For long holiday tourism has been in the grip of economic thinking and sociological research. On this webpage a more balanced view is maintained on the focal centre of tourists' activities: tourists themselves and their encounter with their holiday destination. Tourists take what is given to them and then turn it into their own ends; it is these ends what is of our primary interest and more than 25 articles on this site are about just that: the tourists' tourism.

Under the heading "Tourism" a new article has been added on Climate Change (July, 2020)

and also under the heading "Tourism" I have added a new article about Phenomenology and Tourism (Feb. 2020).

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Climate Change: Myths, Facts & Questions

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source

The present article was developed in collaboration with P. Dercksen, MSc.; M. Th. Baayen, MSc. and F.van Sluijs, Ir., whose observations and help contributed enormously to the content and quality of this article.

1. Introduction

 The present article on the subject of global warming and climate change in general arose from an observed confusion of contradictory publications, ambivalent environmental policies, questionable international agreements and popular climate theories with its supporters and opponents, creating serious doubts on what really is happening to our world. Temperatures in the atmosphere are on the rise and it seems that scientists, experts, politicians and the public in general have been able to notice this phenomenon for the last fifty years or so. The planet’s climate changes continuously, which is another of the few statements we can be sure about, although the reasons behind it and its functionality with regards to global warming is still under investigation and discussion. This holds true even more for the question to what extent the human being can influence this rise in temperature and manage it through regulating its CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions, which has led to extensive and even vehement debates.

As part of a series of conversations among friends with different backgrounds and interests, we arrived at the basic questions: How important is the role of the human being in climate change? In search for answers we started to researching the Internet on these issues, which resulted in an intriguing journey full of surprises, contradictions, manipulations to the point that it became clear, that there are no simple explications or solutions. What did become clear is that our climate system is non-linear, chaotic with feedbacks, which makes it about impossible to forecast even tomorrow’s weather.

2. The most important themes

The most relevant themes on climate change can be divided into four approaches, which will be presented below and further on a summary and some tentative conclusions will be presented (only the most relevant websites are mentioned):

2.1 Climate and global warming

The first theme we approached concerns the Earth’s global warming as a phenomenon, its grade, behaviour and the mechanisms that regulate it.

During the holocene when the last glacial period finished (some 12.000 years ago) the planet entered an interglacial era, whereby temperatures gradually increased without following a straight upwards line, but showing ups and downs (Paul A. Mayewski et al., 2004) For example in Europe, there occurred a much warmer period during the Roman empire, there was a short cold period between 1300 – 1400 and some warmer peaks around the 1650s, 1770 and 1850 (D.J. Easterbrook). The set of factors that contributes to the changes of global average temperatures are not only related to the planet itself, but also to the universe. Among others we can mention solar spots, changes in the the Earth’s axis towards the sun, thermal oceanic currents, the reflection of radiation on the Earth’s surface or the greenhouse gases (Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología, 2004). Additionnally, the climate represents a non-linear chaotic system with feedbacks that, because of its complexity, makes any forecast extremely difficult; in other words there are still many pieces in the puzzle that we do not know about.

What has become clear is, that the changes in temperature of the Earth and its atmosphere are due to many different causes and do not just depend on CO2 concentrations, but in fact are regulated by a series of factors that serve as either positive or negative feedback factors that are difficult to calculate. For example, the function of water vapor and the clouds is still under investigation, and the same holds true for the factors related to snow and ice. Another example is the role that ocean currents have in transporting heat between the two poles (the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation AMOC and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation PDO), whose influence in relation to the climate and the changes of climate zones seems to have been underestimated, even regarding the poles. In spite of the fact that at the poles higher air temperatures have been measured, that does not seem to be the real problem, but rather the temperatures of the marine currents, which can be appreciated in Judith Curry’s(2017) summary. Related to the ocean issue there other phenomena that influence the climate, such as it is the case with El Niño and La Niña that have caused draughts or excessive rainfalls in some parts. (Piskozub, J. and Gutowska, D. 2014). The current reasons for changes in temperature and in general the climate’s behaviour are not at all clear so far. For example, the Swiss glacier expert Christian Schlüchter (2011) showed that during the holocene important temperature changes occurred. In the case of the glaciers he discovered that their length changed considerably over larger periods and that there were even changes in the timberline (see Schlüchter). What can be established therefore is, that the climate is changing, that there is currently a tendency towards global warming and that these data in fact do not show anything new, since in the far past the planet experienced even more drastic changes.

After these general points on the climate, we shall now introduce the human actor on the globlal stage.

2.2 Climate and Man

The second important issue is about the extent in which the human being through his actions can wield influence on the Earth‘s climate and on which levels. Deforestation or elevated CO2 emissions are two examples, whereby man seems to influence parts of climate development. The question of the role CO2 emissions has been studied for more than a hundred years and especially from the 1980s onwards this specific interest has increased considerably, not only in scientific circles, but even more so on political levels (see section 2.4).

Reviewing the extensive number of publications on global warming, what stands out is, that the discussions on CO2′s effects on the climate dominate the debates, opinions and the controversies. The influence of this greenhouse gas has been heavily contested, first of all for its level of influence, then for its sources and the role of each and finally for the way the issue has been introduced on political and economic levels (see section 2.4).

When the sun light penetrates the atmosphere, the earth absorbs this solar light (short wave radiation), warms up and then emits energy in the form of long wave infra-red radiation. The greenhouse effect occurs, when the latter enters the atmosphere and is absorbed by greenhouse gases, which in turn are heated up and consequently emit this radiation in all directions and therefore some parts return to the earth. However this effect contributes mostly to the heating of the atmosphere, while the energy that accumulates on the earth’s surface is subject to the process of convection of the surface air and makes it rise to higher layers in the atmosphere. The warmer air permits the increase of water vapor in the air, which in turn functions as a positive feedback and permits an additionaal increase in temperature. On the other hand, when humid air rises to the level that it reaches the point of saturation, it starts raining, which means a loss of energy and a reduction of the temperature. That is why there are doubts if this process leads to a positive feedback or not. In the first place it is important to measure and monitor the changes in temperature in the atmosphere. The Earth‘s different surfaces (humid or dry) have there own characteristics. The water of the oceans warms up very slowly, while the earth’s dry surfaces heat up much faster, but lose that energy just as fast once the heating source – sunlight or hot air – disappears.

Apart from the CO2, there are more factors influencing in one way or another the development of the climate, such as it is the case with water vapor, that constitutes the major part of greenhouse gases and its levels depend, among others, on the Earth’s forests. Urban heating is another factor that plays a role, although sufficient data as well as research on these specific details are still lacking.

As one can see, there are a number of factors, that influence the climate system on many different levels, as it it is the case with the forementioned ocean currents. What we want to know how decisive human influence is on the climate and more specifically, if man through his actions can have a direct influence on it.

2.3 Human Beings and Climate

The third theme that came up in our conversations aswell as in our Internet searches is the form in which human intervention influences climate (anthropogenic influence) and to what extent mankind can change its negative or positive influences on climate and more specifically on global warming, although it may not always be clear what effects and consequences they cause.

What one has to keep in mind is, that this theme opens the way for another discussion dealing with the influence people can have on their environment. It seems that the media in general tend to link the notion of climate to that of the environment and even worse, sometimes it is suggested that there might exist a direct relationship between the two, while it has to be clear that any influence the climate wields on the environment and vice versa are indirect ones, since it is about two non-linear systems which both are continuously subject to feedback processes.

Let us take the case of CO2, that produces both desirable and harmful effects. CO2 is of vital importance for vegetation in general and an increase with regards to its content in the atmosphere helps plants grow and partially explains why the worlds green areas have increased during the last decades. The CO2 produced by industrial activities forms part of the so-called greenhouse gases, of which water vapor is the most important. The effects of these gases on the atmosphere form also part of the complex climate system. During the past 400.000 years or so (a time span that includes four glacial periods) the CO2 content maintained itself around 280-300 particles per million (ppm), which is low, when we consider that the minimum to secure life on earth is 150 ppm.(see During earlier periods this figure was much higher.

Moreover, one has to take into account that for horticulture, for example, the ideal CO2 content level should be al least 1.000 ppm (as managed in the glasshouse industry). Right now the content level is about 400 ppm. One important point in the CO2 discussion is to what extent CO2 is responsible for the increase of global temperatures. As early as 1896 the scientist Arrhenius  had calculated that when the CO2 content is multiplied by 2 the global temperature might increase by 1 degree and see for example Nicholas Lewis, Judith A. Curry (2014).

There is still much to be investigated to get a better knowledge on how these systems really work, whereby we have to realize that anthropogenic CO2 emissions form about 4,5% of all CO2 circulating around the globe. Furthermore, the importance of water vapor is generally underestimated and specifically in relation with its influence on the Earth surface temperatures. This points, among others, at the tremenduous damage deforestation causes for the environmental hydric management (Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies,2018).

Obviously all countries have to react to the threats imposed by a slowly changing climate and to respond to the calls for preventive measures in the first place. The measures to be considered concern the increase of sea levels (although this phenomenon has also other causes, such as tectonic movements), large periods of droughts or excessive rainfall, or the strength of hurricanes, although the IPCC (see section 2.4) indicated, that there frequency diminished a little. The reasons why more extreme wheather types are occurring include a wide variety of possible explanations, e.g. see Christopher H. O’Reilly, Tim Woollings, and Laure Zanna

The increasing urbanization on world level also plays an important role and apart from increased CO2 levels wields also a series of other influences.

However, there still reigns uncertainty, if all efforts to diminish CO2 emissions in the end have a positive outcome or not – also depending on what we see as being positive.

2.4 The Earth’s climate and what we do with it

The fourth theme is of a different nature and relates to the society’s attitudes, decisions and policies with respect to climate change and environmental management. The case is, that large parts of the debate on climate change are not so much based on scientific facts and verifiable data, but rather touch upon political and economic issues, short and midterm planning and increasingly on financial levels and dealing with direct decision making. In other words for the information generated by scientists to reach the general public, it passes through a series of filters, such as political interpretations, financial interests or the press, which may cause distortions, changes or omissions in relation to the original information. For example, Maurice Strong warned already some time ago that life styles had to change to less damaging consumption patterns with regards to the environment. Strong became the first president of the UN Environmental Programme, whose main focal points were air pollution, the termination of fossil fuels and the role of CO2.

From this initiative the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was developed in 1988, whose mission was to provide an objective and science-based opinion on climate change, its impacts with their natural and economic risks, and possible reactions to them. So, from the very start IPCC’s task was to generate specific information as support for decision-making processes as far as climate change concerned and man’s influence on it. In 2007, the Nobel peace prize was granted in equal parts to the IPCC and the US former vice-president Al Gore.

The IPCC is first of all a political institution and its reporting is based on the research of many highly specialized scientists. However, over the years many of them realized, that their contributions were hardly used at all in IPCC’s publications. Criticism led to some corrections in IPCC’s reporting in 2010, and emphasis was put on the institution’s capacity to maintain a transparent and wide coverage of scientific viewpoints as well as improving general data gathering procedures.

During the past fifty years and after the publication of the Club of Rome Report (q189) that warned about the environmental problems confronting us, a series of forecasts were launched, which in the end turned out to be incorrect, such as the case that fossil fuels would run out by 2020 (q227). Another example are some figures published by the IPCC that were way higher than the ones published by universities around the globe. Under influence of the IPCC the term Global Warming was changed into Climate Change with emphasis on the role of mankind in this change. That is to say the climate issue was changed into a case that concerned not just heavy industry, wars or the excessive use of cars. In practice it meant that the basis was laid for establishing a direct connection between environment and climate suggesting that both are heavily influenced by the anthropogenic actions. The link that climate had to connect with the environment was specificly the CO2 emissions, that were presented as the main cause of global warming and at the same time could be controlled by human beings. Billions of dollars had to be invested to neutralize or at least diminish CO2 emissions. For many years now international organizations on political (e.g. UN, EU) and financial levels (e.g. WB, IMF) have given exclusive priority to any initiative related to climate change, to the extent, that they started to talk about a “climate crisis”. With this crisis emphasis was put on the capacity to mitigate the effects of this crisis, while blaming malpractice and inefficient management as from the 19th century onwards. Thus it is about risk and damage management, early warning systems, capacity of and adaptation to recuperation to justify the inversions that the global financial system needs to safeguard its continuation. That is to say the so-called climate crisis createdthe opportunity for financial and political involvement and results of scientific climate investigations were interpreted that way.

3. Global Warming: myths, facts, and questions

Our search on the Internet led us along winding roads through non-linear and chaotic systems, that make any forecast of climate development in the future a tricky business. We looked into the relation between climate and global warming, then at the reciprocal influence between climate and human beings and also in the way the enormous amount of information is used in the press and in social media, on political as well as economic levels.

There exist a series of arguments either in favour or against the different positions to approach the issue of climate change. Following a summary of the most important points we encountered:

1. It seems obvious that the climate changes since this is inherent in its own system; during this interglacial era there exists a tendency for global temperatures to rise, although during the past thousand years there have been marked fluctuations for reasons that are still not quite clear.

2. Apart from this moderate increase in average temperature (within the range of 1-2 degrees centigrade during the past hundred years), a bigger increase can be expected. The question is, if the increase of CO2 content in the atmosphere (from a level of 280 ppm at the end of the 19th century up to 400 ppm nowadays), actually contributes actively to the increase of global temperatures. Our search on the Internet has left us with the impression, that there does exist an influence in this sense, but just in a moderate way, especially since there does not exist a direct relationship between increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere and increase in global temperatures, but rather this influence is subject to a series of simultaneous occurrences, which has to be expected in a typical non-linear chaotic system. Moreover, CO2 is only one of various greenhouse gases.

3. Human influence on the climate exists and certainly on the level of gas emissions, such as CO2, but not only that, there are also the issues of forest management (de/reforestation), water and air pollution and in general environmental management. This concerns first of all the quality of life, but also influences the climate, although because of the complexity of climate systems this influence is not well defined in terms of effects or consequences. Therefore it is important to stress that climate is one thing, but its influences on the environment encloses a different set of issues.

4. It has become clear, that the scientific results from the various universities around the world do not point in just one direction, but often can be interpreted differently, which may lead to internal debates in the scientific world. In turn this may lead to different interpretations on political, economic, media or environmental levels and therefore may depend on who is interpreting them.

Related to this theme the gap between political interpretations and the development of independent scientific research has even widened. It may be a coincidence that whenin these post-capitalist times with accelerated globalization and changing international finance structures, suddenly climate change is also accelerating. However, indicators point at an arrangement to suit an economic re-activation based on huge climate crisis investments. According to the independent organization Climate Intelligence (CLINTEL) there does not exist a climate emergency and they emphasize the importance that climate science should be less political oriented, while climate policies should be more scientificly based.

We have encountered a series of facts and noticed some myths - in the sense of what the public in general believes without being scientifically based -, however in the end we are left with more questions than answers. One of them has to do with the reactions or answers on behalf of the representatives of religions or religious groups with regards to global warming. As far as we know from the Internet the official positions of world’s religious leaders towards possible measures that could be pushed on world level to alleviate the effect of greenhouse gases have been quite poor. This near silence on religious levels is about matched by two countries that provide together more than half of the world population: the Peoples Republic of China and India. On Internet level at least no massive campaign could be found to confront a so-called climate crisis, while on the level of the environment extensive programmes can be encountered, directed at mitigating harmful effects and in support of sustainable development. The importance of these observations lies in the fact that the term “global” may not necessarily refer to the entire world, but rather to the western world linked to a neoliberal-capitalist system.

Here we are actually questioning the political-economic influences that lead us to even more uncertainties. Additionally if we take into account the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 and its profound influences on economies worldwide, it must be clear that the important players on the world scene such as the US, Russia, China and the EU will no longer give priority to climate change and will focus completely on savingtheir own economies from a possible collapse.

It must also be clear, that saving the environment as well as supporting a sustainable development in the struggle against poverty, hunger, racism, or gender inequality have been relegated on the world’s agendas to lower ranks. It is the developing world – the third world – that suffers most and it is clear, that they will need the enormous loans offered by the first world.

It seems, that the urgency to try to diminish global warming will lose its impulse, but what really should worry us are the environmental conditions that no longer can be subordinated to an economic development damagingnot only our environment, but to a certain extent even the planet’s climate.

The present article was developed in collaboration with P. Dercksen, MSc.; M. Th. Baayen, MSc. and F.van Sluijs, Ir., whose observations and help contributed enormously to the content and quality of this article.

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Phenomenology and tourism

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source

Phenomena, Experiences and Me: an introduction to phenomenology and tourism

This article intends to demystify the term phenomenology and at the same time to explain the importance to open one’s mind to subjective experiences as source for knowledge acquisition of the reality each of us lives. Therefore the description of phenomenology is something personal, and that could not be any different since the own experience of any phenomenon or whatever happens around us concerns the process of experiencing and becoming conscious. The character of this article is of an educational nature directed at undergraduate students of social sciences in general. At the end the link is made with tourism and some applications of phenomenological concepts.


It should be clear that each person’s awareness and perception is in accordance with the whole range of experiences recorded in his or her memory and is based on notions, images, prejudices and previous impressions. The act of involving our personal criteria in the evaluation of external phenomena and to lift these criteria to an inter-relational level leads to wide and enriching interpretations of the reality we live within ourselves. What we have to realize is that whatever happens to us or in our environment forms a potential source for information, depending whether there exists a particular reason to extract a certain fact or occurrence from its context to be presented on its own. This also means that for information to be recognized as such it must generate some specific interest in someone.

