- Seemingly Distant yet Deeply Connected:Tourism and Its Opposites
Two recently published books—one a coauthored volume, the other an edited collection of essays—identify tourism as an activity fraught by complex connections. In Reclaiming Travel, Ilan Stavans and Joshua Ellison scrutinize the relationship between travel and tourism. Tourism, it is argued, has become standardized, formulaic, and prepackaged, while travel offers a more independent way to find and fashion the self. Stavans and Ellison believe that there is a need to recapture the potential of travel as a rewarding endeavor that departs significantly from the structured itineraries, rampant consumerism, and herd mentality of organized tourism. Throughout Reclaiming Travel, the authors deftly make connections between present-day mass mobility and subjects as diverse as self-transformation, map use, globalization, work, photography, and (in)authenticity. These connections would probably not be a surprise to many, especially those who read about travel or keenly observe the manner in which their own trips unfold. However, Stavans and Ellison also explore unanticipated relationships such as those that connect travel and tourism with exile and nationalism. The relationship that receives the most attention from Stavans and Ellison, and it is repeatedly revisited, is the one that exists—or, rather, is not thought to exist—between travel and tourism. Travel and tourism involve physical displacement but, for these authors, share few other similarities. Stavans and Ellison address the absence of a connection by analyzing connections between modern-day mobility and society.
Tourism and Violence, edited by Hazel Andrews, makes a foray into domains that expose unexpected—and quite often disturbing—connections. A seemingly innocuous activity such as tourism can become interwoven with [End Page 793] unsavory acts, past and present. War and tourism, for example, have become intertwined in various ways. Sites associated with armed conflict have become tourist attractions—for example, Pearl Harbor in Hawai‘i.1 Ground Zero in New York City, a place where coordinated terrorist attacks caused several thousand deaths and that came to symbolize the need for a military response, became a magnet for visitors coming to see a dramatically altered cityscape or who sought a connection with deceased family members or friends.2 The book describes, analyzes, and ties together processes and activities that are commonly seen as conceptually distant from one another.
The works under review contribute to continued efforts to overcome the belief that tourism is a trivial activity and a marginal field of academic inquiry. Tourism can provide a useful vehicle for the study of separation and connection. Quite often set apart in time and space, tourism is simultaneously tied to broader societal issues such as environmental degradation and economic development.3 The pleasures of tourism—the escape and frivolity—involve work for others.4 Tourism that promises a departure from rules and convention never seems that far removed from institutions that impose precepts to be observed or market-based structures.5 Binary oppositions tend to blur when one studies tourism.
In Reclaiming Travel, Stavans and Ellison offer a provocative and far-reaching exploration of mobility. They see travel as an intrepid act and a way to achieve profound self-enrichment. In contrast, tourism is portrayed as offering temporary, mass-produced hedonism that often symbolizes the excesses of the free enterprise system. Taking and sharing photographs have become an important aspect of tourism to the point that many of today’s tourists, according to Stavans and Ellison, experience their trip through portable, multiple-purpose devices equipped with cameras. Tourism reflects certain ways to select and frame places that concern the authors. They associate tourism with a passive type of seeing, one strikingly disconnected from the types of creative acts that offer self-realization. Thus, travel needs to be reclaimed; it deserves attention and support because of its capacity to offer sublime experiences. The opposite of travel is tourism, an endeavor viewed as entirely predictable and often meticulously staged.
Significant changes in the nineteenth century, including the development of the package...