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Rojek, Chris and John Urry, eds. Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory. London: Routledge, 1997 (214 pp.). Edited by two of tourism’s most notable theorists, Touring Cultures presents itself as an anthology of "cutting edge" articles that comment on not only tourism and culture, but also the culture of tourism. In that sense, the book will be interesting to students of tourism – those who research its history and current developments within sociological and philosophical schools of thought – but most practitioners of tourism will find little to apply to their daily activities. The first section, titled "Theories," is just that – four articles that relate different academic theories, be they feminism, postmodernism, cosmopolitanism, or elements of these and other larger social constructs, to the practice of tourism – both the industry and practice of touring itself. Rojek’s contribution on "indexing and dragging" is most illuminating, as he suggests how visitors’ interpretations of attractions are contingent on their own filing system of metaphors as much as the thing itself. This has implications for the notion of authenticity to be sure (a topic that emerges again and again in the text). In her account of how and why traveling objects "mean" (whether they are museum artifacts or souvenirs), Lury argues that a great deal of the process is relativistic or arbitrary, clearly calling up the idea of the post-tourist, which other commentators here deal with more fully. The only article written by Americans examines the post-tourist concept through the lens of Disney and McDonalds. The authors argue, contrary to MacCannell’s established thesis that most travelers seek the authentic, that the post-tourist is looking for the calculated, efficient, predictable – the qualities one finds in Disney World or at McDonalds, for example. In today’s McWorld, to use Ben Barber’s term, when tourism attractions resemble malls (Disney World) and malls look more and more like theme parks (Mall of America), it’s difficult to determine the lines between the artificial universe devised for shopping and "real" vacation attractions. Today’s post-tourist understands this, even accepts it and seeks it out, i.e., Las Vegas, the epitome of "fake real." We live in a simulated world (television, Internet, Vegas’s "New York") where the demarcations between authenticity and imitation are less discernable, and people have come to understand and even appreciate that; we’re all in on the joke, so to speak, and we revel in it. It’s self-referential, ironic. Even so-called "real" sites are becoming postcards of themselves. The second half of the anthology, titled "Contexts," applies these theories to tourism attractions and practices. Craik’s article, "The Culture of Tourism," provides a helpful history of cultural tourism as well as the culture of tourism. In the first instance, she discusses the evolution of the niche and reviews many of the well-trodden debates concerning commercialization, authenticity, and the ways tourism can damage or at least compromise the cultural product and the institutions that care for those products. Her second point is that tourism itself, the culture of tourism, is being modified because of the industry’s growing dependence on culture as an attraction. This is a new world for many tourism officials, one they are not always comfortable in, and from both perspectives the partnerships are easier in concept than practice. Another helpful article is "A People’s Story," in which MacDonald describes a heritage center in Skye, Scotland, a place that is overly romanticized in much of the tourism literature because of its connection to Bonnie Prince Charlie. This center, however, called Aros, offers what might be called a revisionist account of the region’s history. Again, questions of authenticity, interpretation, commercialization, and the locals’ view of the heritage center are central to the essay. One of the more interesting references is to "inalienable possessions," that is, the idea that in commodity relations there exists the paradox of "giving-while-keeping," which could counteract the commercialization argument that’s prevalent in much of the research on heritage tourism. All in all, there are compelling tid-bits scattered throughout Touring Cultures that provide tourism practitioners some meaty issues to fuss over, but that’s not the real goal here. Unless readers are serious students of the industry, they’ll glaze over from the excessive academese and referential terminology that unfortunately weighs the book down.


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