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  • Date Submitted: 05/09/2010 05:13 AM
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Article # 2

Nine Quandaries of Tourism
Artificial Authenticity and Beyond
By Cheryl Shanks

International tourism presents itself as straightforward, passive and benign, yet it is complex, interesting and important, full of contradictions and depths. Tourism is the world’s largest export, yet it is ephemeral, produced within an encounter, usually fleeting, between host and guest. It has enormous growth potential; almost every country desires an expansion in this sector. Yet whether and how to grow is not nearly as straightforward as one might hope. Because each tourist and each native brings along a unique jumble of expectations, knowledge, power, and aspirations, multiplying tourist encounters transforms the tourist and the native, and can permanently alter the social and political contexts in which they live. When these personal encounters increase in number, they have extensive and complicated consequences for cultures, natural environments, and politics as well as local and international economies.

When people who are so different—who believe they are so different, as we do not go to visit ourselves—brush up against each other, they exchange more than cash. Tourism always contains a message: this is what we value, this is what we don’t. Tourists come to see some things and not others; they vote with their money but also with their feet and their eyes and ears. Local people look back, and change as a result. Natural sites and ceremonies change in response to the presence of tourists.

Studies of tourism often describe contradiction. Men who dress as native warriors at work go home to microwaves and VCRs. Before television news interviews, Amazonian Indians dress in body paint and feathers, a costume they have never before even seen, to increase their aura of authenticity. Twists and contradictions operate both within and between the areas usually marked out as disciplinary property. In studying a tourist encounter, we can integrate information about...


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