Our own existence embodies a certain representation and interpretation of the lived world and our contact with things is continuously interceded by prejudice and expectations whereby the role of language dominates. Whatever questioning of reality elicits answers that are manipulated beforehand, since there exists always the pre-comprehension of everything we think. We understand through the comparison with what we need to understand with what we already know. Understanding is a circular activity within a circle of interpretation. A sentence for example is a unit of understanding. Its words are interpreted within the meaning of the complete phrase, while the meaning of that phrase depends of its context that in turn depends on the meaning of its elements, what closes the circle. In this sense logic as a linear model is not sufficient for comprehension.

Moreover, things have no meaning within themselves, because they mean something different for the person who projects himself as a greengrocer, sportsman or scientist, for example. Each of them have different projections that determine the way they see things. The greengrocer sees a fruit from his commercial viewpoint, which is different to the view of a biologist or a very hungry person. That is to say this fruit is not so much a neutral piece of data that exists outside our perception, but depends on the intention of which an object is scrutinized and then appreciated. Another way to describe this idea distinguishes different structures of one thing: there is a changing appearance in accordance with our intention and its context, which is called the first structure of a thing; then a thing has certain physical properties that make it stable over time and in phenomenology this is called the second structure. Within the line of thought of Descartes the two structures are presented the other way round – the mathematical/physical structure first, representing a way of thinking that still dominates in most parts of the world.

Phenomenology concerns foremost the first structure and therefore uses rich descriptions of atmospheres or environments and what Husserl calls the categorical observation, that can also be related to poetry or art in general. This partly explains why so-called “phenomenologists” feel a discrepancy with sciences such as mathematics or physics that only study the second structure of things. Therefore we can summarize our perception of phenomena from another angle: within the framework of phenomenology it is assumed that each person holds a different world-view and therefore of each phenomenon. The chair that is right in front of you is different for each person observing it, while according to Cartesian thinking (of Descartes) everybody supposedly sees the same chair. Our experience is much richer in content than just what is observed through the senses and within the phenomenological tradition there exists a direction towards the meaning of things within our experience, and more specificly the meaning of objects, events, the flow of time, yourself and the other as presented in the lived world around us.

We can add that the distinction between the knowledge of our perception of things and the knowledge of a thing itself is one of the fundamental themes in Plato’s philosophy. In his Theory of Forms the intellectual reality possesses immaterial and eternal qualities and therefore cannot be subject to change and constitutes the archetype of the other reality, the sensible one that consists of what we call normally “things” of material characteristics and will change therefore, resulting in being just a copy of the intellectual reality.

 Husserl’s Phenomenology

Phenomenology has its roots in the end of the 19th century based on a philosophical movement of A. Brentano (1838-1917) and later by E. Husserl (1859-1938). Phenomenology as development by them was directed at a replacement of the reigning paradigms of positivism and adopted individual perception as a reliable resource for knowledge production. It can be seen as a sort of extension of Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) ideas, who argumented that what he called Noumenas are in themselves unknown things and have to be distinguished from the Phenomena that represent the world as it appears in our mind. Kant insisted that what we experience in our mind is reality and that no object is knowable by itself if not through the intervention of the subjectivity of the person who is observing.

A complete definition of phenomenology is paradoxical by lack of a central theme. Indeed, it is neither a doctrine or a philosophical school, but rather a style of thinking and a method that is open to experiencing in different ways each time with changing results, which may confuse any person that tries to define the meaning of phenomenology. The phenomenology as a philosophical study field can be distinguished from other fields, such as ontology (the study of existence), the epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of what is good or bad) among others.

The phenomenology according to Husserl concerns basically a systematic reflection and study of structures of consciousness and the phenomena as they appear in acts of consciousness. Literally, the phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the forms in which we experience things, that is to say the meaning of things within our experience. Phenomenology can clearly be distinguished from Cartesian thinking that sees the world as objects, sets of objects and objects that act and react to each other. Phenomenology is the study of the structures of consciousness experienced from the point of view of the first person ‘Me’. A wide range of types of experiences are studied, such as the perception, thought, memory, imagination, emotion, wishing and strength of will, while even physical consciousness is involved, physical action, social action and the linguistic activity. The structures of these forms of experiencing involve what Husserl calls the intentionality, that is to say the direction of the experience towards things in the world, dealing with a consciousness of or about something. An experience is directed at an object on the basis of its content or meaning (what the objects represent, also historically) together with the appropriate conditions that apply.

According to Descartes (17th century) and later positivism among other schools of thought the human being possesses a body and a soul, the latter being linked to our faculty of reasoning. The human being exists because s/he thinks, which is an activity of the soul that forms part of reasoning, while at the same time the human body has certain physical dimensions, size and form, that is to say the body can be mathematically defined. A marked separation is made between a person (body and soul) and the world. In phenomenology this separation is denied and neither it is accepted that things have meaning primarily because of their shape and measures. The denial of the separation of subject and object was originally introduced by Brentano and later by his pupil Husserl. They applied the notion of intention: psychical phenomena posses a direction towards something, which physical objects do not. Consciousness rests not within oneself (Descartes), but maintain a continuous activity of myself characterized by the intentionality towards things.

Phenomenology for Husserl is the science that tries to discover the essential structures of the conscience and is characterized to search for original experiences and to expose them in their context. This means that on one hand one considers an external world that gives a phenomenon some sense and on the other an internal world that realizes how the experience is perceived as a whole from the perspective of the one who lives it. The conscience is always being conscious of something, it is a flow of experiences that does not stop. All that we hear is of something (a song for example) and all we see is of something (a chair or a flower), or all desire points at something we love. One of the concepts in phenomenology is “myself” that exists in comparison to “the other”. Without the other there is no myself (me) and the form in which the other is experienced cannot be separated of the way one experiences the self. The continuity of being oneself can be achieved in a relation and not so much as an exclusive internal process.

Another pillar that supports the concepts and methodologies of phenomenology is the notion of the essence of a thing. Phenomenology presents itself as a philosophical reflection that insists on founding objectivity of knowledge on a method whose main rule is to leave the things themselves present the essence of their content through an intuitive glance that presents things spontaneously as they are to those that experience them, while bracketing their judgement on the validity of their prejudices, opinions or interpretations on those objects. The objective of phenomenological explorations is to be conscious that they are systematically applied through repeated observations and critical studies as to reduce the effects of prejudice. It is therefore preponderant to search for essence free of prejudice, memories or expectations and it is precisely this search that can be compared with peeling an onion whereby layer by layer is removed until getting at the essence of a thing or phenomenon – a search that is also called “epoché” or “bracketing”. The act of seeing a flower for example is an experience regardless if you can touch the flower, if you see it on the Internet or in a dream. The confrontation with this”flower” is a conscious experience whereby the physical state does not matter, since that refers to the second phenomenological structure.

The classic “phenomenologists” (between quotation marks because phenomenology is not something exact and each one handles his or her own version) distinguish two main methods, apart from other trends in this vast area that takes up phenomenology. The first tries to describe the type of experience exactly like we found it within our own experiences (current and past). Husserl and the Frenchman Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) talk of pure and rich descriptions of lived experiences. With the second method we interpret an experience by relating it with the relevant characteristics of its context. According to this trend the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) used the term hermeneutics, that is to say the art of interpretation within a context and more specifically within social and linguistic contexts. Heidegger’s hermeneutics describes the being-in-the-world (Dasein), among others, giving meaning to our being in the lived world (Lebenswelt) through representations and analyses.

Phenomenology and science

Phenomenology has been applied in about every corner of knowledge production and development. On the level of academic research work phenomenology accepts individual perception as a reliable resource for knowledge production and employs mainly qualitative methodologies, while trying to avoid prejudices and preconceived suppositions concerning human experiences, sentiments and answers to particular situations. Based on impressionism among others, with hermeneutics as developed by Heidegger a new way was paved with specific focus on meaning and not on measures, i.e. not to provide variable results in a positivist sense, but to add a viewpoint of the issue under investigation. This allows a researcher to dig into the perceptions, perspectives, understanding and emotions of people who have experienced and lived effectively the phenomenon or situation in observation.

In the case of psychology, for example, a phenomenological approach implies more an exploration of the relations a person maintains with his external world than an exploration of a person’s inner-world. If this relation is directed towards an object, within this process the object acquires a subjective and human dimension. An example would be the case when a person suffers of depressions and at that moment the world around him seems to be grey, dark and cold. On one hand the human being is reflected in things, but on the other the meaning of things influences the human being. A thing-in-itself (Descartes: ‘chose materielle’) is denied.

Phenomenology can be described as the investigation and description of phenomena as they are experienced consciously by the person who lived them. This is first of all directed through conversations and interviews, apart from direct observation or the study of audio visual material. The degree of experience of the participants does not matter, or their social and cultural background or preconceived ideas, because the research is primarily focussed on lived space, lived body, lived time and lived human relations. The element of context also means that research is usually carried out on the spot under conditions that are as natural as possible and not clinical. The approach of academic research is of a holistic character, which also point at the importance of context and the assumption that a whole is more than the sum of its parts; moreover it should be clear that phenomenology invites a multidisciplinary research approach.

 Some well-known phenomenologists

There have been a series of philosophers and sociologists that have contributed or have applied phenomenological thinking. An example is Karl Marx (1818-1883), who put the phenomenological problem of appearances in the centre of his criticism of political economy in an effort to reveal the interconnectedness and social relations of exploitation. Merleau-Ponty (1908 – 1961) committed himself with the husserlian concept of Lebenswelt (lived world) and understands philosophy as a phenomenological activity of examining the world, wherebythe descriptive method of the lived experience results adequate to treat existentialist problems. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) believed that our ideas are the product of real life experiences and that novels and theatre plays can very well describe fundamental experiences within the same standards of philosophical essays. Additionally, for Sartre intentionality applies to emotions as well as knowledge, to desires as well as perceptions. An interesting case is that of Michel Foucault (1926-1984, French sociologist and philosopher) who did not want to have anything to do with phenomenological ideas, although most part of his work respires phenomenological sentiments. For Foucault phenomenology is far too personalized and directed at Me, while within his concepts the human being forms an intrinsic part of a broader discursive formation and even episteme – that is to say the individualistic succumbs to the social and to the environment.

Some applications within phenomenology

To finish this short introduction to a theme without limits some concepts will be explained that have been developed under phenomenological influence:

  • Holistic > Holism is a concept created in 1926 by Jan Christiaan Smuts, who discovered that the tendency of nature to use a creative evolution to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In general terms, holism refers to a system and its qualities that are analysed as a whole in a global and integrated manner, because from a functional point of view it can only be understood in this way and not as a simple sum of its parts.

  • Liminality > comes form the Latin word limen that means threshold. The term was invented and presented by the French anthropologist Arthur van Gennep in 1909 to describe a rite of initiation of adolescents towards adults. During the 1960′s liminality was applied to concepts of transition from one state to another, whereby it is difficult to appreciate the frontiers between concepts. Within liminality, borders instead of separating serve for interaction and confluence.

  • Emic-Etic > phonemics is the study of phonemes, which are sets of sounds produced in one specific language and represents an understandable meaning to the native speakers of that language. Phonemes are only related to one specific language and its culture and each language therefore possesses its own sets of phonemics. Phonetics is simply a physical and acoustic study of the sounds used in whatever language. The terms emic and etic were first introduced in linguistics by Kenneth Pike in 1967 and later these concepts were applied in anthropology, whereby emic referred to the knowledge and interpretations as told by a community itself from within, while etic refers to generalizations of human behaviour from the viewpoint of an (academic) observer. In general the term emic can be related to a phenomenological trend and etic inclines more towards Cartesian thinking.

  • Space-Place-Cyberspace > Boundaries of spaces are flexible and have been constructed symbolically and interpretatively. In general spaces are cold and emotionally inaccessible, that is to say, spaces may have certain characteristics, but they never have character. On the other hand place means a space that reaches beyond material presence and tangible qualities such as size, proportions of characteristics: a place is what people make of a space through their emotional attachment and interaction – they are humanized spaces. An example is the difference between a hotel room (space to sleep) and one’s own bedroom (place to sleep). In the case of cyberspaces, the Internet is an infrastructure that can be described as a virtual environment where the laws of physics do not apply, since cyberspace has no mass or size, that is to say no physical boundaries. The conventional relation between physical space and time come together in cyberspace: an intangible world, but real, where Cartesian interpretations do not apply, but human imagination rule as an instrument for promoting social relations. Cyberspace does not compete with either places or spaces, but it complements them. It has the ability to relate without occupying any “space”, butstill fulfilling a similar function to architecture: cyberspace provides an infrastructure for social interaction.

 Phenomenology and Tourism

Within the study of tourism, phenomenology has served as a path towards the description and understanding of experiences lived by hosts as well as guests. That is to say it is about an encounter between one and the other, whereby the latter from a phenomenological viewpoint refers to people from outside a host community, in practice being travellers, pilgrims, salesmen, tourists and so on. Tourism and travel studies within a phenomenological framework have concentrated more than anything else on the lived experience by participants in an encounter, dealing with mainly qualitative research with emphasis on rich descriptions and with ample room for interpretations and reactions by participants and researchers themselves.

Within the lived world the concept of a space/place paradigm forms a useful tool to dissect the relations between them and us. The phenomenological approach towards travel practices emphasizes spaces with flexible boundaries based on symbolic interpretations that invite an encounter between what is here with people from out there, whereby an interaction takes place between human as well as material stakeholders. Within this context the space where people live can be understood as places for them: humanized spaces, which translates the encounter into the locals living in their places meeting strangers who arrive at spaces that are unknown to them. When engaging and interacting in this foreign space, that at first may even seem hostile, visitorstry to turn a physical and mental space into a relational place, depending, among others, their liminal status. It is precisely this part of the encounter that is governed by a concept that is as old as humanity itself: hospitality as a set of customs, etiquettes and rights. This means that the economic part in travel practices and the positivist approach that usually accompanies it forms just a part of this much wider concept of hospitality.

The dominating economic view of tourism from late 19th century onwards was based on a positivist tradtion and followed Cartesian lines, whereby visitors were considered clients and the local population and infrastructure as providers. In these cases too fenomenological based research has been carried out to test client satisfaction among others, systematically ignoring the fact that the encounter between ‘us’ as local population and ‘them’ as visitors embraces a much wider scope on different socio-economic levels, counting with mutual understanding on the basis of equal power. The concept of emic may be useful for research on these levels.

The purpose of this short introduction to phenomenology is first of all to create a recognition of the different ways a human being can view the world and secondly to break a lance for non-linear ways of thinking, whereby, among others, subjectivity is acknowleged as a valid source of knowledge.

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The reflexive approach to tourism is based on the concepts of solidarity among tourists and tourism destinations with future generations. The binding factor between tourists and a local destination concerns the good of the planet and the stimulation of the kind of development that allows populations to satisfy their present needs while ensuring that future generations can satisfy theirs in the same way or better. The reflexive approach to tourism is all about reciprocity and interactions with tourists on one hand and local people, infrastructure and attractions on the other.

The need for approaching the phenomenon called tourism differently from the reigning mainstream perceptions of the term emanate from the urgent call for an effective implementation of sustainable development. Travel organizations, government authorities, hotel owners or tourism attractions form the main actors responding to the call for sustainable tourism development, but somehow most people involved in tourism leave tourists out of the debate. This is all the more remarkable when we take into account that these same tourists are the stars of the tourism show and therefore the primary stakeholders. The case can partly be explained by the fact that the concept of “tourism” was developed fully from the 1950s onwards – before, people were simply travelling, which in turn was primarily a social activity. Some hundred years ago one would stay for a couple of days with friends in the countryside or go to a local beach, but during the twentieth century the concept of holidays further developed. In the Western world today, people go for holidays at least 3 or 4 weeks per year. As a result of a growing population and better economic conditions in the Western world (later being followed by many Asian countries), millions of people take long holidays and in the 21st century the holiday has become something sacred that nobody seems to be able to do without anymore, in great contrast to the developing world. From the West enormous transport networks were set up for coaches, trains and planes and in order to confront these fast growing tendencies, chains of big resort hotels were erected. A pattern of big investments was developed, hand in hand with emerging large international travel organizations and advertising machinery, while people started to talk about the tourism industry. The people who had once been travellers became clients of this new industry (tourists) and while travelling had been a social activity in earlier days, from the 1960s on it became an economic matter of supply and demand of tourism products. The travellers of earlier times had to accept how other places were whereas the modern tourist insists more and more that his destination be adapted to his taste and interests.

It is this view of tourists as clients and the client as king that seriously hampers any effort to work as sustainably as possible. We can even go one step further and state that without the active participation of tourists, any sustainable tourism development runs the serious risk of getting stuck somewhere halfway in the process.

Putting travel organizations or hotels under pressure of a much needed sustainable development is important, but can never become effective, when tourists do not know, understand or are unwilling to react to the call to mitigate the effects of their footprints. In short, there is no sustainable tourism without sustainable tourists. By the way, with “sustainable tourists” I am not referring to tourists staying for ever, but to those tourists or travellers who have some understanding of sustainable development and try to act accordingly.

There is another reason that points to a need to approach tourism differently: from the 1970s onward a tendency can be observed that is commonly referred to as post-modernism. Without getting too much involved with the meaning or background of the trend, it stems from the general socio-cultural shifts that mark the post-modern era. Profound changes in the way place and time are experienced as a result of accelerated globalization lead to a new questioning of identity, the self and the place people take in this world. It refers to the trend that people’s strong feelings of being tied to a certain place and culture are slowly giving way to being tied to a certain time or era. People tend to feel that time and space are compressed and they appear to have a less coherent sense of self and start having a rather fragmented identity in living cultural pluralism.

