Literature tourism. Yes, it is a thing.
People enjoy visiting places where they can revive their favorite stories, visit the birth sites or hometowns of their favorite authors, or the places that influenced and inspired authors to write. Literary tourism has a wide range of dimensions.
Bilbo Baggins house at Hobbiton, NZ. Ana Lara (2018)
According to Smith, Macleaod and Hart (2010) literary tourism “is motivated by intrest in an author, a literary creation or setting, or the literary heratige of a destination”. Literary tourism draws from the relationship between writing, place and cultural tourism (Richards and Munsters, 2010). This form of tourism has been a strategy for countries to conserve traditional cultures, to develop new cultural resources and to create a cultural image that can attract and cater for the cultural tourist.
Some countries, and even city councils, have exploited fictional stories to attarct tourism and brand their cities, a clear example can be Woddie Allen´s Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona. Or Midnight in Paris.
Like I said before in a blog entry, Tourism and fictional stories, those written and those developed for the big screen, go well together. Why? Beacuse they are both create a consumable experience.
Even if the place doesn´t exist, tourism can develop a destination to experience those places unreachable if not only imagination. Imagine travelling to El Macondo of Gabriel García Márquez, which funny enough you can, but its real name is Aracataca. Funny fact about this, there was actually an iniciative to rename Aracataca to El Macondo to bring in some tourism revenue! But at the referendum the local inhabitants decided to keep Aracataca as the name. Other places have emerged and were created from the fictional stories which have grown to be a massive tourism influx, like Hobbiton in New Zealand.
Literary tourism brings in tourism revenue to the places and people, but there are other issues to consider. Is literary tourism shaping the ideas and interests of the general public by iconising (imagine that word exists) places? How does that commodification of culture works? Has that lead to an unfair economic empathy around the world? For exmaple, when a sites suffer a tragedy does it prioritises sites that have better marketing strategies? How does literature impacts the economic distribution of wealth to care for especific sites before others?
In the following podcast episode (click here!), Fabian Cuéllar and I discuss some of the issues in regards to literature in the tourism industry and how it has impacted on cultural heritage sites. To read some of Fabians' articles check out his LinkedIn Page!
M. Smith, N. Macleaod and M. Hart (2010) Literary tourism. In Key Concepts in Tourism Studies. London: Sage Publications.
Richards, G., & Munsters, W. (2010). Cultural tourism research methods. Oxfordshire: CAB International, 2010.