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Sociology and Tourism - Group 3

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    Tourism is progressively becoming a norm in varying societies. In different communities, tourism is  viewed as a routine activity as many individuals as well as families have made it a tradition to get away from their place of residence or dwelling once in awhile to a destination either for pleasure or business purposes. Therefore,  Sociology in tourism is an important discipline to be considered when shedding light on the tourism sector and how it affects different societies around the globe. 

    Sociology is a term which is emanated from the Latin word ‘socius’ meaning a companion and the Greek word ‘logos’ meaning a the ‘study of ‘thus Sociology literally means the study of the process of companionship (Holden, 2005 as cited Mcleish, 1993). Auguste Comte was penned as the first individual who sort to pursuit the comprehension of the society from the philosophical point of view to a scientific ground. It is recorded that Auguste Comte’s interests lied with concern of corroborating a steady knowledge of the behaviours of humans that could go as far to contribute to the improvement of social welfare (Holden, 2005 as cited Giddens, 2011). Sociology plays a major role in tourism;“The sociology of tourism is an emergent specialty concerned with the study of touristic motivations, roles, relationships, and institutions and of their impact on tourists and on the societies who receive them”(Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 10,1984, pp. 373-392).  The sociology of tourism, studies the rapport that the tourism industry has with the society and also how they communicate with each other.



    Sociology in tourism enables us to understand the attitudes and behaviours of tourists in order to improve their lives or to attain quality of live.  When we are appreciative of the values of different cultures, different people and different countries, we tend to treat them better and perhaps not underestimate or look down on them. Sociology in tourism also empowers the tourism industry to research on solutions that can curb societal problems and bring a lasting way of living to the society through tourism and this is done by critically analysing the impacts that the tourism industry brings to the society and using active mechanisms to solve these problems.


    Fundamental areas in the sociology of tourism

    Within the sociology of tourism, there are fundamental subjects that make this discipline. The tourist, relations between the tourists and local people, the structure and functioning of the tourism system and the consequences and impacts of tourism (Holden, 2005).

    The tourist: According to Cooper, tourists represent a heterogeneous group of people who have diverse personalities, experiences and demographics (Cooper, 2012). Tourists can also be classified under their length of stay, type of trip, the type of destination and the type of activities (Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 10 (1984), pp. 373-392). The tourists show their how different they are in terms of culture, language and affluence (Cooper, 2012). The tourists are mainly viewed as the consumers of the end product of tourism and they play an essential role in the tourism system. Tourists demands can be based on many factors of choice, for example a tourist's interests in a particular area can become a push-factor as well as a tourist's disposable income.

    The tourists and Local people: The tourists and the locals or otherwise termed as the guests and hosts develop an encounter. When they meet each other, different behaviours as well as expectations develop which goes on to change the array of both societies (Cooper, 2012). At the destination, an exchange of values, thoughts, emotions evolve between these two actors of tourism and both are however infleunced by the another in terms of language, heritige and perhaps style.  

    The structure and functioning of the tourism system: Tourism is positioned in the context of an array of external environments such as the society, economies and politics and it functions based on the influence of these environments (Cooper, 2012). There are various stakeholders in the tourism industry and each are capable of shaping the tourism industry in a distinct way.

    The impacts of tourism: Tourism impacts centres mainly around the tourism destination or the host community. However, it also captures attention on the tourist generating region. Tourism affects the society in many different ways, from environmental effects to cutural effects, it is visible that tourism impacts heavily on the society. 

    Theories of Sociology

    The theoretical perspectives are a combination of the basic conclusions about the functions of a society, it is different ways the sociologist sees how the society is changing and how best to use a specific theory in the research. Therefore, there are several theories associated with the discipline of Sociology.

    The  structuralism theory focuses on the evaluation of the structures of the society by investigating the consequences upon behaviours. Structuralism studies how societies coordinate with each other and how they influence our behaviour consecutively, that is, an individual’s behaviour can be viewed as being guarded by the rules of the society (Holden, 2005 cited Sharpley, 1999). Due to Structuralism’s broad perspective, two sub theories emerge.

    Functionalism: The functionalism theory views the society as a complex system whose distinct components work together to create stability and solidarity (Holden, 2005 cited Giddens, 2001). Functionalism perceives the society as many different social parts for example, family, religion, education and government, that work together in order to make the society as a whole. These need to be hand in hand to make the tourism business flow. These two theories work together to make stability in the world, because a society construct a structural frame which make functions it is profitable for the society.

    Conflict theory: While Conflict theory also places emphasis on the relevance of the structures of the society it disagrees with the concern on consensus. Conflict theory is a dominant approach and this focuses on the issues and differences of the society. It perceives the society as an equipment of different people that content for the same power, resources and so on. Within the Conflict theory there is power struggle as there are concerns over the influence and authority of transitional tourism organisations in countries that are less developed (Holden, 2005). Karl Max is associated with the conflict theory and argued that the conflicts and perhaps interests of the society is as a result of the differences that exist in wealth distribution and power allocation (Holden 2005).