There is a new questioning of identity, the self and the place people occupy in this world.

Thus, cultural pluralism, a major characteristic of the postmodern landscape, is nowhere better illustrated than by the expanding horizons of tourism. As a consequence, the number of activities and experiences that can legitimately be categorised as tourism has increased significantly and it seems that nearly every dimension of human culture now has the potential to become a form of tourism. Additionally, an increasing preoccupation with consumption could be said to make tourism the archetypal postmodern activity, as by its very nature it relies on the consumption of natural artefacts or built environments and cultures.

Under the influence of post-modernism there is a growing tendency among tourists to have more interest in authenticity as an outcome of a world where people feel they have become alienated from nature and where everyday life is viewed as increasingly un-authentic. Tourists seems to look for their own way to go, selecting what they may like and discarding what does not seem to fit their idea of something new, different and authentic. Increasingly tourists do not follow the supply side anymore, but start looking for developing their own way of having a holiday. The influence of mass media, the ever more multiple socio-cultural character of societies combined with a decreasing religiousness and increasing incredulity have a marked influence on the lifestyle of many societies, and not just the western ones in this case.

Increasingly individualistic behaviour among tourists concerning the search for self and self-realisation and the role of nature and authenticity in this quest are all tendencies that make the tourist the centre of attention and also involve the need to accept him as a full-fledged partner in tourism, since it is the tourist himself who has started to develop a new interest and view on tourism. Furthermore, people’s growing uncertainty about present and future pushes them towards a nostalgic desire for a beautiful past and idealized authenticity. Tourists often travel to third world countries precisely to find something of the “old-fashioned” where time seems to have halted.

The aforementioned economic changes in tourism as well as the socio-cultural developments in most western societies do not necessarily fit with the urgent need for sustainable tourism development. Since the latter is of fundamental importance for the survival of our planet, there is an equally urgent need to reformulate some of the basic assumptions of tourism.


The cornerstone of reflexivity in tourism: the encounter of tourists and their tourism destination.

By eliminating the economic separation of the tourist (client) on one hand and the tourism “industry” on the other and by joining these two forces into one major social activity called tourism, a basis can be laid for a gradual incorporation of tourists within the sustainable development process. This can be achieved by focusing on the experience the tourist lives rather than considering him the centre of the action. Tourism is about living experiences – in tourism nobody can sell them and only tourists can live them. This precise moment of living an experience represents the meeting point between tourists and the destination in the widest sense of the word. Therefore when approaching tourism reflexively the moment of experiencing is the pivot on which tourism hinges and it must ensure the existence of a balance between the benefits that both the tourists and the tourism destination receive from this tangible or sometimes intangible encounter. Tourists, therefore, are an inseparable and integrated part of tourism.

This also means that tour operators, local agents, travel stores and so on are to be seen as intermediary agents and not as the backbone of an industry. They help tourists and the destination meet each other. They influence tourists and destinations and try to match one with the other. Travel organizations in general do so for economic gains, although nowadays more of them are also propelled by other reasoning.

The sublime moment of this encounter between tourists and their destination is the instance of living an experience. Similar to eating a meal where there is an intake of calories, the tourist receives impulses through the senses – the sensory intake. We shall extend this idea of consumption of calories and call the impact of signals through the senses the intake ofimpact calories – in short ImpCal. These ImpCal are processed by the brain. A unit of consumed and processed ImpCal is called an experience and that is exactly what the tourist is looking for. In fact, the tourist pays for the possibility of consuming ImpCal with potential experiences as a result. For more on Impcal see

Tourists select their holiday destination on the grounds of certain personal interests and the attraction of some particular highlight, such as a famous waterfall, national park or world city. We call these tourist attractions Impact Sources or Impsources. When they are of sufficient importance for tourists to select their holiday destination (macro or micro), we call them Main Impsources. Nearby there may be smaller tourist attractions developed for tourists, the so-called Side Impsources (a small museum, canopy tour or botanical garden).

Apart from these, there is the normal entourage of local daily life; the kind of Impsources that occur along the main road and may form a potential experience for free. We call theseShared Impsources because the local population shares them with tourists. Another possible ImpCal intake can be produced by chance meetings or sudden occurrences called the Incidental Impsources (accidents are another kind of incidental Impsource that unfortunately may lead to negative experiences). Tourism consists of a large number of people, organizations, hotels or other types of buildings, means of transport and many other entities that form a complicated pattern of networks and relations. Tourists form part of these networks, too. For more on Impsources and experiences, see

For a better understanding of a reflexive approach to the tourism of tourists it is important to realize that there is a fundamental difference between main and side Impsources on the one hand and shared and incidental ones on the other. The first are developed specifically for tourists while the latter form part of a destination with or without the presence of tourists. A lovely landscape, picturesque village, local food or an old oak tree are all there anyway and tourists do not have to pay to see them, no reservations have to be made and no travel organizations are involved. Actually, an important part of experiences gained during a holiday stem precisely from these shared Impsources. They provide not only the general impressions of a place (the atmosphere), but also the small details such as a particular smell, sound or something as human as a smile.

The Tourists’ Lifestyles

Within the limited scope of a holiday – or of being a tourist – we can distinguish different types of tourists, based on character traits and lifestyle. We can set up a scale with two extremes, and as is often the case with any social activity, most people can be placed somewhere in the middle.

One extreme of this scale refers to those people that are individualists and travel alone or with a partner or friend. They will make their own itineraries and travel at their own rhythm and pace. They want to be active, tend to avoid typical tourist sites (main Impsources) and have a keen interest in local populations and their culture. Volunteer work is a serious option and encounters with one’s self and with people from other cultures are of great importance. These people challenge themselves in extreme situations – either physically or socially – with an emphasis on their own performance. This is the idealistic end of the scale and since these people try to depart from the usual standards, we can also call it the allocentric part of the lifestyle scale.

The other end of the scale gives us a profile of people who do not want any problems, they like to have everything arranged for them and they want complete relaxation. Their main concern is physical and therefore their interests are in the fields of sunbathing, massages, spas or plastic surgery, just to mention a few. They have no particular interest in local people or their culture. We call this end of the scale the psycho-centric one.

The selection of where to go and the change from pre-tourist to real tourist means that a fair number of complicated decisions must be made. How much time the tourist has available, the budget, travelling individually or in a group, going by airplane or cruise ship and many more elements must be factored in. Tourists at different ends of this Tourist Lifestyle Scale (TLS) will handle their decisions differently. Those on the allocentric side tend to pay providers directly at the destination as much as possible, while more psycho-centric tourists favour paying home country travel organizations up front, for example.

It should be clear that tourists from the allocentric side of the TLS prefer shared Impsources while those on the psychocentric side concentrate more on main and side Impsources. This is not just a matter of lifestyle; it also has to do with the way people experience things. People on the allocentric side of the scale take in much more unexpected Impcal, meaning that they do not know beforehand exactly what to expect and they are open to anything occurring around them. Tourists on the psychocentric side however, know quite well what to expect and their sensory intake concerns the expected Impcal. This may lead to the disadvantage of only seeing what one expects and not seeing anything else. However, people on the far end of the psychocentric side of the scale want just that: to see what they expected and they are not usually in for surprises. For more information on tourists’ life styles see

The Destination

Since we pointed out that the reflexive approach in tourism refers to the reciprocal relationship between tourists and tourism destinations, we shall have a closer look at what a destination comprises.

A destination consists of:

1. Travellers:

1A Tourists;

1B Travellers who happen to be at a place (and become tourists for a few days); even day-visitors fall into this category;

2. Tourism Infrastructure:

2A Tourist attractions purposely designed for tourists and provided with the necessary amenities for them (main and side Impsources);

2B Hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, information centres, and roads constructed for tourism, tourism transport, local travel agents, etc.;

3. Local Infrastructure: houses, schools, shops, banks, clinics, local authorities, etc., for the use of the local population or anyone who happens to be there; as such these are considered shared Impsources for tourists;

4. Local people, including the local population and anyone who happens to live there at the moment;

4A Those involved with tourists, travellers or the tourism infrastructure;

4B Those not directly involved in tourism.

From the scheme above we can deduce that tourism destinations are rather heterogeneous affairs with many stakeholders from all walks of life such as owners of establishments, managers, tourists, local farmers, employees and even investors, developers or intermediaries.

Can we call a place a tourist destination when there are no tourists? Some may argue that a tourist destination receives its name because the destination has been prepared to receive tourists, while others feel that without tourists there is no tourism. My point of view is that a destination becomes a tourist destination when there are tourists, who therefore form an intrinsic part of a destination. This also means that a tourist destination may be so named in spite of the fact that it is not ready to receive tourists – they simply come for one reason or another and it is precisely these types of cases that concern many of the negative effects tourism may have: the lack of proper preparation at a destination for receiving tourists. At the same time one must realize that the term ‘tourist’ should be viewed in the widest sense possible: many tourism destinations cater to day-visitors (beaches) or the participants in seminars or conferences and there may be few ‘real’ tourists in the narrow sense of the word.

Many entities become involved in forming a tourist destination and attracting tourists. Not only are there stakeholders at the destination itself, but we can also find intermediaries between tourists on the one hand and tourist attractions, infrastructure and local populations on the other, which usually operate from outside the destination area or even from another country or continent. These intermediaries consist mainly of travel organizations that may be active in the destination country and/or the tourists’ home country, but they can also include national tourism boards or NGOs. They provide tourists with target information, material images and factual information. Their role at a destination is therefore indirect, but the persuasive power they have over tourist holiday choices and the dominant position they occupy on many levels of information supply mean in practice that these travel organizations can exercise an important influence at a destination.

Governmental authorities are very influential stakeholders that operate within and from outside a destination. Their role can be of fundamental importance, although their absence does not mean that effective sustainable development cannot exist. Setting up short, medium and long term policies for the development of an area should be a matter for all stakeholders involved, but in practice we have often encountered a considerable gap between authorities on the one hand and private stakeholders on the other. Establishing policy lines for a specific sustainable tourism development is a complicated matter, whereby all parties involved should bear clearly in mind that it is all about the possibility of creating Impcal intake from Impsources – either main or shared. The need for adequate tourism infrastructure rises primarily from a necesity to protect the environment and not from an economic need to generate profits. The encounter between tourists and a destination has to be seen in this light and this holds true for governmental authorities alike.


Tourists and Sustainable Development

We introduced the idea of the reflexive approach to tourism, since tourists must be more effectively involved in sustainable tourism development. There are three ways in which this can be achieved: by motivating them and creating a need, by forcing them to do so by creating regulations, or by means of an interaction between tourists and destination: a reflexive approach.

In the case of the first option we should realize that for tourists to play a more active part in sustainable development they must first be motivated to do so. Main actors to help create a motivation are travel organizations and the media – the first through material imaging and the latter by mental imaging. Motivation will lead to a need, which in turn will set the first expectations for a destination. The basic assumption here is that tourists, once they have decided on their holiday destination, not only develop the corresponding expectations, they also form a direct interest in a destination with a certain amount of involvement at the same time. Once selected, a destination is seen in a different light – it has become THEIR destination. Generally speaking this interest means that tourists may first develop a feeling of economic involvement (e.g. leaving as much money as possible at the destination itself and not with travel organizations); secondly they may have a feeling of solidarity specifically with future generations (their own and those of the people at the destination); thirdly there should be a commitment to protecting biodiversity; fourth, there is social responsibility; and fifth, there must be respect for other cultures. We mention here five different levels of showing interest, notions that should be shared by most tourists. These in turn can be translated into a uniform behaviour pattern among tourists at a destination so they can be seen as a more or less homogeneous group that plays a role in the sustainable development of a place. The proper preparation based on the five levels mentioned here can produce a common denominator among tourists regarding their relationship with the tourist destination.

The same five components refer to the three pillars on which the concepts of sustainable development are based: planet, people and profit. In the case of economic involvement this is obvious; then there are the elements of solidarity and commitment referring to the planet, while social responsibility and cultural respect refer to people. In this case interest and involvement in a destination relate to a fairly recent tendency among people to communicate actively with groups or individual people from other cultures. The growing interest people show in other peoples’ ways of living or in the environment in general seems to be closely linked to many Internet developments, of which the social networks (such as Facebook and Twitter) are the most noteworthy.

As selectors tourists may insist on their lodging being certified in one way or another, now that sustainable tourism certification systems exist in many countries. The Internet plays an important part in this respect and those tourists who make bookings through travel organizations may insist on bookings with certified hotels or tourists attractions as much as possible. Important here is the fact that tourists know what Certifications of Sustainable Tourism (CST) are and they have at least some interest and motivation to have sustainability issues play a part when selecting micro holiday destinations. We encounter here a clear difference between tourists from the allocentric and psychocentric sides of the Tourist Lifestyle Scale. The more idealistic (allocentric) tourists will insist on the use of certified sustainable tourism infrastructure much more than those going to an all-inclusive resort hotel.

A second way to help tourists to support sustainable development is by simply forcing them to do so. Government or destination-level regulations on energy and water use as well as recycling practices can prove to be effective. Limited access to protected nature areas is another example, the same as regulations for “clean” means of transport.

That means in practical terms, that travel organizations have to tell tourists what they can do and what they should not do. The list of do’s and don’ts may be a long one (concerning ecological, social and cultural behaviour and how to handle money locally in a sustainable way) and tourists should realize beforehand, that they cannot do whatever they like during their vacation (interesting point for the psychocentric side of the TLS scale!).

The option of tourists taking a small exam (set up by some government organizations via the Internet) is another possibility of making sure tourists mitigate the impact of their footprints. In first instance this may be done by an Eco-behaviour Statement to be signed by the tourist in similar fashion to sustainability statements issued by travel companies. In a later stage or in the case of visits to protected nature areas this actually should be a sort of exam – again via the Internet. The advantage is twofold: first of all it is a way to ensure reasonably sustainable tourist behaviour at a destination and secondly it makes the tourists conscious of the sustainability issues and his interest should be aroused. From the point of view of the reflexive approach to tourism, the sequence of actions is as follows: governments’ entities or travel organizations force tourists to study some aspects of sustainable behaviour > Tourists read/study about sustainable issues and will get involved (how little this may be) > improved sustainable tourist behaviour at a destination may motivate local people and enterprises.

The consciousness a tourist should have about the environment and the footprints he leaves behind should lead to the notion whether luxury is necessary or not. Many Western tourists as well as ones from other parts of the world use a holiday to do and experience things that are not available at home. One example of this behaviour would be partaking of a higher level of luxury than people are used to at home. In the 1980s many tourists accepted staying in rooms with shared bathrooms but today this is unthinkable and most tourists go for rooms with a luxury private bathroom (preferably with a Jacuzzi), flat screen TV, DVD player, Wi-Fi and mini bar. It has to be made clear to tourists that luxury does not necessarily mean a significant increase in experiences gained and that this same luxury has nothing authentic about it. Most movements unleash counter effects though, so we can see on the allocentric side of the Tourist Lifestyle Scale a growing market for people who are more interested in the simple things of life without much comfort at all.

Another way of imposing sustainable conduct upon tourists is by choice editing: travel organisations in general and local tourism infrastructure particularly just offer what is sustainably sound.

The third way to involve tourists with a destination is by generating an interaction between the destination and tourists, also referred to as the reflexive approach. One must realize that it is important to accept tourists as full-fledged partners in tourism. The key moment of a holiday is the tourists’ sensory intake at an Impsource and it is all about this instance of interaction between tourists and destination. Therefore, let us have a look how reflexivity works in tourism:

Three levels of reflexivity

In sociology when talking about reflexivity there are several ways the term is used.

First, there is the reflexivity related to an action: you act on a certain expectation but by doing so you reinforce even more what you expected. When there are rumours that the stock exchange may crash, people will sell their shares because of this expectation and obviously this reaction will cause the stock market to go down. One of the applications in tourism is what is called “the self-fulfilling prophecy”. This is when a person puts a tremendous amount of expectation on a specific part of his holiday and by trying to avoid losing face, he will make sure that he indeed has the incredible experience he hoped for. When a tourist feels and expresses that the greatest possible experience in life is visiting the Galapagos, this tourist will then do everything possible, consciously and even more so unconsciously, to make sure that afterwards he can say he indeed had the experience of a lifetime.

Expectations play an important part in tourism, but too often this only refers to the case of the tourist. There are expectations at the destination as well, and in my view not enough research has been carried out to see to what extent these expectations influence some of the actors in tourism.

The reflexivity of action applied to tourism refers to prejuduces, fixed ideas and expectations, that both parties are willing to adhere to and so seemingly have expectations come true. If tourists expect to see the locals in original costumes and the local people therefore dress up for tourists to have their expectations fulfilled, the true encounter between tourists and local community becomes unrealistic.

Theme: Expectations

Secondly, it applies to the actor himself: for example, the psychologist who has to be psycho-analyzed himself, too. In order words, all those people analyzing tourism should be analyzed themselves as well. This analysis concerns the role each actor has to fulfil in the various tourism activities and this analysis has to be carried out by other actors. It means that the tourist has to be analyzed by people from a destination. Tourists’ needs, expectations, ways of living experiences and the final experiences they will get have to be studied profoundly in the light of a socio-psychological approach. Next the tourist has to be analytical as far as his tourism destination is concerned and must make observations, apart from the Impcal intake and subsequent experiences he will have. Therefore the tourists’ analysis of a destination in relation to their expectations plays a role that is just as important as that of an Impsource’s manager researching tourists’ behaviour.

