Challenges in Tourism Research

Challenges in Tourism Research

by Tej Vir Singh (Editor)


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781845415327
Publisher: Channel View Publications
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Series: Aspects of Tourism Series , #70
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Tej Vir Singh is Director and Professor at the Centre for Tourism and Development, Lucknow, India. His main research interests are impact studies, tourism geography, education and mountain tourism. He is Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Tourism Recreation Research and has worked in the field for over 40 years. He was the winner of the 2013 UNWTO Ulysses Prize.

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Challenges in Tourism Research

By Tej Vir Singh

Multilingual Matters

Copyright © 2015 Tej Vir Singh and the authors of individual chapters
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84541-535-8


I Am a Traveller, You Are a Visitor, They Are Tourists But Who Are Post-Tourists?

Scott McCabe, David Dunn and Natan Uriely


Perhaps an alternative title for this chapter could have been, 'what is the contribution of post-modern thinking to our understanding of tourist experience?' Tourists are all around us, both in the physical sense as the statisticians of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) continually allude to resilient growth in international tourism, and in the world of representation, the media and the internet, increasingly so in online social networks. Yet, has 40 years of theorizing about the nature of tourist experience led to any deeper understanding about the meaning of tourism and travel for people? Has post-modern theorizing led to a more complete understanding of the relationships between types of tourist experiences to cultural life and social change? The articles in this chapter try to address these essential questions.

In essence, the three articles highlight three distinct approaches to understanding the nature of tourist experience in the context of the post-tourist and the debates concerning post-modern tourism. Scott McCabe argues that role theory has the power to relate how travel is intertwined with our sense of identity. David Dunn focuses on media representations to show how aspects of the post-modern inflect media portrayals of places or destinations. Natan Uriely defends the contribution of post-modern thinking through the applied use of phenomenological methodologies. The articles in this chapter highlight that the concept of the post-tourist, while compelling and reflective of aspects of the ironic, dedifferentiated and pluralistic plasticity of the contemporary experience, has only partial value as an explanatory construct. Yet there are signs that we are moving towards a better understanding of the meaning of tourist experiences, which are outlined in the following texts.


Are We All Post-Tourists Now? Tourist Categories, Identities and Post-Modernity

Scott McCabe

What's in a name? The answer of course is quite important when the name in question represents a human action that has some significance for a person's identity. In such cases the name attached to the activity takes on a different quality of meaning. Names become invested with characteristics and emotions, entitlements and duties, norms and expectations, rendering them with a transformative and expressive set of functions. Therefore, social scientists assess the significance of categories of social actions such as 'tourist', 'visitor' or 'traveller' for such distinctive features, qualities and meanings, both to users themselves and for their potential to inform debates about social or market trends, and their consequences.

A different meaning is attached to the name 'post-tourist' however, since this is not a lay sociological construct but a theoretical/analytical category. But to what extent does the concept of a post-tourist offer social science an alternative or productive lens through which to theorize categorizations of tourist actions or experiences? This chapter aims to address the concept of post-tourist as an analytical category, first through a discussion of tourist typologies and then through a consideration of tourist roles to assess the applicability of this construct in tourism social science.

Tourist Typologies

The debate concerning typologies of tourist and the nature of tourist experience has an enduring quality. Each new book launched on an ever-more esoteric type of tourism – 'slow' tourism, 'ski' tourism, 'tea' tourism – is likely to elicit debate about the extent and meaningfulness of any distinction between different types and forms of tourist experience. The reason for this opprobrium presumably being that a focus on typologies is misdirected at the expense of understanding the meanings attached to tourist experiences.

A tendency towards business and management issues in tourism studies has perhaps led to a conflation between categorical thinking and categorizing behaviour. Typologies of tourist experience proliferate perhaps without getting any closer to understanding what travel means to people or to understanding how travel tastes and behaviour help explain structural change within societies, the overarching aim of sociological theorizing. As Urry argued, the study of the tourist '... presupposes a system of social activities and signs which locate the particular tourist practices, not in terms of some intrinsic characteristics, but through the contrasts implied with non-tourist social practices, particularly those based within home and paid work' (Urry & Larsen, 2011: 3). However, tourism and tourist's experiences have been transformed by the global processes of modernity into such a huge variety of forms that meanings are difficult to disentangle. This has surely been the consequence of the post-modern dream turned into lurid reality?

