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Anthropology and Tourism - Group 7

    Aurore Gallin-Martel, Jordi Balbin Vila, Erik Linares Ponsbach & Vickie Andersen


    Anthropology was born during the 19th century, based on the evolution of economic and social conditions. Due to European colonial spread, anthropology was viewed as subject, seen as an association between societies. In the beginning, the main purpose of anthropology was to understand the lifestyle of small scale communities, nevertheless it has changed, view now from a different perspective, assuming that these communities have already start to change before western interest on their culture or customs (Holden, 2005).

    In case of the study of non-European countries, are based on “ethnography”, which refer to them as “primitive” cultures (McLeish as cited in Holden, 2005). It demands a further research, based on interaction and observation over a long period of time, which even can be for several years.

    In other words, anthropology has taken some basis from sociology and has adapted to a new approach, in order to develop a distinct outcome. One of the key points to consider by the anthropologists , is that they do not affect over the culture which they are studying, also live with them on intimate terms and there is not usage of additional help to understand each other. As they spent a huge amount of time in the foreign environment, anthropologists are able to have a deeper understanding of a community’s culture (Holden, 2005). In the 60s, apart from basing their theories on social relationships and societies’ structures, a different approach was stated by Claude Levi- Strauss, who insisted on the importance of mind’s structures, such as myths or symbols (Holden, 2005).

    In terms of culture, which is also one of the main concerns of anthropological studies, the meaning is debatable, overall referring to a group of people that have significant features, which make them different from another one (Holden, 2005).


    Anthropology and tourism

    The application of anthropology over tourism studies is linked to the international expansion of the number of visitors that occurred on the second half of the twentieth century. The increase in number of tourism visitors impacted the under developed countries, where anthropological work had been conducted (Holden, 2005).

    In tourism, anthropology mainly focuses on the tourist and the tourist destination.

    The tourist

    The tourist represents the major factor of cultural heritage, thus it is essential to understand his motivations. One of the motivations for tourism is seeking for the authenticity or the cooperation within a society. In addition, tourism can also take part in the development of the identity of each individual.

    The possibility of travelling can lead to a mix of thoughts and values; consequently a new personal identity might occur. Signs or symbols can help to it happen, as were seen in the middle of the nineteenth century by C.S Pierce. He identified three types of symbols: the “iconic” (landmark or famous spot in a destination), the “indexical”( which refers to a specific context, seen from an specific point of view) and the “symbolic” ( which are independent of objects) (Holden, 2005).

    Nowadays, tourism mostly relies on the iconic symbols (Holden, 2005). Tourism industry uses symbols and signs in order to maximise benefits or take a profit from it (Kinnaird et al. as cited in Holden, 2005). The idea that the destination is different comparing to the environment which can be found at home, is a major tourist motivation, and it might make the dreams from visitors come true (Holden, 2005).


    The fact that in the past a destination was capable to be authentic with their culture values and customs, may mean that there can be find one opportunity by tourism to attract more visitors, in the usage of rituals or other practices (Holden, 2005).

    Furthermore, we believe that the adaptation of rituals or other religious practices to the visitors experience has been a controversial point between host communities and the tourism industry. The latter might argue that economic revenues can benefit local communities, although negative consequences as loss of traditions or commodification would overall more significant from visitor’s perspective.

    The risk of the host community’s culture being destroyed or modified by the tourists is real danger. Indeed, when different cultures interact, they tend to borrow from each other. Commercialization of culture can be a negative impact as well, because it leads to the loss of tradition (Cooper, 2012).

    Type of tourists

    A typology view from anthropologists is based on the experience of each tourist. Cohen (as cited in Holden, 2005) who had an important role within this concept, identified five distinct categories of typology experience. These categories will be briefly explained on the following paragraph.

    ·      A recreational mode: Focus is on joy and recreation. Tourists seek entertainment and a way to escape from the daily routine.

    ·      A diversionary mode: Similar to the recreational mode, however it has not meaning to the tourist.

    ·      Experiential mode: Seek to live new experiences in order to find a meaning in another environment, without forgetting home and the return there.

    ·      Experimental mode: A search for a new spiritual centre. Once found, they try it but do not substitute it to their own lifestyle.

    ·      Existential mode: Fully committed to a new spiritual centre. In case they have to go back home, the experience would be painful, as it no longer would be their “home”.

