor and Andrew Skinner's Maps of the Roads of Ireland (1778) and The Compleat Irish Traveller (1778) provided practical assistance to the foreign traveler in Ireland.

The eighteenth century saw the emergence of a form of scenic tourism in Ireland. The interest in the Irish landscape was symptomatic of a much wider romantic attentiveness to remote landscapes, which would be further strengthened in the late eighteenth century by a revival of interest in the Celtic world. This revival was fueled by the instant success of James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of Scotland and Translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language (1760). The Celtic spirit was seen to be closely bound up with the physical setting in which the remaining speakers of Celtic languages lived. The taste for rugged, dramatic landscapes in isolated areas meant that by the 1780s and 1790s, Killarney in the southwest of Ireland had established itself as a popular scenic resort for aristocratic and well-to-do travelers. The United Irish rebellion of 1798, the Great Famine of 1845 to 1851, and the political unrest accompanying the activities of the Land League and the move toward Home Rule and eventual independence did little to favor the growth of tourism to Ireland in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, the dramatic growth in the rail network in the late 1830s did encourage the development of domestic tourism, and the century saw the emergence of notable seaside resorts such as Bray on the east coast and Kilkee on the west coast.

In 1925 the Irish Tourist Association (ITA) was established to promote the development of Irish tourism. The membership of the ITA was made up of hoteliers and prominent business people, but in the early years the association was hampered by a lack of state funding. Under the Tourist Traffic (Development) Act of 1931 the ITA was designated as an official beneficiary of finance at local-government level. In 1939 the Tourist Traffic Act allowed for the creation of an official Irish Tourist Board to provide accommodation and other amenities for visitors to Ireland. The effectiveness of the board was severely constrained by a lack of finance. The absence of adequate funding was related not only to the economic difficulties of the period and the onset of war, but also to a profound reluctance in the Irish body politic to involve the country too heavily in the tourism sector. For the veterans of the Irish War of Independence on both sides of the Treaty divide, but more particularly among members of the governing party, Fianna Fáil, tourism was perceived as a somewhat degrading activity. The connotations of subservience attached to tourism were still too vivid for those who had rebelled against the subordinate role of the Irish under the earlier imperial dispensation.

The 1940s and 1950s witnessed the development of two significant initiatives that would have far-reaching consequences for Irish tourism. First, an agreement signed by the Irish and U.S. governments ensured that all U.S. aircraft in transit over Irish territory would stop at Shannon. The Irish government hoped that such a move would not only bring tourists directly to Ireland's economically depressed western seaboard but also encourage "roots" tourists (i.e., U.S. citizens of Irish extraction) to vacation in Ireland. Second, the U.S. government through its Marshall Plan aid put pressure on the Irish government to be more proactive in the development of the tourist industry. The outcome of what was known as The Christenberry Report, a synthesis of six separate reports produced in Ireland and the United States in 1950, was the establishment of a new board of tourism, Bord Fáilte, under the 1952 Tourist Traffic Act. Though funding did not substantially increase, there was an important change in attitude to tourism: It was increasingly seen as an important factor in economic growth and job creation and as a way of strengthening rather than undermining national identity. One market that was targeted by the new board was the diasporic market, and a decision was made to organize and promote an annual festival of Irish music, dance, and other cultural activities for Irish emigrants returning as visitors, which was known as An Tóstal (The gathering). The festival, which was launched in 1953, was not a success and was discontinued after a number of years. The initiative was premature and emigration was too painful a reality in 1950s Ireland to be a source of celebration.

The passing of eight Tourist Traffic Acts between 1952 and 1970 did point to a new commitment to tourism development in Ireland, with the acts mainly targeting accommodation and other areas of tourist infrastructure. Tourism numbers grew in the 1960s, but Irish tourism received a serious setback with the out-break of political unrest in Northern Ireland beginning in 1968. The violence and the negative publicity particularly affected Ireland's most important source for tourists—Britain. To avoid overdependence on any one single market, Ireland was promoted more aggressively in North America and on the European continent. Overall, in the period from 1960 to 1987 visitor numbers rose from 941,000 to 2 million. As the 1980s saw a sharp downturn in manufacturing employment and an overall decline in agricultural fortunes, it was decided that tourism should be actively promoted as a source of job creation, particularly in less developed regions. The White Paper on Tourism (1985) set out a number of objectives for tourism development, but it was the first Operational Programme for Tourism (1989–1993) and the second Operational Programme for Tourism (1994–1999) that provided specific goals and measures for the sector. In addition, substantial funding was made available through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund. The introduction of airline competition in 1986, the impact of charter liberalization in 1988 and 1989, and the ending of the sea cartel with the privatization of the two major carriers between Ireland and Britain led to greater competitiveness, which made access more affordable for greater numbers of people. The combined effect of these different factors was an unprecedented growth in visitor numbers to Ireland. The rate of tourism growth between 1986 and 1995 was twice the average of other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Between 1988 and 1999 tourist arrivals increased from 2.1 million to approximately 6 million. The foreign-exchange earnings from tourism in the same period rose from 841 million to 2.5 billion Irish pounds.

Rapid growth in tourist numbers and broad changes in Irish society generally pose problems for tourism development in the long run in Ireland. When tourists outnumber the inhabitants, there is not only the danger of saturation, with certain regions receiving an excessive number of tourists (particularly Kerry and Connemara), but locals may become indifferent or even hostile to a presence that is increasingly felt as intrusive. Concerns have been raised about negative environmental impact and the excessive commodification of elements of Irish culture, such as music and dance, for external consumption. Furthermore, the accelerated modernization and enrichment of Ireland at the end of the twentieth century often had negative consequences for certain aspects of Irish culture (friendliness, attitude to time, sense of history) that have traditionally attracted visitors. In an increasingly competitive tourism environment Ireland has to find the right mix between tradition and modernity to remain a preferred tourist destination for the world's travelers.

SEE ALSO Economies of Ireland, North and South, since 1920; Industry since 1920; Marshall Aid; State Enterprise


Deegan, James, and Donal Dineen. Tourism Policy and Performance: The Irish Experience. 1997.

Hadfield, Andrew, and John McVeagh, eds. Strangers to that Land: British Perceptions of Ireland from the Reformation to the Famine. 1994.

Kockel, Ullrich, ed. Culture, Tourism and Development: The Case of Ireland. 1994.

McVeagh, John. Irish Travel Writing: A Bibliography. 1996.

O'Connor, Barbara, and Michael Cronin, eds. Tourism in Ireland: A Critical Analysis. 1993.

Michael Cronin