Theme: Evaluation

The third application of reflexivity is between actor and action. Here we must consider that an investigator, in the process of researching his subject, has an influence on it and therefore he can never get a fully objective result. For example, tourists love to have a “peek behind the scenes” in a village to get to know the real life that the locals live, but in doing so they have an effect on that same local life. It is this level of reflexivity that best shows us the influence tourists and tourism can have on a local population and its culture. Tourists are very keen to see real objective authenticity but in attempting to do so, they disturb the environment and the local culture and most likely all they will see is some staged authenticity instead or perhaps none at all. Authenticity therefore is an important part of tourism: it is about something unique with clear socio-cultural ties, but it may lose its authenticity when it is mass-marketed or normalized by globalization or other factors. Conversely, local people may be keen on showing tourists some real authenticity, but in doing so it becomes standard and no longer unique.

It is precisely in this element of reflexivity that we can differentiate the several faces of what we call authenticity. Real and objective authenticity is one possibility, but there is also the type where an object or phenomenon is experienced as authentic. The story about the object may induce a feeling of authenticity, forming part of the relationship between the tourist, the object and its image. One step further leads us to activity-related authenticity, directly concerning a person’s Self and his change in view from experiencing an object, phenomenon or activity. By going fishing, you may get a tremendous feeling of peace and quiet – an authentic experience therefore, although not necessarily related to a well-defined Impsource.

Once again we touch on the importance of the difference between main and side Impsources as being staged for tourists, and the shared Impsources that are there even when the tourists are not. Shared Impsources cannot be staged, otherwise they would be converted into tourist attractions and as such, would no longer form part of the local’s everyday life. Shared Impsources may be authentic for tourists but not necessarily for the local population. A village’s daily routine does not give a feeling of uniqueness to any local person, but since it differs from the tourist’s home environment, it is of great interest to them.

Theme: Authenticity

Reflexivity and Sustainability

Translating this point to the level of sustainable development, we can distinguish the Impsources that are being managed specifically for tourists (in socio-economic or environmental ways) from the shared Impsources, whereby sustainability issues concern the locals in the first place and they have a direct responsibility in this respect. We touch here on the difference between sustainable development and sustainable tourism, with the latter concerning just the main and side Impsources and any other tourism infrastructure.

It is important to note that I insist on a clear distinction at a destination between Impsources and infrastructure mainly intended for tourists on the one hand and any other structure that is there without any direct link to tourists on the other. From the point of view of sustainability there is a clear difference between the two and in addressing sustainable development issues one has to keep the two separate. Stakeholders at a destination must clearly see which part of a destination has been made fit for tourism and which parts remain as they were with or without tourism. Tourists’ involvement with a destination can only reach a certain point: where tourism stops and local life begins. This third point of reflexivity relates not only to tourists and their influence on a destination, but also to the influence a sustainable tourism development may have and the way it affects local life.

Any community has its own commitment to future generations which may be strong or nearly non-existent. However, what we often see nowadays is a tourism infrastructure (such as hotels) that is nearly forced to be as sustainable as possible, while the rest of the village or town nearby may be dirty, anti-environmental and far from carbon neutral. The influence sustainable tourism practices have on a local population can be observed in some areas, while there are still many cases (if not the majority) whereby this is not the case.

In practice sustainable development is still a matter of (government) authorities, NGOs or any other private or public body involved. Two of the main actors in tourism – tourists and local populations – seem to be playing a marginal role so far. By applying a reflexive approach to tourism I have tried to make clear why tourists are the main stakeholders in tourism and that they play a fundamental role in a tourism development. The same holds true for a destination. I explained that a destination is not just a combination of hotels and tourist attractions, but that everyday local life plays an important part in tourism, too.

Those who continue to consider tourism to be a mere economic activity do not realize, that a great part of experiences gained by tourists stem from shared Impsources. A sustainable tourism development that ignores what is not part of the tourism infrastructure cannot be effective. Only by putting the encounter between tourists and what is local in the heart of tourism and any sustainable tourism development we can find the balance for a general sustainability directed at the future generations of both locals and tourists.

» This website is not commercial and does not generate income; therefore for those who actively use its content we appreciate a voluntary contribution, small or symbolic as it may be, by pressing the DONATE button (Paypal system) at the bottom of this page «

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source


  1. What a great article!
    Thanks for sharing this link on Travel & Tourism Industry Professional Worldwide Group.
    I am very much pleased to read this article. It is very helpful to promote Sustainable Tourism all over the world..

    Thanks again and greetings!!
    Kuldip Gadhvi,
    from Bhuj, India

    • Dear Kuldip,
      Thanks for your mail and let us hope more people start considering tourism in the same way.
      regards – Marinus

  2. Hi

    I am writing my thesis and i came across this page with all these different thoeries about sustainable development. I am very much interested in this idea of reflexive tourism-if you have any other literature you can share–Id be grateful.

    Great Article!

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The Reflexive Approach

The Reflexive Approach to Tourist Destinations

A tourist destination is an area where tourists like to come and stay for at least one night. The fact that tourists like to go there indicates that there is some sort of attraction, one that was made specifically for tourists (main and side Impsources) or something that a local population shares with tourists (shared and incidental Impsources). Since we define the essence of the tourists’ tourism as being the moment a tourist experiences a tourism Impsource, this means that the presence of things or phenomena that are of interest for tourists is of basic importance, as well as the presence of tourists themselves to experience them.

We can make a distinction between macro-destinations and micro ones. A country as a whole can be called a tourist destination. “Where are you going for holidays this year?” “We are going to Thailand!” Sustainability issues on a macro level concern international (air) transport, for example. Next there are tourist destinations on a small scale level, perhaps a national park, a small town or a rural community. The issues of sustainable tourism development can often be seen more clearly at the micro level where a local population has more direct input into affairs.

A destination consists of:

1. Travellers;

1A Tourists;

1B Travellers who happen to be at a place (and may convert themselves into tourists for a few days); even day-visitors fall into this category;

2. Tourism Infrastructure:

2A Tourist attractions purposely designed for tourists and provided with the necessary amenities for them (main and side Impsources);

2B Hotels, restaurants, souvenir stores, information centres, and roads constructed for tourism, tourism transport, local travel agents, etc.

3. Local Infrastructure: houses, schools, shops, banks, clinics, local authorities, etc. for the use of the local population or anyone who happens to be there; as such these are considered shared Impsources for tourists;

4. Local people, including the local population and anyone who happens to live there at the moment;

4A Those involved with tourists, travelers or the tourism infrastructure;

4B Those not directly involved in tourism.

From the scheme above we can deduce that so-called tourism destinations are rather heterogeneous affairs for many stakeholders from all walks of life such as owners of establishments, managers, tourists or employees on one side and investors, developers or intermediaries on the other.

Can we call a place a tourist destination when there are no tourists? Some may argue that a tourist destination receives its name because the destination has been prepared to receive tourists, while others feel that without tourists there is no tourism. My point of view is that a destination becomes a tourist destination when there are tourists, who therefore form an intrinsic part of a destination. This also means that a tourist destination may be so named in spite of the fact that it is not ready to receive tourists – they simply come for one reason or another and it is precisely these types of cases that concern many of the negative effects tourism may have: the lack of proper preparation at a destination for receiving tourists.

We touch on here one of the basic issues of a tourist destination and the problems surrounding it: in many cases a local population has no control or simply does not know when and how many tourists may be visiting their place. All too often tourists seem to turn up as if from nowhere and leave just as suddenly. All too frequently a local population has no control whatsoever over the things or phenomena that seem to attract tourists. Within this context we should remember that any place can become a tourist destination, because it is simply a matter of how a place is presented to pre-tourists and to what extent this picture coincides with the expectations pre-tourists may have.

To attract tourists and become a tourist destination (once tourists are arriving), many entities become involved. In this sense not only are there stakeholders at the (potential) destination itself, we can also find intermediaries between tourists on the one hand and tourist attractions, infrastructure and local populations on the other, which usually operate from outside the destination area or even from another country or continent. These intermediaries consist mainly of travel organizations that may be active in the country of destination or of the tourists’ origin, but they can also include national tourism boards or NGOs. They provide tourists with target information, material images and factual information. Their role at a destination is therefore indirect, but the persuasive power they have over the tourists’ choice of holiday and the dominant position they occupy on many levels of information supply mean in practice that these travel organizations can exercise an important influence at a destination.

We stated that tourists form part of a destination and we should see now how tourists can help shape a destination and vice versa. It is precisely this approach of reflexivity in tourism that should shed a clearer light on how sustainable development concepts can be implemented more effectively and how possibly negative effects caused by tourists can be prevented.

The reflexive approach helps us to get a clearer view of how tourism can work: the pivot on which tourism hinges is the moment when a tourist enjoys an attraction, in other words when a tourist has the sensory intake of impact calories (Impcal) from a tourism impact source (Impsource). This is the moment when the tourist and the destination meet and the reason why the tourist wanted to go there. Reflexivity can then be applied to tourists and their destination in the widest sense of the term and we can see what mutual influences and effects one has on the other.

For this purpose we made a distinction between those Impsources that were prepared for tourists specifically (Main and Side Impsources) and those that form part of the everyday life of the locals, who share these Impsources with tourists and anyone else who happens to be there (Shared and Incidental Impsources). This distinction is important, not only because in many cases the so-called shared Impsources form the bulk of a tourist’s holiday experiences, but also because there is some sort of more direct contact between locals, tourists, local culture and landscapes.

When studying the Tourist Lifestyle Scale (see: ), those on the right-hand side will mostly enjoy main and side Impsources, while for those falling more towards the center and left side of the scale (the allocentric part), shared Impsources will play a dominant role in a holiday. This effectively means that travel organizations are having less influence while destination sources are having more.

There is the point of tourists being part of the tourist destination, but this leaves us with the question how tourists can exercise this participation. How can tourists participate in the development of a destination, the creation of a “tourism gaze” or decisions regarding the limitations of development? Are tourists stakeholders? Of course they are.

At a destination individual people work in tourism and each one has his or her own individual input one way or another. With tourists this is different. Every week there are different tourists turning up – rarely does the same tourist appear twice at the same destination (these “repeaters” form a low percentage of all tourists). In other words, when talking about tourists at a destination we are thinking of the group as a whole and not of each individual traveller. How does one involve a group of unknown people?

First of all we should make a clear distinction between tourists and ordinary travellers, which boils down to the following three points.


1. Travel to a destination without any obligatory reason or previous commitment; in other words, for leisure purposes;

2. Travel with the primary aim of satisfying one’s own needs and expectations (“I want….,” regardless of whether or not a destination can satisfy these demands); and,

3. Insist that a destination be adapted to tourist needs to some extent; for many tourists falling on the right-hand side of the Tourist Lifestyle Scale, this may mean expectations of more luxury than people at a destination are used to and conversely, tourists on the left-hand side of this scale often expect less luxury than folks at the destination are accustomed to.

The well known writer Paul Theroux adds a fourth characteristic: Tourists don’t know where they have been, while travellers don’t know where they are going.

Some people argue that many tourists can be reached through travel organizations, which is true to a certain extent; however more than half of all tourists do not make use of travel organizations, which leads us to the point that tourists need to be able to exercise some influence on a destination as a group.

The basic assumption here is that tourists, once they have decided on their holiday destination, develop not only the corresponding expectations, but they also form a direct interest in a destination with a certain amount of involvement at the same time. Once selected a destination is seen in a different light. Generally speaking this interest means that tourist may develop a feeling of social responsibility, secondly an economic involvement (e.g. leaving as much money as possible at the destination itself and not with travel organizations); thirdly a feeling of solidarity specifically with future generations (their own and those of the people at the destination), fourthly there should be a commitment with protecting biodiversity, and fifthly there must be respect for other cultures. We mention here five different levels of showing interest, notions that should be shared by most tourists. These in turn can be translated into a uniform behaviour pattern among tourists at a destination so they can be seen as a more or less homogeneous group that plays a role in the sustainable development of a place. The proper preparation based on the five levels mentioned here can produce a common denominator among tourists regarding their relationship with the tourist destination.

The same five components refer to the three pillars on which the concepts of sustainable development are based: planet, people and profit. In the case of the economic involvement this is obvious; then there are the elements of solidarity and commitment referring to the planet, while social responsibility and cultural respect refer to people. In this case interest and involvement relate to a fairly recent tendency of people wanting to participate actively in or to belong to a group with the same motives. The growing interest people show in other peoples’ ways of living or in the environment in general seems to be closely linked to many Internet developments, of which Facebook and Twitter are the most noteworthy. Secondly, people are confronted daily with natural disasters and environmental issues and are nearly bombarded with information about climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

My website has an article on information supply ( where I introduce three types of information most useful in tourism: factual information, target information and descriptive information. However, in light of the aforementioned tendencies, there is a fourth type of information of growing interest to tourism: social information as a result of Social Information Seeking (SIS). In recent years there have been a fast growing number of sites where people can ask questions and they are answered by groups of people or communities. One of the early examples is the site ‘Answerbag’ and since then more have sprung up – Yahoo!Answer being one of the most popular, so it seems.

The basic idea is quite similar to the Wiki concept, of which Wikipedia is the most famous. Generally, a site consists of 4 parts: a mechanism whereby people can submit questions, a venue for submitting answers, the community built around this information exchange, and finally answers are indexed for search engines, thus enabling web users to find answers given to previously asked questions in response to new queries. This can be on world level or limited to specific groups of people with a common interest (communities). The term community is used here in the broadest sense of the word and those sites are called cQA sites. These kinds of sites began to appear on the Internet in 2003 and they have been a growing phenomenon ever since. Apart from this, there was already a tendency for people to ask for information via the Internet, rather than trying to find it themselves. An ever increasing number of people seem to think “why bother seeking an answer when the Internet can connect me with the people who have it?” On forums and similar communication platforms the habit of asking questions is also growing quickly.

The possibilities for those interested in tourism are enormous and cQA sites may provide a necessary link between (pre-)tourists and the people from a destination or local community. Due to the fast-growing influences of the various Internet applications that provide people with information and the tools for acquiring specific data such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques, potential tourists can find a lot more information directly on the Internet and the additional cQA sites carry the concepts even further along a new route of social information exchange. Obviously this refers not only to tourism, but to the world in general.

Apart from the changing influence the Internet is exercising, we can also observe some shifts in the field of social responsibility. Not until 2010, Unilever CEO Paul Polman stated:

( “Today, the concept of value is increasingly associated with products that demonstrate social responsibility. … A successful product must provide utility, but it must also exhibit a social consciousness, if you will. … Every brand must have a social mission and the consumer must have an integral part in defining that mission.”

Obviously it is interesting to note that globally, concepts such as social responsibility have begun to gain influence, while pure economic reasoning is being questioned. Up until now the travel organizations’ strongest card was in the provision of information to tourists, but this dominant role has started to diminish. Tour operators used to manage a large part of a destination’s information flows, decide on the image a place should have vis-à-vis tourists’ demands, and in combination with the economic weight based on sales volume, this led to their having a dominant role at many destinations for the last 30 years or so. But under influence of today’s many Internet applications, we now see that the tour operators’ role is not so obvious anymore.It is not only the tourist himself who has started to ventilate his feelings of wanting to be heard, but there are other actors as well at a destination, who dispose of more possibilities to take own decisions that are directed at a sustainable development in general and not just driven by economic prospects.

Putting tourists in the centre of what we call tourism in combination with the Impsources at the destination is an approach that also highlights the original nature of tourism and traveling: the social-psychological aspect. Remember that it wasn’t until the 1970s that tourism was converted into a predominantly economic activity whereby travel organizations became producers of tourism products, selling them to their clients – the tourists. Nowadays under the pressure of an urgent need for sustainable development and with new communications platforms provided by the Internet, this economic view of tourism has become untenable.

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Tourist Attractions – Impsources

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The Tourist and sustainable Impsources

The climax of the holiday has been described has the intake of impact calories through the senses, which are then processed by the tourist into experiences. The source where the ImpCal are taken from is called Impsource; tourist attractions form part of it. It is important to note at this point, that tourists experience many things and that many of them do not need to come necessarily from tourist attractions. In any environment other than the home scene (a condition in tourism), everywhere you can see, hear of smell something new – in other words things are notices. The tourist experiences also concern, therefore, the environment, the local population, the colours of the houses or the smells of local cuisine. We can divide the experiences into those being the result of purposely built tourist attractions (museum, canopy tour of a artificial ski slope) or those which are accidental, such as a flog of sheep crossing the road, a local religious gathering or also unpleasant ones, such as an accident or a flooding.

There are sources, which are for tourist exclusively, and others that form part of the daily life of local people and would have been there anyway.

ImpCal intake may be the focus point of the holiday; it does not limit itself, however, to the tourist attractions and their surroundings. Before arriving at the place where ImpCal intake can take place – the so-called Impsource – the tourist has already had a series of encounters. In the area of the Impsource one has to stay overnight using the local infrastructure, including roads, shops or restaurants. This infrastructure, which is used prior to the visit of the Impsource, is also part of the total experience. This Main Impsource forms the reason, why the tourist wanted to go to that particular destination. However, there are many other things a tourist can enjoy apart from the main Impsource. This can take place using the so-called Side Impsources. The tourist reached a destination to see some famous waterfall, but at the same time other tourist attractions can be created nearby. A hotel may develop a botanical garden, an old watermill may be restored, the organization is of a music festival is another option and in this way there are many possibilities to offer ImpCal for some financial compensation, obviously.

Souvenirs or other type stores may offer additional Impsources. People like buying little things from the area they are visiting – supposing, that these products are produced effectively in that area and contain some original or cultural elements that belong to the local population.