    Tourism as a ritual and sacred journey

    Groups of tourists travel due to their religion’s rituals, for example Muslims going to Mecca. This religious trips and tourism have many aspects in common, as their requirements for time to spend in these travels or income resources. As Graburn said, tourism can also be seen as a ritual, which makes the tourists escape from their daily routines, at home and at work. This way, tourism is seen as a non-religious ritual, which replaces religious and supernatural experiences with embracing activities or goals (Holden, 2005). The main purpose of these rituals is to find what is the standard to your own way of living. To Graburn, there are two scenarios in the human being life; the first one is spiritual/non-traditional/touristic whereas the other one is blasphemous/routine/home life. Therefore, traveling marks the end of the routine for a limited time, such as Christmas, birthdays, Diwali or Eid-ul-Fitr (Holden, 2005).

    The most important part of tourism is the journeys, which occasionally is the most clearly experience in the overall trip. Travel is considered as a non-traditional experience, for example the only occasion during the year when people take a flight.

    The tourism destination

    The main focus of anthropological research has been the culture changing in the destinations caused by tourism. It focuses on the effects of cultures in underdeveloped countries.

    Tourism as imperialism

    The main concept of imperialism tourism is that it makes an expansion of the state’s economic and political concerns to other countries. Actually, this flow of political and economic expansion is from western countries to underdeveloped countries. In the political relationship of tourism between both parts (developed/non-developed), can be seen as a connection such as ‘dominant’ and ‘subordinate’ (Holden, 2005). Apart from creating conditions that allows people to participate in tourism, metropolitan centres also have economic and political.

    The flow of people between the developed countries and the underdeveloped countries makes different cultures able to be in contact with each other. This cultural impact is a particular interest for the anthropologists (Holden, 2005).

    Impacts on culture

    The fact that tourism brings people from different countries together has an influence upon each other. This gives the opportunity of a greater understanding between cultures; this is a positive aspect of tourism. The downside of this aspect is that benefits are usually localised, making the underdeveloped countries depend on the developed countries. Instead of stating this as positive or negative, we can define it as a cultural change (Holden, 2005). An important anthropological key concept, which explains how tourism affects culture, is ‘acculturation’, explained by Burns as ‘the process by which a borrowing of one or some elements of culture takes place as a result of a contact at any destination between two different societies’.

    As Robinson said (as cited in Holden, 2005); tourists can effect cultural change in at least 3 ways:

    ·      The ‘culture prophet’ having the same purpose as the media.

    ·      Tourists also act as a ‘catalyst’ to change, making the cultural changes, which had already started, faster.

    ·      Inhibitor of cultural change. The tourists are helping societies to conserve and protect their own identity.

    The opinion of tourists is an important factor for the people who want to visit a destination or have to decide between destinations. Sometimes the tourists are disrespecting the culture of the chosen destination, e.g. not fulfilling the dress codes of the specific culture they are visiting. Host people usually respond to this problem by instructing tourists how to behave (Holden, 2005).

    In Doxey’s model (Holden, 2005) we can distinct between different feelings when a visitor gets to another culture:

    ·      Euphoria – The host community is happy to see tourists, since they bring freshness to the community. The type of contact is only commercial.

    ·      Segregation – The host community starts to separate their lives from the tourists as the number of tourists start growing.

    ·      Opposition – Groups of the host community become confronting to tourism because of a reduced access to resources and unacceptable behaviour of tourists. All of this is caused by the massive quantity of tourists who arrive in a highly commercialised arrangement with outside tour operators.

    ·       Antagonism – Some protests by the community can be made openly against tourists or tourist facilities.


    Tourism inevitably makes a degree of segregation since the tourists are paying for the privilege of being free from the hold down of everyday life and demands to service their wishes. For MacCannell’s point of view, the common indicator of all tourism is that it takes place away from home, and gives a break from the daily routines at work and at home, so while tourists are enjoying the time out of the daily life the host community is working and in their routines. This relationship of the server and served consequently implants social barriers in the development of the relationship (Holden, 2005).

    Protecting culture

    Communities create a ‘back region’ protected from tourism, due to them seeking to protect their own culture from tourism. Usually the host community tries to defend the culture and avoid any change that tourists can make to it (Holden, 2005).

    Aspects to think about after the class seminar

    Plog’s model (Holden, 2005): He established typologies of tourists, from the extreme of psychocentric state to allocentric state. According to the personality of each individual, different destination would be chosen, with more or less sense of risk. It can be linked to Butler’s area life cycle: Each of the stages that can be found on Butler’s model, can be associated with the states of Plog’s model, as they have common features.

    Lastly, another relevant topic which has been stated before is the travel career. It explains how the visitor can change the destination, evolving as a mature person and gaining more experience (Holden, 2005).

    To sum up, psychology and anthropology are two disciplines which both are essential to understand tourism behaviour and how it affects to culture.


    Cooper, C., (2012). Essentials of Tourism. Essex: Pearson Financial Times/Prestige Hall

    Holden, A., (2005). Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences. New York: Routledge

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