Cultural tourism and identities
I was writing this entry when suddenly my mind was overload with so so many facts and things that I want to say and argue! But for now I prefer to keep this entry broad so I can get deeper into each one of the themes more thoroughly in the next posts... Sorry if it sounds like too much; I'll get writing soon enough, so you won't feel like I left you hanging.
So, Molinar (2006) explained that in Cultural Tourism the visitor wishes to experience the set of traits of the culture that it's visiting. Cultural traits are what distinguish cultures and identity, therefore it is sought that the elements that construct the cultural tourism symbolize the local identity and represent the national identity: In the face of the trend of the globalization phenomenon, the need to rediscover and strengthen cultural identity is generated, on the side of receiving cultures, as well as to re-attribute heritage as a factor of unity. And on the side of the visiting groups, there is a renewal for the interest in culture, which has generated new modalities, among them cultural tourism (Toselli, 2003).
Thereby, many communities have entered into a process of awareness about the need and ways to diversify their economy by rediscovering their own resources; finding in their tangible and intangible heritage a potential source of resources to which they attribute the new tourist demands that demand 'authenticity' and 'the return to the origins' (Toselli, 2003).
So here is where my anthropological viewpoint kicks in: how can we still think that there are cultures that stay pristine and immaculated from social and cultural development, and I am not talking about development as a "progress" idea. We need to stop thinking that culture is static, and that it should be preserved behind a concealed glass. Culture is dynamic, it changes over time, and we can register it and research it to understand it (a.k.a. anthropology) in that exact moment in time and history, but we should not try to promote ideas of the noble savage nowadays. Specifically, nations should not comply to the imaginaries that the industry promotes of that country. For example, I do not wear sombreros, sit by the cactus and drink tequila next to my donkey. See? Imaginaries and stereotypes that are definitely not part of neither my cultural heritage nor my countries touristic attractions.
The re-evaluation of culture in tourist terms has worked for tourism marketing, to mark destinations and to generate an identity of a place and a space. Historical and artistic symbols and monumnets now represent cities and even countries in the trustic industry. The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Pyramids of Egypt, Big Ben... All promoting an identity of a touristic place, upholding the qualities of its inhabitants and obviously, enhancing the imaginary about the cultures.
Thus, it is argued that cultural tourism benefits communities by giving value to heritage and promoting and filling communities with pride. At the same time, it generates resources that help to preserve the heritage of the communities, so that the incentive is not only to preserve it, but also comes with the income that benefits them (Molinar 2006). Cultural tourism depends on the management of the heritage of their communities, so it is vital that there is a good functioning of agencies and authorities of different levels that seek to restore and care for the heritage, as well as those who seek a tourist advantage.
That leads to international agencies that brand and mark monuments, places, spaces, cultural manifestations in order to manage and preserve the cultural heritage, which is great, but also leads to corruption in management, social discomfort in touristic places, confronted ideas of the use and manage of heritage in the tourism industry, and obviously: Mass tourism.
Identity then is sold as commodity in the tourism industry, and even though some communities are happy to indulge this, some other think differently. Keep tuned for the next entries, we are getting into complexities and discussions ;)
By the way, there is an excellent documentary on Cannibal Tours that I highly recommend!! check out our Social Media for the links and recommendations to get you to #reflectabit more in this matter.