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Authenticity in Tourism Experience

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    MacCannell(1973) as cited by Wang (1999) introduced the concept of authenticity. Authenticity is relevant in context of history and cultural tourism because they represent the past (Wang, 1999). Products of tourism like art, festivals, and cuisines are also described as authentic and non-authentic. According to the free dictionary (2014), it is the quality or condition of being authentic, trustworthy, or genuine. In a general sense, authenticity refers to an approach to tell the true story of a place and consequently attach appeal to that place. Cohen (1988) defines authenticity as a dynamic concept which means different things to different people at different times. Wang (1999) outlines authenticity in tourism into three categories:

    Objective Authenticity - an example of an educated man working at a full time job in the city may dedicate some of his free time staging cultural performances, dance and music for tourists portraying to the tourists as his everyday life, letting the tourists believe that rural life is authentic (Asino, 2014). The build environment, traditional attire and the ways of living, in the eyes of the tourist, may all seem real and authentic (Wang, 1999).  

    Constructive Authenticity: eating at an Italian restaurant in Italy constitutes authentic food, and making Italian food at home or any other country may constitute as being inauthentic. In all sense, authenticity is not just about food it is about the culture, the language, the ambiance, mood and experience while dining out in an authentic Italian setting. Nowadays, marketers are also using the word authentic to brand and sell products and destinations. Moreover, authenticity is just not used in the tourism field, but commonly used to befit the setting (Timothy and Ron, 2013)

    Existential is more experience based, in a sense that when tourists are engaged and actively participating in activities, they create their own experiences (Morgan et al., 2009).

    To conclude, authenticity is a complex word which can also have negative connotations. What one deems authentic might not be authentic to the next, it was we make out of it (Timothy and Boyd, 2006).




    Asino, W. (2014). Personal observation living in Namibia. Contact:    

    Cohen, E. (1988). Authenticity and commoditization in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research,15, 371-386.

    Timothy, D. and Boyd, S. (2006). Heritage Tourism in the 21st Century: Valued Traditions and New Perspectives. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 1 (1), pp1-6.

    Timothy, D. and Ron, A. (2013). Understanding heritage cuisine and tourism: identity, image, authenticity, and change. Journal of Heritage Tourism, 8(8-3), pp.99-104. (2014). Authenticity.[online] Available in [Accessed 26 Nov.2014].

    Morgan, M., Elbe, J., and de Esteban Curiel, J. (2009). Has the experience economy arrived? The views of destination mangers in the three visitor-dependent areas. International Journal of Tourism Research, 11(2), pp.201-216.

    Wang, N. Rethinking Authenticity in Tourism Experience. Annals of Tourism Research, Vol. 26, No. 2. (1999) 349-370.


    By: Wilhelmina Asino

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