One of the reasons to offer Side Impsources is, that the people want to keep tourist as long as possible within their region. The more there is to see, the greater the chance the tourist may stay a night longer. We are not talking about the ImpCal potential of just one source, but about the ImpCal value of an entire region. An area, where there are many different things to do – in other words with high ImpCal potential – attracts more tourists than an area tourists arrive to see just one Impsource and then immediately continue their journey. Tourist attractions have an ImpCal value, but a region has one, too: the some of individual Impsources.

A hotel can be an Impsource in itself and not only serve as “base camp” in between visits to the various Main Impsources of the area. Even more than that, in an effort to keep the tourists for more nights, there is a pronounced tendency for hotels to offer all kinds of Side Impsources: beautiful gardens, swimming pools, Jacuzzi, tennis courts, golf links or casinos. So, there are Main Impsources, then there are the Side Sources offered as an extra value for the area, but there are also Impsources, which are just on the main road and may form a potential experience for free. We call these Shared Impsources, because the local population can get ImpCal intake, too, although the resulting experience has nothing to do with tourism in their case.


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In cities you see mostly Shared Impsources, which never have been intended to be there just for tourists. Elephants are part of every day’s local life in India.


That is to say that these shared Impsources are called like that depending on the fact, if the tourist gets ImpCal from them or not. Some tourists may simply not notice them. Besides the three aforementioned Impsources there is a fourth, which has no infrastructure at all and has never been intended for tourists. It may be a nice piece of forest, a place may get sudden fame for some natural phenomenon or a herd of sheep may cross the road. We call these the Incidental Impsources. Accidents – unfortunate as they may be – form also part of these fortuitous Impsources.

When we look at the effects tourism may have on the Impsources and when we do so from the sustainability point of view, we have to make a distinction between the different levels there are. We mentioned 4 different types of Impsources:


the main reason, why a tourist goes to a certain destination. This type of Impsources usually is large scale. As example we may mention the Iguazu Waterfalls or the Kruger Park.


near the main Impsource; uses the presence of the tourists at a destination. Therefore the side Impsources or of a smaller scale and they are especially developed for tourists. We can think of spa facilities in a hotel, the so-called Canopy Tours or a folkloric dance group for tourists.


these ImpCal sources are also used by others; in other words these Impsources had existed and will continue to exist independently from the fact if there are tourists or not. The presence of the Shared Impsources does not mean that the tourist uses them – he may not even notice them or may not recognize them as such. It may be about an old little church, a village fair or a romantic lane in the woods.


sudden circumstances which never were intended for tourists. An animal suddenly crossing the road or just meeting nice people can be examples of this group. These Impsources were never constructed or developed as such and have no owner. They may be of a negative nature, too: accidents or crime also form part of this group of Impsources.

The influence tourism can have on Impsources can be noticed on different levels. There are the physical impacts (pollution is one of them) and the socio-cultural ones (discrimination is an example). Apart from this distinction, there is a group of Impsources that do not change when used (e.g. white water rafting, which should not alter the river in any way), or those Impsources that do suffer from the presence of tourists: a forest for example. Finally we can distinguish those Impsources that caused certain damage when developed, while others did not.

At this point we should pause and start realizing that an ImpCal source only exists because human beings labelled it as such. A landscape becomes a landscape because people are looking at it. A waterfall may have been crashing down for thousands of years, but it only becomes an Impsource when someone has the know-how to get people there to watch it. In that sense an Impsource is always a manmade creation, independent of the fact that the source existed before, in one way or another.

In the case of the main Impsources we can see that it is quite likely that some damage was caused when developing this type of Impsource on physical and socio-cultural levels, more than anything else, because of the large scale character of it. The same holds true for the use of this type of Impsources that on the same grounds may cause large scale pollution or suffering the effects of overcrowding. There are cases that the main Impsource was already there (Iguazu waterfalls e.g.), but the enormous infrastructure created around it has had its impact on the environment. There is a different story for the side Impsources, because they are of a smaller scale and should not have caused that much damage when constructed or during use. This should also be the case for any socio-cultural impacts. A completely different case is that of the shared Impsources, which never have been developed just for tourism and therefore cannot have caused much damage either; the same applies to the incidental Impsources, too. With the use of the shared Impsources we assume that little damage is done, or it must the same damage the locals cause when they use these sources, such as emissions of public buses. A damaging impact the side Impsources may have is the fact of too many people at one place, certainly when it concerns nature areas (Canopy Tour); noise pollution may be another problem. A village may be suffocated by too may tourists resulting in a near exclusive use for tourist of shared Impsources and the locals have to keep up with the fact that their village was converted into a foreign town.

The impact of Impsources on the environment can be summarized as follows:







Main Impsources





Side Impsources





Shared Impsources





Incidental Impsources





D stands for Damaging and N for not damaging; D/N means that it is not clear cut

The above table shows us that the more idealistic tourist will realize that the shared Impsources and incidental Impsources cause less harm to the environment. The reason because of the character of these Impsources and because of their small scale size. The large scale tourism projects are the ones causing most harm, apart from problem areas such as overcrowding (beaches!). Unfortunately not all in the world of tourism can be small scale, even less so taking into consideration that the numbers of tourists travelling every year is increasing at an impressive pace.

There are different ways a tourist can organize his holidays. He can travel individually or with a group, he can have booked all hotels and transport beforehand or he may have arranged nothing at all. Depending the way how a tourist has planned his holidays we can have a look what Impsources he is most likely to have his ImpCal intake from.

Resort tourism:

The main Impsource is the resort hotel itself. There are some side Impsources which are easy to relate to for any tourist (spa, horseback riding on the beach or a golf course, just to mention a few). It has been made hard for a toursit to leave the hotel grounds, which means tourists can have little ImpCal intake from local places or population; in other words shared Impsources hardly play a role, while the incidental ones in such protected environment are not likely to occur either. Hotel staff is for most part form the cities and usually represent very little “local” elements.

The same remarks for resort hotels can be applied to cruise ships, too.

Group travel (comfort):

This type of travel arrangements usually visit some well known main Impsources (tourist highlights) and may offer the possibility to visit side Impsources. Hotels are comfortable , which means that part of the hotel staff may be contracted from city areas. The number of shared Impsources is limited, but they are there. Every day the coach crosses the country and on the way stops can be made. There is even a tendency among Tour Operators to visit local schools or families to enhance the ImpCal intake from shared Impsources. For the same reasons there is more chance for the incidental Impsources to occur (flog of sheep crossing the road or a local funeral, for example).

Group travel (low budget):

Perhaps this type of group travel visits a few main Impsources, but that does not always need to be the case and furthermore they will visit a number of side Impsources. The number of shared Impsources is high, mainly because of the use of public transport and for the same reason the incidental Impsources will certainly present themselves. Contact with the local population may be of importance for the experiences gained by this type of tourists.

Individual travel (F.I.T.) – rental car:

Depending on the wishes the tourists has he may visit a number of main and side Impsources. Obviously he will have a fair amount of possibilities of ImpCal intake from shared Impsources, since he travels by car through the country. Incidental Impsources may certainly occur, too (and we hope only the positive ones!). The last two Impsources mentioned depend on the tourist´s attitude to be recognized as such.


This type of tourists usually do not visit main or side Impsources, since they do not want to pay for them. For backpackers it is more about the incidental Impsources and obviously they will get many chances to have ImpCal intake from shared Impsources. Precisely in the case of this way of travelling haphazardly the incidental Impsources are the most important ones, also, because they have no economic value.

Backpackers have a tendency to boast the fact how they arranged things just on the basis of chance meetings.

There are many ways more to travel, and we can mention sailing trips (no shared Impsources at sea….), mountain trekking or short weekend break-aways. They all make use in different ways of the available Impsources in a area, country or region.

Every destination has a certain number of main and side Impsources and obviously they count with shared and incidental ones, too. We can say, therefore, that each destination has a certain ImpCal value, which counts for the sum of main and side Impsources. Apart from these Impsources an area may have a high potential of shared Impsource, such as picturesque villages or medieval towns.

Apart from the Impsources at any tourist destination we find a tourist infrastucture, such as hotels, restaurants, shops, information offices, etc. We can map a destination on the basis of its different types of Impsources available as well as the amount of infrastructure there is for tourists. Below an example of how we could map the village of Tortuguero on the Costa Rican Caribbean coast,  which only can be reached by boats of small planes:

Destination: TORTUGUERO

Main Impsource: Tortuguero National Park

Side Impsources: Hiking up the Tortuguero Hill, canoeing, turtle nesting

Shared Impsources: little original population, getting by boat meand little “local” things, much of ht ehotel staff from the cities, most villagers work in tourism

Incidental Impsources: Except for spotting wild animals there are none, because everything is by boat

Infrastructure: Hotels 1-3 star, not more than one floor high, 10-70 rooms. No roads. To be reached by small boats or planes. No further infrastructure for tourists.

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Tour Leaders

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source


It took us a long time to shake off this strong Costa Rica feeling – not so much the country itself, but the way we experienced it,” was how one tourist explained the way he had experienced his holiday was just as important as seeing a number of tourist highlights. The letter this tourist sent shows us that the way a tourist experiences a group tour has become a focal point, something that has not always been the case. In general we can see that the way tourists experience a tour and live their experiences have changed in recent years. First of all, let’s see how the different actors are related.

Tourism and Tour Leaders

The most important characteristic of a tourist product is the fact that it is being consumed at the destination and not at the client’s home. This means that in order to consume the product, the tourist must first travel to the product and consequently the basis has been laid for what we call tourism: somebody moving to a site where there is a tourist attraction of some kind, such as a beach destination, indigenous pyramids, a concert, nature reserve or special sports event. The tourist travels to the product to experience (consume) it. The sublime moment in tourism is the instant when a tourist starts to live an experience or, in other words, when he starts to consume Impact Calories (ImpCal). The intake and processing of ImpCal lead to an experience and that is exactly what the tourist is looking for. The tourist wants to have an experience and that is only possible when he is using his own senses and absorbing ImpCal, later to be processed into an inner experience. In fact, the tourist pays for the possibility of consuming ImpCal and the processing of ImpCal starts at the beginning of his journey when he closes his front door behind him. ImpCal can be taken in during the trip to the destination, at arrival and finally, when he reaches the main attraction (Main Impact Sourceor Impsource), which was the reason for his going there in the first place. Nearby there may be smaller tourist attractions developed for tourists, the so-called Side Impsources. Apart from these, there is the normal entourage involving local daily life, the Shared Impsources that may also be interesting for the tourist. Another possible ImpCal intake can be produced by chance meetings or sudden occurrences, the Incidental Impsources. To create opportunities for tourists to visit places and have ImpCal intake of some sort, many travel organizations deal with advertising and selling possible experiences. This may involve travel stores, tour operators or travel guides. In short, tourism consists of a large number of people, organizations, hotels or other types of buildings, means of transport and many other entities that form a complicated pattern of networks and relations. The tourist forms part of these networks, as do tour leaders and guides.

When you travel alone or with family, you don’t have to deal with a tour leader, but you may have a specialized local guide who can tell you all about the site you are visiting and enhance your ImpCal intake while providing the instruments for a better processing of ImpCal and – as a consequence – a broader experience. In other words, the guides can point out details that tourists may not have noticed otherwise; this guide can also create more understanding and explain background so the tourist may look at things differently.

In travelling with a group, there is apt to be a tour leader who is hired by the travel organization where the tour was booked. This tour leader is supposed to provide his or her group with all the necessary information and explain what can be done and what can be seen (how to live the experience); he or she has to make sure the tourist is wearing the right kind of shoes and, in general, that the tourist is well prepared for what he is going to experience. In other words, ImpCal intake must be optimized. The tour leader has to make sure that everything promised to the tourists is implemented (or at least offered). The tour leader is expected to relate well to the group, makes sure the group is in the right mood and deals with all the wishes the tourist may express. Obviously the tour leader is supposed to tackle any problem that may occur, whether of a logistic or psychological nature. For most people this is what is expected from a tour leader and little else. However, when concepts such as sustainability and globalization started to develop and their influence became overt, the functions of the tour leader started to change and a different set of requirements were demanded.


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Tourism and Globalization

Mobility is inherent to tourism and that means that we are confronted with another set of concepts: local versus far away. The Impsource is at one place, while the tourist comes from somewhere else – from another region, country or continent. The notion of the tourist product being at one place and the consumer coming from another, and the relation that exists between these two places are concepts that have been changing drastically from the late 1980s on. Since that time a greater interconnectedness in all aspects of daily life worldwide has induced the notion of globalization – a contemporary catchword for this process. Tourism is seen as a cause as well as consequence of global transformation. As a cause, it has induced global flows of people, ideas, images and capital. As an effect, tourism results from increasing global interconnectedness of economic, technological and socio-cultural transformations. Most people know more or less what the concept of globalization refers to, but it may be useful to summarize its most important influences:

1. At the level of communications:

This includes worldwide long haul air transport, worldwide web, Internet telephoning, cell phones, chatting, blogs and, on another level, international reservation systems such as GRS or Amadeus. The Internet is opening up still more forms of communications, such as customer reactions on forums and blogs.

2. At the international financial level:

There are now worldwide payment possibilities through travellers’ cheques, credit cards, automatic teller machines (ATM) for cash and on-line payments.

3. The rise of world markets,

through the GATS and free trade agreements. Everywhere in the world you can get Coca Cola or buy Kodak products. More than 75% of world trade is in the hands of transnational companies. Many international pension funds and insurance companies are big investors in tourism projects among others. Airlines merge and set up large hotel chains (Air France/KLM – Golden Tulip Hotels). In tourism we can see the same trend: tour operators with offices in different countries (Thomas Cook chain for example).

4. Growing International Organizations:

the number is increasing and within the scope of this paper we can mention UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme), WTTC (World Travel Tourism Council) or the World Wildlife Fund. At the airline level there is the IATA (International Air Transport Association). On an environmental level we can also mention Greenpeace and in the field of human rights there is Amnesty International. In the field of sustainability, Rainforest Alliance is one example of many global organizations.

5. A greater consciousness of the world as one big global village.

English has become a universal language; global icons are often coming from the Disney stable, generalized representations can be found in expressions such as “tropical beach” or “Caribbean atmosphere”. At the sports level the Olympic Games are an example. On television, networks such as Animal Planet and Discovery Channel are worldwide trend-setters.

In the last century Zutphen and Samara were two villages located on two different continents – one in Holland and the other in Costa Rica. They did not know of each other’s existence. Geographical distances have not changed, but on communications and financial levels, the distance between the two villages has shrunk dramatically. Both communities have hooked into global system structures and therefore have become closer one to the other. Nowadays, the Zutphener visiting Samara gets his money from a cash machine, pays with a credit card and therefore has no idea what things costs in local money; he knows beforehand where to find the best restaurants, checks his mail in an Internet café or phones home on his mobile phone. The tourist in Samara walks around as if in his normal daily routine, since there are things familiar to him even though he is on another continent. There are many tourist destinations that were a bit scary 20 years ago and quite exotic, but nowadays most places on earth have something familiar about them – due to this globalization process.

There is a basic difference between the globalization process and sustainability. Globalization is being propelled by market principles and consumer patterns, but in the case of sustainability this is not yet the case. The discussion around sustainability comes to the fore, because many things in the world are going wrong: biodiversity is diminishing, ozone layers are affected, the greenhouse effect is becoming noticeable, large populations are being ignored and in general there are so many symptoms that it starts to look like a disease. The principles of sustainability were developed to stop these negative effects. If you want to make a list of sustainable conduct for tourists, it may look like a list of only negative things that should be avoided or not done. However, better contact with a local population,better insight into their culture and a better understanding of how a community developed or a landscape was formed, are all added values compared to the explorer of earlier days or the mass tourist, who travels for thousands of miles to end up in a fast food restaurant – a possible consequence of globalization.

The process of sustainable development in general produces a number of consequences for the development of tourism and therefore for tourists, too. Apart from the fact that Impsources have to work cleaner and more sustainably, and obviously the same holds true for the infrastructure nearby, the tourist himself will come under increasing pressure to be sustainable in his behaviour.

However, globalization is not a well defined concept and actually there are people who wonder whether this concept exists at all. They claim that globalizing tendencies are as old as humanity, but nowadays things are just a bit faster. Another point to remember is that with modern technology contacts among people may have intensified, this does not mean that people are getting closer. An example is the relationship between a tourist and a local population, as explained in another article on this web site (see )

Tourists then and now

Let’s see to what extent the globalization and sustainability concepts have changed tourist behaviour. Apart from these two macro-influences, there have been others. Average income has increased, especially in the Western world, and in most cases people take more holidays than before. During the second half of the 20th century people had one long holiday per year (usually 2 – 3 weeks), but by the end of last century most people – at least in Western Europe – enjoyed two short and one long holiday per year. Another factor influencing tourist behaviour is the lower retirement age and increased life expectancy, which means that more elderly people are travelling than before. Another external change is higher work pressure affecting the labour force resulting in stress.

On the basis of all these considerations we can have a look at whether the behaviour of the tourist himself has changed from the 1970s onwards. However, since our main aim in this chapter concerns tour leaders, we shall limit ourselves to group travel only.