If a consequence of post-modern thinking is a rejection of grand narratives in favour of pluralism, an abandonment of scientific reasoning for relativism, a breaking down of the barriers separating forms of high and low culture (Ritzer & Liska, 1997), a collapsing of space–time to bring other cultures from distant places and situations into the everyday realm (Baumann, 2000), a de-differentiation between the meanings attached to activities of everyday life and extraordinary events (Uriely, 2005), then how are we to generate coherent overarching theories about the meaning of categories of touristic actions and activities? Each type of tourist/traveller becomes equally applicable as a descriptor of some kind of activity, without necessarily moving forward the debates about tourism's significance to social life. This creates a tension in theorizing, since such thinking seems antithetical to progress in theory development.

However, the tourist all the same has become a perfect symbol of post-modernity. Technology (chiefly internet technology) has driven transformations in communication and, importantly for tourism, how we understand and relate to different people, places and to ourselves, de-exoticizing and demythologizing others so that we can better understand ourselves. Technological progress has accelerated the pace of change, such that transformations heralded within the last generation (25–30 years) have become hyper-inflated. It is now difficult to imagine a world that is unknowable or to understand the challenges faced by tourists of the mid-1980s, who mostly did not own mobile (cell) phones, and relied on the knowledge and expertise of tourism industry representatives to provide information and deliver tourist experiences.

In those days, there were observable differences between tourists, travellers and visitors, both quantifiably (as a factor of time spent, distance travelled, crossing international borders and so on (Smith, 1995)) and qualitatively (as a factor of type and nature of institutional contact with the tourism industry and so on (Cohen, 1979)). Similarly, the way in which tourist experiences are represented through the media has changed beyond recognition. The authoritative voice of the travel writer or TV presenter has been replaced by a multitude of voices, a privileging of the 'ordinary' persons view on reality TV shows and the internet through blogs, thus conflating the distinctions between class and taste that conventionally marked the differences between tourists and travellers (Dunn, 2006).

This does provide a conundrum for tourism social scientists. Early social theorists criticized the lack of nuance in conceptualizations of tourists who seemed one-dimensional, and a failure to recognize the complexity of observed experiences (Uriely et al., 2002; McCabe, 2002). Yet the expansion of types of categorizations of tourist activity has not resulted in more meaningful typologies. Recent theorizing in the mobilities paradigm (Urry & Sheller, 2004) has widened the scope of social science theorizing about travel and its meanings, but also blurred the significance of tourism activity among a broad range of other types of travel/movement, making theory development in tourism more problematic. Furthermore, most of the theorization and empirical research that have attempted to understand tourist experiences has been undertaken from a top-down, researcher-driven perspective, such that few taxonomies of tourists exist (members own classifications).

Of course, this is not so easy, as many studies have revealed how the construct 'tourist' is overwhelmingly pejorative, whereas the 'traveller' construct is a more positive and morally superior identity concept (McCabe, 2005). Thus many researchers have established that, when called to account for their actions, people tend to frame them in a positive sense. If asked to explain and justify their positionality, interview subjects are reluctant to ascribe themselves as a tourist, when more morally neutral concepts, such as visitor, or positive role models, such as traveller, are available. This tendency would be a potentially fruitful area for research, which has not been taken up by social scientists, in favour of further descriptions of increasingly diverse types of experiences.

It is not only conceptualizations of tourists that have become more blurred; actual tourist behaviour has changed such a great deal in the last quarter century too. Tourists tended to be more visible because clothes, equipment, such as cameras, and actions often within an organized tour made them visible, distinct from locals and other inhabitants of tourist spaces. Nowadays, we all carry cameras on our mobile phones, engage in leisure practices in workaday spaces and in some situations it is not possible to distinguish tourists from other categories of people. Furthermore, a generation ago it was relatively clear what constituted tourist space, but new developments in cities, towns and resorts most often incorporate 'mixed' use (offices, leisure, retail and event space) activities, particularly in the post-industrial developed world (Bianchi, 2000), further blurring the identification of tourist spaces and practices. Flexible working practices can offer people the opportunity to work remotely, some live permanently in tourist resorts so that work and leisure practices can appear less distinct.

The consequence of post-modernity for tourism social science has been a rejection of the traditional binary, oppositional dualisms: host–guest; tourist–traveller; familiar–strange; home–away. But the problem is that we have little theory to replace them. While these dualisms provided researchers with polarized frames of reference to construct or contrast forms of tourist experience, the void that has been left in the wake of the post-modern turn to relativism, has stifled rather than encouraged deeper theorization about the meaning of tourist experience. We are all post-tourists now, but what has been the impact on the search for self and meaning from travel? Do these concerns no longer matter for tourists? In order to provide some answers to these questions, it is useful at this point to define and deconstruct the concept of a post-tourist.

Who is a Post-Tourist?