    Phenomenology: Phenomenology views the knowledge and comprehension of the world in a different perspective. It places its study of the social world as being fundamentally diverse to the natural world. The centre of interest of the phenomenology theory is humans interpret and give meaning to (Holden, 2005 cited Harvey et al, 2000). Some sociological theories however, have a direct application to recognising how tourism is influenced by the society.

    Employment and alienation: An enormous part of sociologists are interested in the influences that job and employment has on the society. The evolution of the industrial revolution meant that people needed to move to where the industries and employments were located (Holden, 2005). Around the nineteenth century, workers had less control over their work through the processes of capitalisation and industrialisation. Due to worker’s loss of power, autonomy, ownership and control of the goods they produce it lead to "alienation" which was unsatisfying for those who were employed. Therefore, self-interests became the focus rather than addressing the concerns of a wider social group (Holden, 2005). Employment is a significant part of many people's lives, thus it is important that it entreats fulfilment and the work people have would affect other aspects of their lives.
If an individual is not content with their workplace, it becomes effortless to want to go away to another place. Thus this is where tourism comes into the scope of social science. The tourism industry provides a quick and easy solution and many western countries can afford to travel due to income generated from employment (Holden, 2005).

    The blasé and anomie: This is about how urbanization go hand in hand and affects society. Many work abled people moved to the larger cities to where they could be offered employment and others moved another to find a wider variety of goods and services. This in turn led to changes in attitudes due to an over-stimulation because of the complexity and diversity to live in urban areas. This is known as “blasé” (Holden, 2005). It became a problem to live the modern life when one had to face the overwhelming social forces and this affected upon the individual as it shaped people into an acceptance of behaviour and norms. This shaped people in different “groups”, with each group being bounded together by a common experience and lifestyle. This can, however, be applied to today's lifestyle, with different "groups" for example being led to disparities in employment.

    Commodification and semiotics: We can perceive tourism to be a commodity of consumption because of the fact that tourism is bought and sold in the market and for Watson and Kopachevsky (1996), the finest way to comprehend this aspect is by viewing tourism in the context of contemporary culture (Holden, 2005).

    Social exclusion and marginalisation: Tourism is becoming a sector that is recognisable as important and, a major component of many developed societies, therefore, luxury experience has turned into an expected experience instead. Not being able to go on vacation may mean a lack of involvement or participation in the actual lifestyle of the society due to differences in class, race or sexuality (Holden, 2005).


    Limitations of travel

    Inadequacy of income: The inadequacy or insufficiency of available income has affected the flow of participation in tourism and purchasing tourism travel has become hard due to the absence of disposable income (Holden, 2005). The scarcity of disposable income means that most people will find it hard to participate in tourism. Differences however may exist between various countries as most developing countries may will be affected the most by this particular barrier. There may also exist strong differences based on social classes depending on the structure of a country. Smith and Hughes (1999) discovered that families in the North of England who were economically disadvantaged felt reluctant and perhaps did not feel comfortable when going on vacation (Holden, 2005)


    Racism: Apart from the lack of disposable income for travel, animosity and discrimination of minority groups also evolved in the tourism sector, causing a major disadvantage for the tourism industry. Many people avoided to travel to certain areas due to the presence of racism or stereotypes and this somehow made others not want to travel at all (Holden, 2005). A recent example of is evident with the events of 9/11 in 2001 when alleged attackers hijacked two commercial aircrafts and crushing them into the twin towers in New York. The aftermath of that incident saw many people becoming very aware and somewhat critical against Muslim people because they viewed them as suspicious. It is evident that racism in recent times has been the concern of many when choosing to travel.


    Homophobia: Another group who is normally discriminated and whom involvement in tourism may be restricted is homosexual or gay people. Even though the tourism industry has taken some initiatives to engage gay people in some activities of tourism due to their high status in terms of available income, their destinations choices however is limited by cultural and social bigotry (Holden, 2005). Perhaps the most important factor to consider for some homosexuals when choosing a destination is a place they can be themselves without having fear of being discriminated upon. For example, Amsterdam is hailed as the gay capital of Europe (Holden, 2005 as cited Hughes, 1998). However, not all destinations are content with promoting their destinations as destinations for homosexuals with the reason being that they would like to attract the family market as well, as seen in the classic of 1998 when a BBC report revealed that there was cruise ship with hundreds of homosexual holidaymakers on board making way to the Cayman Islands. Upon discovering this, it happened that the government of the British territory refused permission for the cruise ship to dock there. They claimed that there was no guarantee that, the group would uphold standard behaviour (Holden, 2005). Besides this, homosexuality in some countries is illegal and some cases the death penalty is given. Tourism is affected by these social limitations.


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    Andrew Holden, 2005.  Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences. London: Routledge

    Chris Cooper, 2012. Essentials of tourism. England. Pearson education limited

    Erik Cohen Vol. 10 1984. Annual Review of Sociology. Jerusalem

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