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Sociology and Tourism - Group 7

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


    The origin of sociology was ‘study of socious’, which means that they attempted to understand the social forces which structured society and influence behaviour. From Auguste Comte point of view it was necessary change the comprehension of society from a philosophical to a scientific basis. Comte attempted to establish a ‘science of society’ firstly termed in social physics, later renamed ‘sociology’ (Holden, 2005). In Compte’s opinion, the external forces were the main causes of the individual behaviour. As a consequence, this hypothesis was used in governmental policy. The laws of the government affected the people of the society’s behaviour, in that way as laws, which concentrated on the positivism of society were stated, the behaviour of the society became positive. Sociology originated as a conservative ideology, which was offering an ordered image instead of a chaotic image. Compte uses measurable entities; and as a consequence he refused ‘abstract’ and ‘subjective’ features of human nature, such as feelings and emotions (Holden, 2005).




    The main point of the theory ‘Structuralism’ that the rules of society control the individuals (Holden, 2005). The structure of society analysis influences the behaviour of individuals. Afterwards two schools, ‘Functionalism’ and ‘Conflict theory’, were based on the theory of Structuralism.


    From a society’s point of view, it was based on an entire cooperation of the whole system, ensuring stability. The main points of ‘Functionalism’ are the efficiency and collaboration necessary for the welfare of the society (Holden, 2005).

    Conflict theory

    Within Structuralism, the second approach was the conflict theory. It is characterised by the rejection of Functionalism, concentrating towards power or inequality issues, with the society concentrating on their own interests. Thereby the name conflict theory, since the society’s fight for its own interest might end in conflict (Holden, 2005).

    Related to the development of the theory, Karl Marx made a key influence. The development of Karl Marx interpretations was based on the class differences and individual relationships. In addition, he remarked the differences between the leaders and the followers (Holden, 2005).


    The theory focuses on the signification of the natural world; in other words, which perceptions are created to understand the world. As it can be seen, the phenomenology is directly opposite to positivism, giving an importance on individuals rather than social groups. In this theory the main importance was given to mental processes, such as emotions and feelings. As a consequence, external effects had no importance, due to individuals’ ability to make their own decisions. Nevertheless, this theory has been disapproved for its lack of rigour and objectivity by other researchers (Holden, 2005).


    Sociological reasons for tourism

    The utilization of sociological theory upon tourism

    Within sociology, it can be seen that it requires an understanding of different areas:

    • Consequences and impacts of tourism in a characterised destination
    • Tourist: Individual behaviour or reasons for travelling
    • The structure and functioning of the tourism system, involving from tour operators to local families
    • Relations between tourists and local people, as Doxey’s irridex*

    *As it was argued in the last seminar, an importance upon Doxey’s theory is essential to a better understand of relations between visitors and host communities.

    Its model it’s based on five stages, which are briefly described in the next paragraph.

    Euphoria’s level: Strangers are welcome, giving opportunities for local development

    Apathy’s level: Travellers are used by the host community to make profit from them. Also, personal relationships become more formal.

    Irritation’s level: Numbers of tourists exceeds the available capacity of the host community facilities.

    Antagonism level: Abuse towards the visitors, as their impact on cultural heritage and economic environments is seen by the locals.

    The final level: Get consciousness that the local environment will not be the same again. However, the destination will continue to grow if local community manage to handle mass tourism (Chris Cooper,2012- Essentials of Tourism).

    Regarding to the class seminar, it was clarified that it is a key point within sociology. Nevertheless, the application of this model in today’s society might depend on the following factors:

    • Destination: As large differences occur between developed and underdeveloped countries, Doxey’s model would change according to a society principles (referring to education, traditions or even personal values)
    • The cultural background: Also referring to the previous facts, adding living conditions as another main factor.
    • Major populated areas compared with small villages: Extensive communities will not react on the same manner as small-scale areas, to seasonality, mass tourism or communities possessing famous attractions, which are used to receiving large number of visitors the whole year.
    • Government regulations and laws:  Depending on the political regulations and laws will be established differently from one destination to another. For instance, North Korea’s policies are extremely restrictive in terms of tourism permits, compared with Sweden, as no permission is required to enter and visit the country.
    • Market: As the economical market mostly rules the tourism industry, from it depends the involvement on each destination. In other words, market will dictate supply and demand and in both cases, success or failure, inhabitants will have to accept reality.


    Further understanding of sociological motivations for tourism

    Blasé perspective: Stated by George Simmel, it is characterised by the necessity from the population to assume that less emotions and sensitivity would help them in order to handle over crowded areas. At this point, a focus on tourism appears, in an intent to comprehend tourisms motivations. Over stimulation and the search for escapism were identified as principal motors of tourism.

    Anomie approach: Afterwards, Simmel’s ideas were argued by Émile Durkheim, who based his point of view on the theory of structuralism. In other words, an emphasis on consensus was essential to understand the effects of urbanisation towards the individual. Thus, an innovating basis for society organisation was born, called “organic solidarity”.

    In addition, Dann focused more on the link between anomie and tourism. “Push” and “pull” factors were seen as reasons to encourage individuals to travel. Dann, based also on anomie, developed a new concept, termed ego-enhancement, which explains the individual need for social recognition.