  • Up until the 1990s, group travel was mainly concentrated on journeys within the tourist’s country of origin. Outside their own country most travel parties visited sunny beach areas, as in the case of Spain. In Mexico the development of large beach resorts began in the 1970s. These holidays were quite straightforward and consisted only of transport to the beach destination and a single hotel there. A full time tour leader or guide was usually not needed. At the same time, there has always been a select group of travellers interested in faraway destinations, often with exotic touches. They too travelled in groups, since that was the only possibility for making such an adventurous journey. For these groups travelling to distant continents, the adventure part was very important – their prime travel motivation was not for nice social group life. Each person individually wanted to taste the exotic atmosphere and high ImpCalintake was essential. Those journeys were always full of the unexpected, it was never certain that a hotel was awaiting the group at the end of the day and the travel programme had to be changed often because of local conditions. Each tourist imagined himself to be a real explorer. These tourists had to be flexible. The mostly encountered Impsources were shared Impsources (among others, because of the use of public transport) and incidental Impsources. This type of tourist came from a higher economic stratum and usually did his “homework” on gathering information about the destination. This tourist often had a more idealistic view than those going to sunbathe in Spain (see the :
  • During the nineties a different type of group travel arose: high volume, low prices, limited number of tourist highlights and strict programmes were the main characteristics. The unpredictable element of a journey disappeared and with it a certain romanticism. Local agents had to ensure flawless handling of all hotel and transport reservations. An important consequence was that the tour leader could concentrate much more on social life with the group and had time to relate more to the tourists. The tourist selected this type of travelling because he felt safer and he had an interest in participating in the social part of group travel. In other words, this type of groups opened up possibilities to visit exotic, faraway continents that were always considered too scary and strange for travelling there alone, while offering the fun of travelling with others; the group had a rather introverted character towards other cultures and participants often had egocentric attitudes (and less use of shared Impsources). Travellers from all walks of life enrolled in this type of group travel. The exact content of the travel programme opened up new ways of ventilating complaints or even demanding refunds when parts of the programme were not offered as advertised.
  • At the start of the 21st century a shift can be noticed regarding patterns of tourist travel expectations – most noticeably with long haul destinations. Tourists are looking more for destinations where they have some idea of what to expect from things they have seen on television, or from recommendations made by family members, acquaintances or colleagues. The tourist tends to have certain fixed images of what to expect and quite often knows something about it. A tourist choosing a safari in Africa does so because he has seen a lot about it on television and the Internet (globalization point 5). In other words, there are more information sources thanks to globalization processes, on which one can base his choice of holiday destination and expectation patterns are adjusted accordingly. There is a growing demand not only for main Impsources, but also for smaller new tourist ‘products’, such as the side Impsources (usually found by tourists on the Internet). People seem to have more money to spend on holidays and group tours tend to last longer or tourists book some kind of extension afterwards. Due to higher income and longer holidays, the tourist has become more experienced over the years. In practice they may not always show this (people are people), but earlier experiences have lead to growing referential frameworks and the tourist can experience more, as well as more ‘complicated’ Impsources. We can all enjoy the sight of an enormous waterfall, but to really appreciate a cloud forest fully, some additional experience is needed. With the years tourists tend to be more experienced and previous holidays are often compared to their present trip. Obviously this may lead to wrong expectation patterns: Thailand is not like Ecuador and Kenya is not like Canada. The same holds true for expectation patterns based on impressive nature films, often exaggerated by tall stories from friends “who were there.” The latter can be noticed from the participation in forums on the Internet, which apparently enjoy quite a lot of popularity. Former prejudices such as “Africa is full of snakes” or “you can catch terrible diseases in the tropics” are vanishing. Tourists tend to be better prepared as far as information is concerned, they know a little better what to expect and most worries or anguish are gone (globalization point 5). This means that there are moments when they can start to relax, stop comparing everything with their home country and open their eyes to really watch what is around them. Life in western countries has become so hectic there is a growing demand for holidays with a spiritual character, incorporating elements of yoga or meditation into the group’s programme. This may mean a greater interest in local cultures (shared Impsources) and direct contact with a local population seems to be of growing interest to western tourists. There is also a trend toward voluntary work in developing countries as part of a holiday. Independently, Tour Operators have started to incorporate visits to local schools or they organize donations to local projects that can be visited by the tourists. And with regard to sustainable development, increasing pressure is being exerted on tourists to make their own behaviour more sustainable by means of mitigating harmful effects caused to nature or the environment; other examples are the careful use of electricity or separating garbage for recycling purposes. Just selecting a holiday destination itself may involve considerations of sustainability.

So far, we have outlined some developments concerning tourist travel behaviour for group travel. It is now time to return to our statement at the beginning of this chapter, that the role for tour leaders to play is also subject to change.

Tour leaders then and now

  • During the seventies and eighties tour leaders worked mostly on bus or rail trips to beach destinations and only a small fraction of them guided adventure groups. These trips were real adventures: travelling with US$ 20.000 in their pockets of group money, they had to pay all hotels on arrival and make reservations for the next tour – hoping that the hotels would remember these for the next group and have room. All local tours, transport, entry fees and local guides had to be arranged on the spot and paid for. To make sure the tourist always had drinking water available was quite a job and in general the logistics of the tour consumed most of his time. Additionally, most local communities did not depend on tourism at that time and for them it was just a nice way to earn a little extra. To make fixed, long term arrangements was difficult and the tour leader (like the tourists) had to be very flexible indeed. The tour leader was also influential with the programming of group tours, what had to be included and which hotels to use. The bus driver (or any other assistant) used to be a trusted friend who also had to deal with all kinds of unexpected situations. Apart from this, public transport was used frequently. Knowledge of the language and culture of the country visited was important. What the people experienced in the end depended very much on each person himself.
  • During the nineties the number of groups travelling to other continents increased considerably and on a much larger scale local agents were used to handle reservations, hotel payments, and so on. The tour leader’s task was simplified as far as logistics were concerned and the romantic and unpredictable side of the journey disappeared. The tour leader himself became an experienced traveller, proud of having visited more than 20 countries. At the start of this chapter we outlined what was expected from the tour leader. One of the important differences with the previously mentioned adventure groups was that the travel programme had to be executed exactly as published; itineraries became rigid and on this basis the tourist obtained access to various ways of filing complaints (e.g. in Holland a special tourist complaints commission was established). This meant that the tour leader received a different type of pressure than before. The tour leader no longer had any influence on how the itineraries and programmes were composed. Social life became more important within the group and the tour leader needed more time for this part of the job. Another important element for the tour leader was the practice of gaining commissions from local excursions sold directly to the tourist; it became an important source of income for both the tour leader and the driver of the bus. The drivers hardly played any role anymore with this sort of group travel and the high volume of group tours meant that many drivers saw their job as routine and stopped interacting with tourists. Ability to speak the local language not as important as before, especially when there were always local guides available at main Impsources. Side Impsources had to be ‘pushed’ (paying commissions), while shared and incidental Impsources hardly played any role since there was little time to make stops on the way from one hotel to the next.
  • During the beginning of 21st century some tendencies became noticeable and under the influence of globalization and sustainability processes the tourists started to see things with slightly different eyes. These developments as outlined above lead us to some of the different ways a tour leader has for handling the different expectation patterns of the tourist, his better preparation, the effects of all the impressive nature films on television, the image of “forests as zoos without fences”, and a greater demand for specific information (not only technical, but also about people and culture). Tourists show more interest in having contact with the local population and the tour leader has to play more and more the role of translator between the tourist and their attitudes on one hand, and the locals and their ideas on the other (and speaking the local language is important). Thus the tour leader is regaining some more importance as far as the composition of the itineraries is concerned and serves as an important ‘tool’ for hotel evaluation based on the reactions of the tourists; the incorporation of local populations and socio-cultural local projects into itineraries has also provided new possibilities for the tour leader to influence the content of a complete journey. How to handle recycling or how to behave in a sustainable responsible way have become new challenges for the tour leader to explain to tourists. Little by little the drivers (or other crew members) are interested in participating more with the group, since they are representing the locals in a certain way. Then there is the point of a growing awareness of sustainable development in a country or region. A tour leader may play an important role in this respect; not only through adequate information supply but also by forcing tourists to implement certain sustainable measures (see the chapter on “Tourists and Sustainability”). Finally, in earlier days communication with the local agent or tour operator was very difficult in remote areas. The tour leader was on his own and had to make all the decisions. Nowadays, GSM telephones mean that a tour leader can have contact with the various offices all the time and thanks to GPS satellite systems he knows where he is and it is hard to get lost.

Changes for Tour leaders

Tour leaders and Tourist Experiences is the title of this chapter. When travel expectations and experiences change, this must lead to a similar shift in the way tour leaders lead tours. They are connected to many different networks: the Tour Operator, the local agent, the various hotels (especially reception and/or reservation staff), transport companies, restaurant managers, tourist contacts via the Internet, national park staffs, the members of the group themselves and many others; the number of networks a tour leader has to relate to is ever increasing and more intense. Many contacts are with those sectors that sell holiday arrangements or organize excursions, while another part refers to contacts with Impsources directly, infrastructure (hotels, bars, souvenir stores, etc.) and obviously with the tourists, as individuals, as groups, during the holiday and afterwards.

We should always keep in mind that the process of experiencing is something very personal and therefore one tourist will experience things differently from others. This means that the same Impsource may generate different experiences depending on the public. It also means that the same Impsource can be offered by a tour leader to tourists in different ways. This holds true not only for tour leaders, but even on government levels: when the tourism board of a country decides to direct their promotion campaigns to one particular country (the USA for example), all descriptions of main Impsources will be geared towards that market. On the basis of globalizing processes, the variety of international markets has increased considerably, which means that any type of Impsource can be presented in different ways depending on the target market. In our case of the tour leaders, this leads us to the point that a tour leader can describe an Impsource in different ways, depending on the type of tourist he is talking to. An excursion to the Amazon may be offered with an emphasis on a visit to some local tribe; however, for some tourists this may sound a bit scary, and this same excursion may be sold as a bird-watching trip. Tour Operators in the tourists’ country of origin often have a lot to say on this matter and tour leaders can also be quite creative in this respect. We should not forget that anything offered to tourists is only a possibility of having ImpCal intake, which leaves the Tour Operators a lot of room for manoeuvring when describing a certain tourist attraction for a certain public.

The bridge between tourists and local populations can be crossed both ways. By explaining local customs and a population’s ways of living to tourists and more specifically, the issue of waste disposal or how to handle the situation when certain products are scarce, the tour leader may invite tourists to come up with solutions for a local population. Functioning as a bridge also means that the tour leader has to have quite a bit of knowledge about a population, their ways of life, the landscapes they live in and their culture and nature in general. The levels of knowledge are pushed ever higher, since without this knowledge it is difficult to build this bridge. Obviously, when the main Impsources there are local specialist guides who can explain everything about the Impsources and provide background information, this should enhance the ImpCal intake of the tourists. However, there is a parallel tendency for specialist guides to become less necessary, because many details can be found on the Internet; when the tour leader knows a lot and can show beautiful birds, then the local guide may be left out. This may also be the case when the tour leader speaks the tourist’s language but the local guides do not. When there is a special interest group, then local specialists are of the utmost importance (orchid societies, groups of farmers, bird watchers, etc).

Another function of the bridge is that of translator. Originally this was the case but with modern group travel this point seems to be of growing importance, especially when one tries to promote a better understanding between tourists and locals. Translating concerns language and also making tourists aware of other cultures and customs. Many people think that the concepts of sustainability and increasing contact between locals and tourists should make the use of local guides for group travel obligatory (as in the case of Cuba), but one should not underestimate the language barrier: there are few Japanese-speaking Nigerians or Swedish-speaking South Africans.

Functioning as a bridge also means eliminating existing prejudices. The popular TV nature programmes and films may have eliminated old prejudices and fixed ideas, at the same time they are creating new ones. Tourists nowadays may get disappointed that there are no hippopotamuses in South America or that a local population is not exotic enough for their expectations. Indians wearing jeans? And using credit cards? As we saw under globalization effect number 5, there are these universal ideas that the tour leader has to refute diplomatically.

It is a tremendous advantage when tour leaders live in the country where they are working and when they are involved with the local society in one way or another and are able to transmit this to their tourists. With this, the tendency of the tour leader who has worked in 20 different countries (and is proud of it) has come to a halt. A tour leader who works at a single destination is preferred nowadays. There is another reason behind this: the relationship between the Local Agent and specifically the tour leader and local infrastructure is of great importance for obtaining the best possible service levels. Although a tour leader nowadays does not need to make the hotel reservations himself, he has to make sure that the tourists get the correct rooms and he may have to make bridges between receptionists or room maids and the tourists. It is important that the hotel personnel know the tour leader and have good rapport with him.

To be conscious of what is local and what is foreign from the country of origin of the tourist has become more important and in the last five years especially, the role of the local has increased considerably. The shift we are experiencing nowadays is a delicate one. Some tourists are affected by globalization trends; others are well into the sustainability debate, and some tourists may still feel like the exploring tourist of the seventies (see the TL-scale). The scale of tourist behaviour has widened, globalization has changed distances, while sustainability is trying to balance positive and negative impacts of the former. The tour leader today now finds himself in an ever more interesting position, whereby he or she has the tremendous responsibility of making the tourist realize that we have to manage our resources to the extent that the children of the tourists as well the local people can enjoy a similar or better quality of life than their own.

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The Local Population

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source


The unique moment in tourism is the instant that a tourist starts to live an experience, when he begins the intake of Impact Calories (ImpCal). The intake and processing of ImpCal leads to an experience and that is exactly what the tourist is after. The tourist wants to have an experience and he can only do so by using his senses to absorb ImpCal that will be processed later into inner experiences. In fact, the tourist pays for the possibility of absorbing ImpCal and this is what we call ‘consumption’ in tourism. When the tourist buys a tourism product (holiday arrangement), he or she hopes to get the richer by experiences. Additionally these experiences must be acquired somewhere well away from the tourist’s home environment for it to be labelled tourism, since life is full of all sorts of other experiences.

The experience the tourist seeks has usually to do with things, animals or plants and seldom does human contact take a central spot. Most people do not go on holidays to see other people, but when they do so we may wonder if this can still be called tourism. Visiting friends is generally not considered tourism and if someone simply wants to meet some nice people, they do not need to leave their home town, which means that this cannot be called tourism either. It all means that the tourist goes to a place of potential ImpCal intake with a certain attitude, giving priority to flora, fauna, physical exercise or some nice view. This tendency may even lead the tourist to watch the local population with the same eyes: an object or attraction being the reason he arrived there and where all his senses will receive all kinds of impulses that he will try to convert into lasting experiences. In first instance the tourist looks at local people as if they were objects and not human beings, the same as anything else he is seeing, smelling or hearing.

The main point of the above observation is that the tourist visits his holiday destination with a certain disposition that may not be in tune with some concepts of sustainable tourism. The local population plays an important role in any sustainable development. However, when tourists arrive with a typical attitude of wanting to get as many ImpCal as possible from things, the relationship between locals and tourists becomes a tricky one.

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A woman carrying a water bucket on her head, walking with a gently swinging pace. The tourist is content with his authentic photograph. Will he ever realize how water shortages influence one’s life?

On this webpage we mentioned an example of a woman carrying a bucket of water on her head, walking with a gently swinging pace. This is just an image for the tourist, who may not realize its human background; the bucket is actually a vessel for carrying water, but to the woman it is of vital importance for subsistence, while the tourist sees only an acrobatic trick. The separation of the two realities forms the basis of the separation between locals and tourists, forming a challenge to the vision of sustainable development.






The Local Population

The above observation is important because wherever there is a tourist attraction there is also a Local Population (LP). The Impsource itself may be located well away from populated areas (e.g. national parks), but not that far away there must be some kind of tourism infrastructure, which means that there must also be people living nearby. Usually these people were living there before the Impsource became a tourist attraction. In other words, we begin with the premise that at any place where there is tourism, there is a local population. Secondly, we assume that a LP is always being influenced either directly or indirectly by the development of tourism products as well as by their consumption by tourists. When we talk about a LP our basic assumptions are that the LP is always present where there are tourism activities and that the LP is always being influenced by them. This means that the LP forms an element that is inseparable from tourism and why we must pay special attention to it. The tourist may arrive to see things, but combined with this there is a human side to it that boils down to an encounter – touches, flirting or mere glances – between two realities, two worlds and two ways of living experiences.

The participation of a LP in tourism should be obvious, especially because they receive direct and indirect consequences from it. There are cases where a LP is converted into an attraction in itself, totally different from the tourist’s home environment, possessing few or no human characteristics for the tourist. Exotic tribes can be mentioned in this category, such as women wearing many rings around their necks, colourful folkloric costumes or next to nothing. The tourists see these people more as objects to be photographed rather than as people to be met. Often those LP know how to take advantage of the situation, smile for the cameras, or perform some folkloric war dance or other activity to earn a little money. Any human relationship is out of the question and the LP’s participation in tourism is completely passive.

Another more common situation is when the LP is directly or indirectly involved in tourism activities, or in other words the LP is playing an active role. The LP does not form an attraction in itself and, depending on its internal structure, the LP plays a certain role in tourism. The population may participate in the development of tourism Impsources though not usually in a leading role because investments in major Impsources are high and usually require governmental support. The LP may play their part by setting up side Impsources or infrastructure to reach the tourists through small projects such as guiding, souvenirs or folklore. Obviously the LP itself may form part of a tourist attraction.

Another extreme in this picture is when a LP does not have any participation in the tourism development of a certain area. We think of a LP just watching the tourists passing by without having any contact and no possibility of any earnings from this type of tourism.

The three variations of this theme that has dozens of variations to consider can be summed up as: a LP being an tourist attraction in itself, a LP with active participation on some tourism level, and a LP that does not participate in any form in tourism (although present in their area) and who may receive more trouble than good from it.