The idea of the post-tourist was first introduced by Feifer (1985) almost 30 years ago, which makes it particularly germane to consider the legacy now. It is also important to note first that Feifer's treatise is a historical romp through the development of tourist culture in the eyes of an apocryphal tourist, with the aim of uncovering the nature and meaning of the tourist experience. As such the post-tourist section marks a postscript to the book. Feifer recognizes that, in fact, people have travelled throughout history, simply in different ways, in different numbers and for different reasons. She surmises that as epochs rise and fall, the tourist goes around in circles. In different eras of history, matters of taste, fashion and desires have shaped the ways in which people have viewed the world and determined which destinations and aspects of culture should be appreciated. The chapter on the post-tourist is in fact an auto-ethnography of Feifer's own trip to Paris in 1984, and written against a backdrop of fear of the consequences of Orwellian mass society. But the trip and her experience represent methods that tourists employ to reconcile their own desires for authentic travel with their realization of the unattainability of really 'knowing' the world authentically, epitomized by the post-modern condition.

Interestingly, although anti-tourist sentiments have been evident throughout different epochs (since travel is umbilically connected to matters of social class), Feifer notes that the oil crisis of 1974, which led to a temporary cessation in the expansion of mass tourism, also spawned the most recent radical and bitter critique of the tourist as symbol of 'modernity', 'Profligate, pollutant, voyeur' (Feifer, 1985: 257). Yet, this did nothing to halt the relentless demand for tourism: 'The quest for romantic exotica is still alive, too, with all its attendant illusions and well-meaning blunders – disruption of the unique and fragile scene that is its object being the major one' (Feifer, 1985: 260). The post-tourist however, is characterized by a change of direction. She is more self-confident and assured, able to reject the interventions of the tourism industry, has a concern for the contemporary and the quotidian, and shows a consciousness of the absence of a universally-held world view. Confronted with this dialectic, in a particularly ironic moment, Feifer's apocryphal tourist 'Mabel', having travelled the world, is asked by her critical nephew, 'how was the world, Aunt Mabel?', to which she replies, 'Very nice, except for some plumbing problems' (1985: 256). Mabel is confounded by the fact that her view of her experiences could be rejected or challenged by anyone. And it is this that drives post-tourists to seek 'the old strangeness in the new normality' (Clive James, Sunday Times, 29 July 1984, cited in Feifer: 1985: 260).

Assuming the role of the post-tourist, Feifer takes pleasure from her trip to the Eiffel Tower, the most typically touristic attraction in the world, built purposefully to cater for mass visitors, where she buys some kitsch earrings in the gift shop. Feifer interviews tourists on the way, overhears conversations and enjoys the surface textures of the visit alongside all the other tourists. Yet simultaneously, Feifer is reading Barthes' essay on the Eiffel Tower and cites de Maupassant (who liked to eat there because it was the only place in Paris where one didn't have to look at it), Cocteau and Utrillo, she is clearly able to appreciate the context and experience in a multilayered, intelligent and rich sense. Thus, Feifer revels in the high contrasts afforded by her 'random' selection of Parisian sights, the mixture of the everyday (shopping streets, local bus transport), the typically touristy coffee and croissants (although Feifer lived in France at the time of writing, she rarely ate them), berating herself for falling for the overpriced meal in a gilded, well-known restaurant, describing the glossy soft-porn posters adorning shabby shop fronts, redolent of the city's history as a centre for the exotic erotic. It is perhaps little wonder that the idea of the post-tourist has relevance to our knowledge of tourist experience in the contemporary sense, because Feifer's description seems so closely to resemble how we think about tourist experience today.

Urry, for example, interprets the concept of the post-tourist as being characterized by three features. The post-tourist does not have to leave the house to experience exotic and faraway places; they can use the TV and other media to see the typical objects of the tourist gaze. (This was almost prescient of Feifer, since her work predates the widespread adoption of mobile and internet technology.) This is a crucial aspect of post-modernism in tourism, a preoccupation with what is available through screens, an awareness of the inauthenticity of experience that is subject to the representation of the media, and yet a willingness on the part of viewers to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves in the confection of a tourist gaze. Urry and Larsen (2011) argue that most people are tourists most of the time, either literally or through the experience of 'simulated mobility' afforded by multiple signs and electronic images (2012: 113).

The second feature of the post-tourist is an awareness of their own agency in constructing and interpreting their tourist experiences and the roles that they adopt in performing them. Feifer claims that the post-tourist knowingly subverts and resists prescribed roles of high and low culture, and can easily shift between an interest in deeply authentic and purely hedonic experiences. The post-tourist willingly and playfully engages in the constructed tourist experience, and appreciates it on a number of different levels. This type of thinking was pre-empted by Gottleib (1982) and Lett (1983), whose analyses demonstrated how American tourists chose types of holiday experiences that provided them with opportunities to reaffirm or contradict their everyday roles or social identities.