    Work and alienation:

    Marx’s relied on a great importance of work to human’s life, that the lack of fulfilment experienced would affect other aspects of life. Furthermore, this concept was developed by Krippendorf, who stated “One seizes every opportunity to free oneself; to escape from the boredom of everyday life as often as possible…(Krippendorf-1986:522-“Tourism in the system of industrial society).

    As it was a controversial topic, several researchers continued to show their different perspectives, such as Gorz or Dumazedier. All of them stated their opinions, and eventually, they came to the same conclusion, that tourism was a way to escape from reality and daily routine. However, the Frankfurt school of Sociology declared that the needs for tourism were “false needs”. In other words, all satisfaction, the feelings or emotions that an individual had during the vacation were just temporary, the bad thoughts of routine and all the lack of fulfilment would remain once the person return in daily life.

    Again, that concept was developed by other researchers, who not completely agree with the previous one. For instance, Marcuse or Parker had their own point of view.

    The latter also explains that employees who can take profit from their leisure time are the ones who are more likely to be fulfilled with their job. However, there is not much literature regarding the influence of employment on tourism behaviour.


    Commodification and semiotics

    Travel can be understood as a way to characterise your own identity (Holden, 2005). For example, the act of buying a luxury car is to try and accomplish a higher status in the society. The same can be applied on the tourism industry, such as the people traveling within higher standards are trying to define their own identity to achieve a higher status in the society. Semiology is the study of this behaviour according to status. For example, for many people a vacation in Mauritius, in Europe, can be interpreted by the attributes of wealth, high status and success. Basically, the greatest requirement to play a role in tourism is the capability to have enough income to spend it on vacations (Holden, 2005). If everyone would have the same income, tourism would be just about choosing destination and type of holiday, but our choices bring symbolic meanings and messages about us to the rest of the people.


    Reasons to travel

    In the actual economically advanced societies the people travel to try to escape from their routines of work, moreover they travel to accomplish a greater status in the society. According to the status in the society, there also exists the opposite, which is the exclusion and marginalisation of the people of the society who cannot afford a vacation (Holden, 2005). The term of tourism has diversity of meanings depending on cultures. It is mostly based on the western countries, but on the other hand, cultures like the Pakistani culture, sees tourism and traveling as a way to visit family in their home country or a way of experiencing religious pilgrimage. For example every Muslim in this community is supposed to undertake Hadj at least one time in their life and visit Mecca in Saudi Arabia.


    Obstacles to travel

    The main obstacle to travel will be the income of the individuals (Holden, 2005). The people from countries with a less Gross Domestic Product will have larger difficulties to travel, since the people will have a lower salary and thereby cannot spend as much money on travel as people with a high salary can. In consequence the people from greater socio-economic groups are more in favour of traveling. An important contrast would be the difference between the tourist attractions visited by the people from the lower socio-economic class and the people with a better income (Holden, 2005). For instance the UK population from the privileged class tended to travel to more expensive tourist destinations, such as visiting France, Italy, US, Switzerland and the West Indies within being accommodated in hotels with higher standards. Meanwhile the lower social-economic class tended to visit Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza, while residing in B&Bs, hostels or camping sites.

    Occasionally, the income might affect the activity of tourism. Thereby making it invisible in some cases, since the families cannot afford traveling at all (Holden, 2005).

                          Secondly, other reasons that make traveling difficult could be caused by racism and homophobia. Some population groups depending on ethnicity or sexual orientation can feel unwelcome in some tourist destination. A clearly case of racism takes place on the countryside of England. It is illustrated by the expression ‘white Englishness’ in the media, art and literature. That illustration is linked to social troubles (Holden, 2005).

    Another case of racism took place after the 9/11 when the Twin Towers were attacked. British Muslims and people of other Asian ethnic minority classes felt excluded by the immigration officials and aviation authorities. This can be seen in extreme cases, such as a group of Arabic men were questioned in their arrival from Stockholm to the Canary Islands, since the other passengers were scared by their presence (Holden, 2005).

    According to the obstacle of traveling, homophobia, groups of homosexual or gay people feel discriminated by traveling to some tourist destinations. The tourism industry are trying to attract the gay market to traveling, since this group is vulnerable in the way of spending money, which would be a great income for the industry (Holden, 2005). The problem is that the society of the tourism destinations does not support it, due to the cultural and social prejudgements of homosexuals. The most important reason to travel for gay people is to be able to be themselves and accomplish a free-space during their vacation (Holden, 2005). Some tourist destinations are not willing to introduce the gay tourism, since they are afraid of a decrease in the family market.

    The gay tourism industry is marked by the legislation within the countries of the attractions. An evident example is the Middle-East states, where the homophobia is illegal. This can affect the choice of destinations by the people from liberal countries, since they will find it non-acceptable (Holden, 2005). The gay community base their choice of destination on whether the risk of physical or verbal discrimination is low or high. As examples of attractive destinations according to the gay community can be South Beach Miami, Ibiza Town, Gran Canaria, cities of New York and San Francisco.



    Within sociology, it can be seen that it requires an understanding of different areas: Consequences and impacts of tourism, tourist, the structure and functioning of the tourism system, relations between tourists and local people, as Doxey’s irridex. As well as a good understanding of the book, we also took the group discussion into consideration. We believe that sociology is an interesting discipline to a better understanding of tourism and a group task, as we did is useful to us for a better comprehension of the whole discipline.



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

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


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