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Smith, Melanie K. Issues in Cultural Tourism Studies. London: Routledge, 2003 (195 pp.). Smith has provided one of the best recent surveys of the cultural tourism industry, from both a cultural and tourism perspective. Too often books on this topic are written by tourism practitioners who know little of the complexity ingrained in cultural issues, or scholars of cultural theory who write in postmodern mumbo-jumbo and do not understand the workings of the tourism industry. Smith, who is director of the Cultural Tourism program at the University of Greenwich in the UK (Routledge is one of the best publishers of books on tourism theory) adroitly spans both cultural and tourism worlds. Any museum director or community leader considering a cultural or cultural heritage tourism program should consult this helpful review, as should people in the tourism business. Her chief aim, as the title suggests, is to introduce the major "issues" implicit in the implementation of a cultural tourism initiative, and hence throughout the text she introduces both the advantages and possible problems inherent in this undertaking. Smith begins her overview by discussing the nature and definition of "culture" itself, noting that in its broadest sense culture is just about any form of artistic, intellectual, religious, or social activity. She spends a considerable amount of time discussing cultural theory, which is helpful because more recent developments like postmodernism, for example, have greatly influenced the cultural tourism product (in that it is more pluralistic and less hegemonic than previous notions of "high culture"). She then provides a brief history of cultural tourism itself, and here she discusses the various sub-categories that make up cultural tourism, such as heritage tourism, arts tourism, industrial tourism, certain aspects of ecotourism, and so on. This is helpful because it shows how the genre has evolved, and how it continues to be one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry. Most of the book, however, and by far the most interesting parts, are given over to the difficult "issues" – many of them political – that surface when a community, a nation, or a people jump into the cultural tourism arena. These issues are well-documented in other literature, but the benefit of Smith’s book is that she provides a helpful review of the literature, weaving together other scholars’ points of view on any given issue. Some of these issues include, for example, whether tourism merely continues the West’s hegemonic imperialistic relationship with poorer nations, the notion of authenticity in representing culture, the challenges implicit in interpretation, and the very notion of museums as arbiters of culture. In these and other areas, Smith provides voices on both sides of the issue – those who think cultural tourism provides educational and preservationist opportunities, as well as those who see it as just another package of commercial exploitation. Another motif that shows up in nearly every chapter is Smith’s belief that communities should gain more control of tourism enterprises, whether they are African Bushmen or people who live near a historic attraction like the Taj Mahal. Smith and others object to exploitative and over-commercialized tourism approaches – many of which only benefit international corporations, not the local community – and she offers remedies for some of these problems. Another theme is globalization and the impacts it may have on culture, tourism, and societies worldwide. Like many of these issues, globalization is a double-edged sword: on one hand it can lead to further Western imperialism and the increasing homogenization of cultures; on the other hand, as more people travel they are becoming more interested in exotic and indigenous peoples, and this may serve as an impetus for greater protectionism of these cultures. Smith includes an entire section on tourism and indigenous people. She notes that tourism holds out some hope not only for economic development but also for cultural preservation; however, she also points out that many touristic activities with native people have been fraught with problems, the most troubling of which are that cultures are "fossilized," not permitted to evolve, and natives are often little more than "human zoos" (this, of course, is true of any community, not just native ones). Smith includes chapters on festivals, carnivals, and cultural tourism’s role in regenerating urban areas, especially towns that were once industrial centers whose economy has gone south. While Smith is aware of the troublesome aspects related to tourism in general and cultural tourism specifically – and she cites these cautionary voices repeatedly – she clearly comes down on the side of cultural tourism. That is, if it’s practiced right, if the community is involved, if the stories represent all peoples, if the cultural attraction is not just another theme park – then cultural tourism might be able to fulfill its promises of economic impact, education, pride in one’s heritage, and cultural preservation. She certainly understands the pit-falls associated with the tourism industry, and it’s helpful that she lays them out so clearly; anyone attempting a cultural or cultural heritage tourism program should be aware of them too, and Smith’s book is a thought-provoking reminder. Although most examples and case studies are from Europe or Asia, the issues are no less applicable to tourism in the U.S. Finally, Smith provides an extensive and important bibliography that any student of cultural tourism will want to consult.


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