Keeping these three categories in mind, we may wonder what we mean exactly by the term ‘Local Population’. In tourism we often talk about the Local Population at a destination. How local is this population? Which population are we talking about? These questions are important, because for many people there are many interests at stake and much of the involvement. What type of involvement is this exactly? First of all, let’s take a look at the types of population groups.

We might first think of a LP in terms of an ethnically and culturally closed composition. This may refer to remote tribes in Africa or the Amazon. In this case we are dealing with people who are completely different from the average tourist and therefore they become an Impsource in their own right. Then there are the LPs that have lived in a place for tens of generations and may be of ethnically mixed composition with socio-cultural differences within the group. As in the previous case, we are thinking of a farmers’ population. Mixed composition groups of people that have lived somewhere for a long time may have a less closed community and may suffer from internal conflicts.

Depending on how long a population has lived somewhere, we must also consider the cases of populations that have lived in an area for no more than two or three generations. The sentiment that the area ‘belongs’ to them is less strong and quite often we can see that notions of private property are fully developed and the organizational community structure may show weaknesses.

And there are the LPs that are a complete mix of all of the above – a trend that is more common nowadays with populations consisting of recent settlers, people coming from the cities (tourism!), and farmers who have lived there for many generations; apart from this we are dealing with a mixture of ethnic and socio-cultural features. These mixed LPs usually contain (conflicting) interest groups. From the tourism point of view there are populations that have hardly any contact with tourists (the first group mentioned is one example). There are contacts between the community as a whole and the tourists. In this case any income generated by tourism goes to the community. When a LP is of a mixed composition, in most cases those working in tourism receive benefits through their labour by contributing to the means of production or via investments of some sort. Quite often it is the case that the more mixed composition a LP has, the more contact some parts of it may have with tourists, while others (usually the more traditional parts) barely participate. Another observation we have made is that the higher the education level of a local person, the higher the chance this person will have direct contact with tourists.

The distinctions we have made here are arbitrary and in fact they represent only a few variations on this theme. There is another group we should mention in this respect: the population in big cities. We may well wonder who we can consider to be the local population in a city such as Paris. Families who have lived there the longest? How do we recognize them? In some cases their accent may give a clue, such as Argot or Cockney in London. But in that case we are dealing with relatively small groups within these big cities and it is easy to observe that these groups play hardly any role in tourism at all. In the western cities participation by the most traditional inhabitants is minimal. This may be different for cities in Asia, Africa or Latin America, where clearly recognizable ethnic groups sometimes dwell within a city; these may be turned into ‘models’ for tourist because of their clothing or hairstyles. To what extent these groups are well organized is uncertain and quite often the ‘turn over’ in terms of people coming and going is quite high. Therefore it is difficult to say how local these people are, especially since migration to the cities is more recent. Ethnically and culturally well identified groups within big cities usually play little or no part in tourism, or they serve as ‘models’ or ‘objects’ (and thus Impsources) for tourists and their cameras.

Since it is an important matter in sustainable tourism to establish who is local and who is not and on this basis, the importance a real local population may mean to an area, it is worth understanding who we definitely do not consider a local population. These criteria do not concern land or property directly, but are more related to the span of time the people have lived there, to what extent they participate in the local economy, whether or not they participate in any community group or activity, and if their lives conform to the reigning socio-cultural traditions.

From this point of view, we can immediately distinguish two groups that do not belong to what we call a local population. One type concerns groups that migrate regularly and remain in an area during harvest periods. This may involve large groups and they do not take part in tourism activities. In some cases these people remain one or two years at the same spot before moving on. These groups often have a clear-cut cultural identity. The other obvious, non-local group involves the owners of second homes, usually in the countryside and quite often in areas where there are tourism Impsources. We assume that the owners’ first homes are located in cities, most often in the western world. In no way can we consider these people ‘local’ and they do not have any influence on tourism, or if they do, it is in the role of tourist rather than host.

Apart from those two quite obvious examples, we also have the group of large landowners, who usually do not participate in local activities. They may be the owners of (major) tourism Impsources; in this respect we can also think of areas that still have feudal socio-economic relations. A large landowner may be very active in tourism indeed, but most likely he will do this on his own account and not bother with any LP. On this same level we can mention big investment companies and their staffs who may have much to say about the field of tourism Impsources and infrastructure, but we cannot possibly consider them as local. Project developers or other professionals sent to an area for potential tourism development are another example. Professionals in tourism activities or infrastructure (managers, chefs or other qualified personnel) are examples. Government authorities form another group, as do other civil servants, police officers or people in health and education sectors. And especially when an area is experiencing tourism development, this attracts many people who cannot be considered ‘local.’

Earlier we tried to map out what we call a local population and create a more or less clear idea of whom we are talking about and who not. Generalizations are not always useful, but our description of encounters between local people and tourists gives us a working framework. We use criteria such as ethnic, cultural and religious homogeneity of groups of people, how deeply a population is rooted in an area, how strong their feelings are that an area belongs to them, how well organized a population is, how income is distributed among the members of the population, and the type of contact the people may have with tourists. Before we proceed with describing the encounters between tourists and locals, we should clarify that relationships between LP and tourism should not be confused with the one with tourists. In the first case we are talking about the role a LP plays in an Impsource or tourism infrastructure. In the second case we are talking about its direct (or indirect) contact with tourists.

We can now pursue the main theme of this article, a first look at the encounters between members of a local population, and people who are from the destination country but not from that area or the tourists from other countries, since these encounters should be of importance and bear some fruits for future sustainable tourism development.

The Encounter with the Local Population

From the tourist’s point of view these encounters can be divided into two kinds:

  • Encounters of one human being with another: shaking hands (or whatever local etiquette dictates), a short conversation (depending on the language abilities of the tourists or locals), paying for something and receiving change; waving to one another or – even more human – exchanging smiles.
  • Tourist encounters with a culture: observing houses that have different architecture, use of colours in a different way, new smells and dishes, foreign styles of dress, indigenous music or intriguing religious relics.

The first type of encounter may provide the tourist with social experiences while the second type deals with possible cultural, gastronomic, aesthetic or religious experiences. With the first encounter there may be a language barrier and different customs – with the second encounter there is no barrier; this is precisely what the tourists came for, to experience something new. This may mean that some tourists see a LP more as part of a culture than as individual human beings, as was already noted at the beginning of this chapter. Most people do not go on holiday to see the locals, but they do travel to observe cultures and customs as Impsources.

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Boat with engine and roof versus small canoe. Tourists with cameras capturing authenticity, which is the harsh struggle for survival of a father and his son.

In the case of tourists we know that the experiences they gain may impose some changes on their referential frameworks whereby they adjust some of their ideas and concepts; in other words, they learn something. The tourist is enriched and that is what tourism is all about. This enrichment has been caused by the experiences he has had, and some of these experiences may have been caused by the encounter with the local population.

We must also wonder to what extent a tourist wants to have experiences and if he really wants to learn something. There are many tourists who are not going on holidays to learn something; they simply want to relax and sunbathe. This may even concern a large proportion of all tourists, apart from the fact that these tourists just want to be away from home and their daily troubles. For this type of tourist we can say that their motives are more egocentric in nature rather than idealistic. The latter refer to the group of tourists who actively seek contact with the LP to learn something from them or who base their holiday on more idealistic grounds to support poor people, do voluntary work (day care centres, reforestation programmes, etc.), or for political reasons.

We all have some egocentric attitudes, and on holidays these may form a barrier to contact with a LP. We have often observed that a tourist’s interest in a LP is minimal, mainly because the tourist is too busy with himself. While a tourist may select a holiday destination for hedonistic reasons, he is sure to have some ImpCal intake and experiences and make some contact with locals and their culture. An important part is played by the fact that locals and local culture are simply different and it is important to realize that whatever his motives may have been, the tourist always wants something different from his home environment, even if the degree of differentiation is not high. A tourist is often disappointed when he sees indigenous people walking around in jeans and drinking Coca Cola. What ImpCal can he get from that? Why don’t they wear feathers in their hair? A folkloric show is often offered so tourist can have at least some ImpCal intake from the indigenous culture. Any tourist feels a certain aversion when he sees locals using cell phones and using credit cards – the same as they do. That is exactly what a tourist does not want to see, because many tourists prefer the idea that they are better off than the locals and that their home economy is more advanced. The tourist’s ego has to be reassured. One of the existing prejudices is that a LP must be primitive and once a tourist notices that this may not be the case, the tourist may perhaps gain an experience, but he surely loses an illusion. How is it possible that they construct a modern building in an area with old houses? The possibility for tourists to have ImpCal intake may be destroyed by this, if the tourist has little interest in the needs of the LP. And why is everything not exactly the way it is on TV? And why is the tourist so disappointed when he starts realizing that the locals are just normal human beings like everyone else?

In viewing the encounter between tourists and the local population, we are walking on quicksand. The question of to what extent a tourist is interested in a LP and its culture has no simple answer. There are more circumstances than those mentioned here that can influence this encounter, including the tourists’ prejudices. As explained in the previous chapter, we all have referential frameworks and information stored in our memories. Cultural concepts form part of this system, which means that apart from clothing and other personal items the tourist carries in his suitcase, he also has the fixed ideas and personal views he carries with him. They may have many outdated concepts and ideas, such as that a LP is supposed to be poor and the tourist always has reason to feel superior. At the same time, in their efforts to get as much ImpCal as possible, tourists may perceive some poor little huts as “nice traditional cottages” – the problem of two realities.

Prejudices, the inevitable human attitude of only seeing what one wants to see, handicap observations from penetrating beyond one’s own referential frameworks and the influence of (correct or false) information gathered beforehand can all form tremendous barriers that keep encounters (among human beings) from become more than just the wave of a hand or a casual smile.

The Encounter with the tourist

We have mentioned a number of obstacles to the tourist having real encounters with locals and now we are confronted with another one of importance: to what extent are local people interested in sharing something of themselves and their culture with tourists? And to what extent does a LP get the chance to do so?

It is hard for a LP to see how tourists arrived there and too often locals simply feel that tourists come from nowhere. Suddenly there they are! The complicated machinery of the interconnected networks that got the tourist to a certain place is a reality the LP may be unaware of. Locals usually do not know how the tourist got there or what was promised to him; neither do they realize who ‘sent’ the tourist or how many tourists they can expect to come. In a village, a tourist may go to see the little old church there, inspecting it and taking pictures, then continuing their journey afterwards. Meanwhile, the local people may wonder why the tourist only wants to see the church and not the rest of the village. Why doesn’t the tourist stay for a couple of days? Why doesn’t he have a cup of coffee there? And who decides what the tourist has to see and what not?

Effectively, these are interesting questions, because we cannot possibly say that the tourist himself selects everything in his holiday. The Tour Operators in the tourist’s country of origin try to guide or lure people into buying certain holiday arrangements. Another possibility is that some travel guides mention the nice little church and nothing else, so the tourist just confides in that information without knowing what else there may be worth seeing in the village. A very important point is that the tourist goes to places he does not know and depends on the various information sources he accesses (see the chapter on “The Tourist and Sustainability”). Access to those infosources is from the tourist’s country of origin and in his own language. How can a LP influence the information a tourist receives in its own mother tongue? In practice we have seen that hardly any information is offered or accepted from the destination or specifically from the LP. A tourist visits an area, therefore, based on information and expectation patterns generated in his home country, while locals at the destination have had very little input.

When we see the many travel guides for any given country (such as the Lonely Planet guides or similar), we notice that most authors are from western countries and definitely do not belong to the LP from the country or region they are describing. We can even go one step further and note that in these guides ‘they’ and ‘them’ refer to the LP. One of the consequences is that the LP’s expectation patterns are not adequately adjusted and a LP does not really know what they can expect from the tourist and the LP’s information sources in this respect are usually ‘second hand’. For the LP that plays a passive or no role at all, this must be obvious. For those parts of a LP participating actively in tourism it is quite hard for them to see how the whole tourism machinery works, sending the tourists in their direction. A LP usually knows very little about tourists or their nationalities. In the latter, many locals think of tourists in clichés, such as Americans are so noisy or the Dutch are so mean. In this sense we cannot talk about sustainable development for a local area where a LP has no control at all. This then is another obstacle to smooth encounters between locals and tourists and when we view things from a different angle, more obstacles arise – there is no way around this.

The lack of sufficient information about the tourist, what he wants and what he is looking for means that locals fill in the expectation gap with their own interpretation of what they think a tourist may want to do, offering all kinds of services in tune with this interpretation. Logical as this reaction may be, there is a big risk that the tourists’ expectations patterns are quite different from what a LP estimates. This can lead to misunderstandings, such as having animals in cages for tourists to photograph, assuming this is what a tourist wants. Apart from this the LP has its own fixed ideas and many locals assume that all tourists are rich and should be charged more. This phenomenon can best be observed with regards to LPs of homogeneous socio-cultural composition. LPs of mixed composition usually a more varied offering including low-budget options. It is quite understandable that tourists are assumed to be rich, arriving in expensive rental cars or luxury coaches compared to the old buses the locals have to use for their public transport.

Restaurants form an interesting place for tourists to meet with locals, not only on a face-to-face level but also from a cultural perspective. Local populations and owners of tourism Impsources (these can be different groups) try to please the tourists’ tastes, but they usually understand that they have to offer something typical too, to facilitate ImpCal intake among the tourists. The meal the tourist selects can also have ambiguous characteristics: on the one hand, the food can be something original because most tourists really want to have a new experience, but on the other hand, the meal cannot be too different from what the tourist is used to, otherwise it will fall outside his referential frameworks and the food becomes weird. Meals served to tourists show this ambiguity: international dishes with a local flavour, less spicy food in Mexico, food with less curry in India, or potato chips with a dish in Egypt. Apart from the different preparation of dishes, there is another phenomenon. Local chefs and cooks may even decide to imitate western cuisine altogether. One example is the potato: in many parts of the (non-western) world, the potato is treated as a vegetable (a side dish or mixed with other vegetables) that is served along with rice. However, under the influence of western tourist, the potato has now become the basis of the meal (mashed or fried) and the rice disappears. This change then starts to appear on the tables of the locals, damaging traditional eating habits. It may be obvious that globalization processes may play their part as well. While this may be the case, from a content view of the encounter between tourists and locals, the ideas they hold of one another may become blurred.

There are more phenomena to be observed in restaurants. There are those cases where tourists may hope to meet locals, but the friendly waiter is not part a LP either and what the tourist is served as food typical of a certain area would never appear on any dining table in a local home. In other words, the tourist is exposed to a false image based on what locals think tourists like to see or eat. Obviously, this tendency is more common in those areas where a LP plays only a small role in tourism; in the second chapter we mentioned that locally organized ‘shows’ have to counter the problem of tourists not taking in sufficient ImpCal due to a lack of originality in the cultural environment shown to the tourists.

A final observation concerning restaurants refers to phenomena at highway or railroad restaurants or airports. The staffs working in those places see an enormous number of people passing by with little or no chance they will ever see any of these faces again. To give the people a ‘personalized’ service does not make any sense. Noticeably, these staffs live in their own worlds and show little interest in making any personal contact. In a normal restaurant in a town, the staff would work hard to build up a fixed clientele and to be recommended; but in airports where thousands of people march by, the local staff has little interest in the human part of any contact, apart from contact with their colleagues.

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A local market: a lot to observe for tourists, but little direct contact. Some bargaining, receiving change or just a smile are the most common forms of communication.

Keeping this observation in mind, what interest can a LP have in tourists? What chance do they have of seeing them again? Local markets are a good example of locals seeing an endless number of tourists passing by, a parade of foreign faces.

What we stated at the beginning of this chapter, that the encounter between locals and tourists is an important element for sustainable development in a certain area, seems to be reduced to an area of mutual incomprehension.


Dreaming of people who get in touch with each other through tourism – a Michelangelo image of two individual’s fingers nearly touching each other – we are confronting realities that are separated to such an extent, there is a great deal of ground to be covered before any sustainable development goals can be achieved. Are these realities really so far apart? And what about globalizing effects? Are we drifting away from one other?

Locals meeting Locals

Before commenting on these complicated questions we should mention one additional aspect that may help shed a different light on the matter. So far, we have talked about tourism from abroad, that is to say ‘foreign’ from the point of view of a local population. But it is worth analyzing tourism from the same country or national tourism? This type of tourism is not easy to define. When people visit family members in other towns or villages we do not call this tourism, but there is a grey area in this respect. Basically we are talking about people who want to have holidays and therefore want to take in ImpCal. Secondly, local tourists must be from an area or region that is quite different and well away from the home town, because otherwise we do not really call it tourism anymore. The most common example of local tourism is beach tourism, where many local tourists from the big cities want to have a holiday at a beach in their own country. The local tourist has the advantage of speaking the same language as the locals (although this is not always the case). As far as information is concerned, we assume that channels are shorter and more direct and both parties – locals and local tourists – should know what to expect. A LP has to be well aware that local tourists are also looking for something different from their own home environment, so that local customs, foods or habits should be maintained by the LP. Obviously there is a greater chance that is type of tourism has a more egocentric character (see chapter 5), especially if we are talking about beaches. The encounter between locals and local tourists starts with quite a different background than the case of foreign tourists.

The threshold is much lower regarding the ‘foreign’ and ‘unexpected’ elements of international tourism. We presume that the local tourist is less adventurous and that their main concern is being away from home. This type of tourist wants something different but he knows that within the boundaries of his own country things can only be a little different. Obviously there are examples of very large countries with remote areas: the Amazon is the same adventure for people from Rio or from Rome, but this is an exception. Relaxation is the main concern in most cases of local tourism and that means that the LP can develop all kinds of activities to keep the local tourist occupied: fun fairs, circuses, theatre, discotheques, etc. In practice, this means that the destination really serves as a background while the amusement part of the holiday becomes the focal point and ImpCal intake is directed to possibly social and physical experiences, among others.