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Table of Contents

Erik Cohen: ForewordTej Vir Singh: PrefaceTej Vir Singh: Introduction1. I am a Traveller, You are a Visitor, They are Tourists; ‘But who are Post-tourists’? 1.1 Scott McCabe: Are We all Post-tourists now? Tourist Categories, Identity and Postmodernity1.2 David Dunn: Those People were a Kind of Solution: Post-Tourists and Grand Narratives 1.3 Natan Uriely: Exploring the Post-Tourist: Guidelines for Future Research2. Is Tourist a Secular Pilgrim or a Hedonist in Search of Pleasure? 2.1 Dan Knox and Kevin Hannam: The Secular Pilgrim: Are We Flogging a Dead Metaphor? 2.2 Peter Jan Margry: Whisky and Pilgrimage: Clearing Up Commonalities2.3 Noel B. Salazar: To Be or Not to Be a Tourist: The Role of Concept-Metaphors in Tourism Studies3. Do Tourists Travel for the Discovery of ‘Self’ or to Search for the ‘Other’? 3.1 Gianna Moscardo: A Journey in Search of Self and the ‘Other’? 3.2 Graham Dann: The Quest for the Self or the ‘Other’ as Motivation for Travel: Simple Choice or Spoiled for Choice? 3.3 Bob McKercher: Tourism: The Quest for the Selfish 4. Is Volunteerism a New Avatar of Travelism? 4.1 Stephen Wearing, Simone Grabowski and Jennie Small: Volunteer Tourism: Return of the Traveller4.2 Kevin Lyons: Reciprocity in Volunteer Tourism and Travelism4.3 Daniel Guttentag: Volunteer Tourism: Insights from the Past, Concerns about the Present and Questions for the Future4.4 Alexandra Coghlan: Volunteer Tourism: A New Narrative between Hosts and Guests5. Tourism’s Invulnerability: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics5.1 Julio Aramberri: Is Tourism Vulnerable? 5.2 Richard Sharpley: Tourism and Vulnerability: A Case of Pessimism? 5.3 Carson L. Jenkins: Is Tourism Vulnerable? An Ambiguous Question6. Vanishing Peripheries: Does Tourism Consume Places? 6.1 C. M. Hall: Elaborating Core–Periphery Relations in Tourism 6.2 David Harrison: Vanishing Peripheries and Shifting Centres: Structural Certainties or Negotiated Ambiguities? 6.3 David Weaver: Moving in from the Margins: Experiential Consumption and the Pleasure Core 6.4 Geoffrey Wall: Tourism in Peripheries7. Tourism is More Sinned Against than Sinning7.1 Richard Sharpley: In Defence of Tourism7.2 Noel Scott: Original Sin: A Lack of (Tourism) Knowledge7.3 Jim Macbeth: Tourism: The Good, the Bad and the Sinner? 7.4 Peter Smith: In Defence of Tourism: A Re-assessment 8. Is Concept of Sustainability Utopian? Ideally Perfect but Hard to Practice8.1 Stephen McCool: Sustainable Tourism: Guiding Fiction, Social Trap or Path to Resilience? 8.2 Richard Butler: Sustainable Tourism – The Undefinable and Unachievable Pursued by the Unrealistic? 8.3 Ralf Buckley: Tourism and the Sustainability of Human Societies 8.4 David Weaver: Whither Sustainable Tourism? But First, a Good Hard Look in the Mirror 8.5 Brian Wheeller: Sustainable Tourism: Milestone or Millstone? 9. What is Wrong with the Concept of Carrying Capacity? 9.1 Ralf Buckley: Tourism Capacity Concepts9.2 Sagar Singh: A Twist in the Tale of Carrying Capacity: Towards a Formula for Sustainable Tourism? 9.3 Gene Brothers: Tragedy of the Tourism Commons: A Need for Carrying Capacities9.4 Simon McArthur: Why Carrying Capacity Should be a Last Resort? 10. Knowledge Management in Tourism: Are the Stakeholders Research-Averse?10.1 Chris Cooper: Transferring Tourism Knowledge – A Challenge for Tourism Educators and Researchers10.2 Lisa Ruhanen: Transferring Tourism Knowledge: Research on Climate Change and Sustainability10.3 Noel Scott: A Market Approach to Tourism Knowledge11. Tourism for Whom? – The Unmet Challenge11.1 Richard Butler: What has Tourism Ever Done for Us? 11.2 C. M. Hall: What has Tourism Ever Done for Us? Depends Where You’re Looking from and Who’s Looking 11.3 Geoffrey Wall: Tourism has Done a Lot for Us, for Both Good and Ill11.4 John Swarbrooke: Are we going to Use Tourism or to be Used by Tourism? Index

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