Another interesting point is that of prejudices; in the case of local tourism these should play a minor part, since one knows much more about a population from the same country. A LP will not immediately assume that local tourists are rich; in fact the opposite may be true since local tourists often have only so much money to spend. Reservations, information supply and transport are all parts of tourism that a local tourist can arrange for himself, so that part of the supply sector is much smaller. Travelling in your own country is much simpler than doing so on another continent and most people arrange their own journeys. With local tourism we better see the effect of regular customers, because in local tourism people tend to go back to places they have been before. The fact that a hotel or restaurant is famous may help to boost sales in the local tourism market and service levels for local tourists tend to be good and do not suffer from the impersonal touch so often found when dealing with international tourists.

With local tourism there is another interesting point to make: there are more opportunities for the locals to participate in this type of tourism. Access to direct information supply is easier and more knowledge about the local tourists and a wider range of low-budget options make local tourism more accessible to the LP. Small-scale investments are more common and with local tourism an area does not need to depend on big investors.

Many of the problems that arise from the encounter between locals and international tourists seem to be less frequent than when we look at the relation between locals and local tourists. Obviously this observation is of great importance, since the concept of domestic tourism can be expanded with the incorporation of neighbouring countries. In many cases there is good contact between neighbouring countries, people in one nation know quite a lot about those in the other, tourists can still arrange things fairly easily and therefore the supply sector of tourism plays a minor part, too. The type of tourism may coincide much more with local expectations at the destination than in the case of modern Western tourism.

Tourism is far too versatile to limit it to a simple division into two parts: international versus domestic tourism. There are many variations and mixtures in this respect. However, by showing these two extremes we may get one step closer to an answer on the complicated questions of the role of sustainable development in the encounter between locals and tourists. Let us take a look at an illustrative example: two beach resorts in Latin America. One example is Mar de Plata in Argentina and the other is Cancun in Mexico. The first was developed as beach destination for the population of Buenos Aires (domestic tourism), while from the start Cancun was aimed at international tourism. At Mar de Plata there is strong participation of the local population at all levels, while in Cancun there is hardly any original population left and if there is, it does not take part in tourism. In other words, in Cancun tourism is managed by big (international) investors and local immigrants. Mar de Plata entertainment is offered first of all to the Argentines by the Argentines and tourism development is run more in accord with local initiatives. The encounter in Cancun between tourists and people who appear to be locals suffers all of the pitfalls described above. In Mar de Plata a small, local hotel may put an ad in the paper – just two lines – and the reader will know more or less what he can expect from such a hotel. In Cancun, hotels have enormous websites that are all very glossy, but they do not say anything about the hotels themselves.

The Background of the Encounter

It may be clear that there are two extremes and how they function. Keeping in mind the requirements for sustainable development, the choice of opting for domestic tourism (incorporating neighbouring countries) may enhance the opportunities for a LP to handle their own future in tourism. However the debate does not stop here, since international and intercontinental tourism have increased enormously and apparently will continue to do so. The direction these tourism flows may take depends partly on the supply side in tourism (whether the tourists want to make use of it) and on the information supply by the various actors in tourism. In the previous chapter we showed a figure of the tourism cycle from the tourist’s point of view. In the lower left quadrant of that figure (supply from the home country), local travel stores, tour operators, airlines or Internet businesses try to influence the tourist to go to a certain destination. They investigate the tourism market in the tourist’s home country and decide every year what the tendencies are and what should be offered. This may refer not only to certain destinations, but also to individual travel versus groups, soft adventure mixed with beaches or emphasis on cultural elements in a holiday – whatever the market dictates. Tourism information provision in general comes to a certain extent from this supply sector and plays a role on an objective level (facts about the destination) or on a subjective one, mainly as advertisements and similar information provision (see the chapter on “Tourists and Sustainability” for details on infosources). In turn, the supply sector has to obtain information about the destination, its Impsources and infrastructure. They may do so directly by sending someone to the destination, by use of the Internet or by getting in touch with a local agent who may provide the requested information. In this sense this local agent (see the lower right quadrant of the tourism figure) plays the part of information provider (being much closer to the source) as well as the seller of holiday arrangements or excursions to tourists directly in the destination country.

This same supply sector may get involved in the development of tourism Impsources through (local) investors or by direct participation. This may involve the development of ski slopes or thermal baths, for example. The involvement of the supply sector may also become visible on a small-scale level, offering as many Impsources as possible to the tourist in a certain area. A tour operator may want to include local folkloric shows, exhibitions of typical vehicles or concerts in an effort to sell to tourists the feeling of seeing something real and being part of a local population. On the same level we find the practice of including visits to local schools (donating pencils and notebooks) or having a typical lunch at local people’s homes. The supply sector hopes that this kind of “spying” on the locals may generate an additional Impsource and that this may be a selling point at the time holiday arrangements are offered to the clients. Whether tourists will gain a real experience from these kinds of Impsources is not certain, and neither is the case for the LP, although the latter will earn some money from this. All these examples show the influence of the supply sector on the tourist and the effort this sector exercises to convince tourists to book a holiday with them. The examples on the local level therefore originate from the supply sector with the involvement of local agents or other actors in local tourism, though with little direct involvement of the LP. Why are we so sure about this last statement? The basic concepts under which the supply sector works are focused on the tourists’ fixed ideas and prejudices and usually concentrate on the tourists’ egocentrism. The supply sector knows what the tourists want while the LP does not and it must follow the advice of this same supply sector or their representatives. The supply sector feels that the tourist market demands certain (fashionable) experiences and they try to convert existing supply (Impsources) into what they think tourists want. This may even lead to a situation where there is a gap between the supply sector’s promises and the reality of what Main and Side Impsources can produce in terms of possible experiences.

Obviously, things are different in the case of the more idealistic tourists who really want to learn something from their encounter with a LP. What plays in the background is the fact of which reality a tourist wants to see. The tourist is being led by what has been promised to him and he will see only what he wants to see and what he is able to see as far as his referential frameworks and expectation patterns are concerned. The same holds true for the LP. They too will only see the reality they are able to see. One local will notice the richly coloured T-shirts and funny hats tourists wear; another may be impressed by the luxury rental car, a third just sees a noisy and arrogant group of people, while a fourth is intrigued and seeks contact.


reverse eng


Talking about realities, there is a phenomenon we call reversed tourism, meaning that the tourist becomes an Impsource for the locals. The locals go out to see the strange looking tourists and may be fascinated by them. Sometimes tourists want to be photographed together with local people, while the opposite may take place, too: locals want to have their picture taken with tourists.

A final remark in this section is that locals with more education tend to seek contact with tourists more frequently, because they are interested in other cultures or they may want to practice their English, for example.

The Sustainability of the Encounter

From the sustainable development point of view, there are several factors that impede the LP from participating actively in tourism. As we have seen above the foreign tourist is not really ready for a frank encounter with local people, nor is the supply sector helping in this sense, either. A LP lives with uncertainty regarding international tourism and in many cases lacks control of Main and Side Impsources. In most cases, only a portion of the income generated by tourism goes to the LP, which also diminishes motivation. But the negative effects, such as pollution, the “importation” of people, higher prices or water shortages they suffer in full. It is true that there are many positive things too, such as better infrastructure, fire brigades, health clinics, etc., and undoubtedly these services are more than welcome, but a LP usually does not control them. In fact, the Encounter as set out in this paper is playing only a small part in sustainable development so far. Tourists visiting Main or Side Impsources may see the personnel working there, and we presume some of them are locals, although this does not need to be the case. A more common practice nowadays is to teach local people to be guides, so they have some income from tourism and at the same time they have a chance to show something of what is theirs – their culture and background. In the case of the Shared Impsources there is much more contact with a LP. Public transport, local supermarkets, parks or squares may be meeting places for tourists and locals alike. To what extent they intermingle has to be seen and depends very much on language and cultural barriers. Many tourists like to sit down (with or without a local cup of coffee or drink) just to watch local life pass by. Suddenly a person falls, a tourist rushes to help and two people from different continents may have a real (usually short) encounter. Having the chance to observe local people is a valid source for ImpCal intake and should be regarded as such. These types of Impsources are usually found in (large) cities, although villages often offer opportunities to watch locals in their daily routine. What is important in this sense is that the tourist should be given that chance and this may depend partially on the supply sector in cases where the tourist purchased a holiday arrangement beforehand. Travel guide books may concentrate more on these types of Impsources, since they produce a greater chance of having any type of encounter with its subsequent ImpCal intake and experience. Through Shared Impsources locals have a chance to sell their own products to tourists or offer some kind of service. We should realize that there are always important restrictions in terms of numbers of tourists versus numbers of locals. A small village of 300 souls, where thousands of tourists come flocking in, may suffer serious consequences for their socio-cultural survival. There are many towns and villages in the world that are converted into towns of foreigners during the tourism high season (beach areas!), while the locals can return to their normal daily routine when the season ends.

The reality of this daily life, such as labouring in the fields or in a factory, visiting temple or church, getting married or having children, people keep these for themselves and do not share them with foreigners or tourists in general. The meaning of the sun and the moon in life, as well as all symbols they surround themselves with form a vital part of a community and of that community alone. The concepts of sustainability inspired by the preservation of our planet, the wellbeing of mankind and its economic development can still be applied, when we look at the Encounter between a local population and tourists, but the human part of it, the culture and all that is dear to us, have a different dimension and are anchored in history itself.

The way a community deals with its environment and its relation to nature is usually quite different from what a tourist might be used to. The feelings of solidarity among people in a population and with their environment might be changed by the presence of tourists, especially when there are too many of them. A local population may give up part of this solidarity under the pressure of tourism, the prospects of financial gains or when pushed by government authorities or investment companies.

Understanding how each community relates to nature and their environment as well as respecting the solidarity the people have with each other form part of sustainable development and with it a mutual respect.

We return to the image of the woman carrying a water bucket on her head, walking with a gently swinging pace. A camera flash startles her for a moment, but quickly she resumes her pace. The tourist turns around contently. Will he ever realize how water shortages influence one’s life?

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The Holiday

All rights reserved. Complete or partial reproduction is prohibited without the permission of Marinus Gisolf and without mentioning the source

The Holiday

We have put the tourist right at the centre of tourism; as we look at what a holiday is all about, we shall do the same thing. When we use the word ‘holiday’, we think specifically of the tourist and the way he experiences things. From this point of view we may wonder to what extent ‘tourism’ and ‘holiday’ are different concepts. This is a complicated question but we can say that, in a certain way, a holiday is tourism seen through the eyes of a tourist.

The climax of the holiday has been described as the intake of impact calories through the senses, which then are processed by the tourist into experiences. The source where the ImpCal are taken from is called Impsource; the tourist attraction forms part of this. It is important to note at this point that tourists experience many things and many of them do not necessarily have to come from the tourist attractions. Impsources can include any environment other than the home scene (an assumption of tourism); anywhere visitors can see, hear or smell something new. Tourist experiences therefore also concern the environment, the local population, colours of houses or aromas of local cuisine. We can divide the experiences into those that are the result of a purposely-built tourist attraction (museum, canopy tour, or an artificial ski slope) and those that are accidental, such as a flock of sheep crossing the road or a local religious gathering. There can also be unpleasant experiences such as an accident or flooding. There are Impsources that are for tourists exclusively and others that form part of the daily life of the local population and would have been there anyway. The tourist has experiences that are different in nature and disposition during his holiday as well as after it, and all the ImpCal taken in are formed into experiences.

When arriving home at the end of the holiday, the traveller still feels some of the atmosphere of all the places visited, but at the same time the process starts to be absorbed again by the daily work routine. Then there is the stage of showing pictures and videos to friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This includes giving travel advice to friends, recommending some things and ignoring others; finally, the whole “audience” gets to know the final verdict: a more-or-less successful holiday. Rarely will the tourist say at the end, “Never again!” They may think it, but they will rarely say this out loud, since the choice of holiday destination was made by the tourist himself and he will not likely confess that he was wrong. All impressions will start to fade, images and experiences become interposed, some things will be forgotten (usually the least pleasant ones), and finally the person will be left with some general impressions. It must be clear that the latter process may take months or even years. The holiday has finished and now he has to wait until the next one can begin.


ImpCal intake may be the focal point of the holiday; however, it does not limit itself to tourist attractions and their surroundings. Before arriving at the place where ImpCal intake can take place, the so-called Impsource, the tourist has already had a series of encounters. In the area of the Impsource one has to stay overnight using the local infrastructure, including roads, shops and restaurants. This infrastructure, which is used prior to the visit of the Impsource, is also part of the total experience. Usually there is a Main Impsource being the reason why the tourist wanted to go to that particular destination. However, there are many other things a tourist can enjoy apart from the main Impsource. This can take place using the so-called Side Impsources. The tourist may reach a destination to see some famous waterfall, but other tourist attractions could have been created nearby. A hotel may have set up a botanical garden, an old watermill could have been restored, or a music festival could have been organized; options like these are some of the many ways ImpCal can be offered, for financial compensation obviously. Souvenir and other kinds of shops may offer additional Impsources. People enjoy buying little things from the areas they visit, assuming of course that these products are in fact produced in that area and reflect some original or cultural elements of the local population.

One of the reasons for offering Side Impsources is that the local people want to keep tourists in their region for as long as possible. The more there is to see, the better the chance the tourist will stay another night. We are not talking about the ImpCal potential of just one source, but about the ImpCal value of an entire region. An area where there are many different things to do – in other words, one with high ImpCal potential – attracts more tourists than an area where tourists arrive to see a single Impsource and then immediately continue on their journey. That tourist attraction has an ImpCal value, but a region has one too: the sum of the individual Impsources.

A hotel can be an Impsource in itself and serve as a “base camp” in between visits to the various Main Impsources of the area. Even more than that, in an effort to keep the tourists for more nights, there is a pronounced tendency for hotels to offer all kinds of Side Impsources: beautiful gardens, swimming pools, jacuzzis, tennis courts, golf courses or casinos. So, there are Main Impsources, and then there are Side Impsources offered as an extra value for the area, but there are also Impsources along the main road that may provide a potential experience for free. We call these Shared Impsources, because the local population can get ImpCal intake too, although the resulting experience has nothing to do with tourism in their case. These Shared Impsources are so named regardless of whether the tourists get ImpCal from them or not. Some tourists simply may not notice them. There is also a fourth type of Impsource that has no infrastructure at all and was never intended for tourists. Examples may include a nice patch of forest, a place that acquired sudden fame for some natural phenomenon, or a flock of sheep may cross the road. We call these the Incidental Impsources. Accidents – unfortunate as they may be – may also form part of a fortuitous Incidental Impsource.

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An incidental Impsource like the cows crossing the road may enhance the holiday expierence. It gives a feeling of authenticity.

Another vitally important element in tourism is information supply. Since the tourist finds himself in surroundings that are quite distinct from his home environment, he has to become informed about where to go, where the most beautiful spots are and what type of hotel he likes. Information supply is inherent to tourism, therefore. There is no better infosource than the destination itself and once at the holiday destination the tourist can find all sorts of information he is looking for and he can make reservations for any arrangement he wishes. We refer to this as the detailed info supply and distinguish it from another type of infosupply that is the one on which the tourist bases his choice of destination. Local infosupply may be based on commercial aspects and the many local tour operators are the best examples. We are dealing with information that is directed at the tourist trying to convince him to reserve some excursion or multi-day arrangement.

In the destination country we can clearly see all the cornerstones on which the concept of the holiday is based: the experience – the Impsources – infrastructure – local transport – local info supply.

Before a tourist can begin his ImpCal intake, he has to travel to the country or region (in the same country); ImpCal intake can take place anywhere, even if it is not necessarily classified as tourism. This means that transport is also an inherent part of tourism. This transport – airplane, train or car – may be an Impsource in itself and it can be quite an experience, although we have noticed that this experience tends to fade away rather quickly. This sort of incidental short-lived Impcal intake often means superfluous experiences, which are forgotten just as quickly. By the way, we are talking about the transport from the home country to the destination (which can be in one’s own country) and this also implies the journey back home – an obligatory part of tourism, since long-term stays do not fall under the category of tourism. In the tourist’s home country or region of origin, many organisations and companies get involved with the tourists. Their function is twofold: first of all there is the commercial interest and secondly there is the role of information provider directed at the tourist in an effort to try to convince them to go to a certain destination.

Now we come to the points regarding the reasons why a tourist decides on a certain destination. In the tourist’s country of origin, the tourist must make a large number of decisions in order to decide where he wants to go. Some of all these decisions (see the chapter on ‘Tourists and Sustainability’) involve what he wants to arrange in advance to see and what he wants to arrange locally after he arrives. First of all, arrangement concerns the type of Impsources he is looking for, the general atmosphere of a place and the type of infrastructure it has.

The tourism supply of all possibilities that can be arranged beforehand can be divided depending on who offers what. The supply can stem from the tourist’s home country, from the destination or simply from what the tourist arranges for himself.

Table 1

Who can arrange what in tourism.







1A. Purposely constructed with infrastructure




1B. Already existing with infrastructure




1C. Already existing, no infrastructure



1D. Everything shared with a local population



2A. Everything developed for tourists




2B. Everything the tourist shares with a local population



3A. From the home country



3B. Within the destination country and reserved beforehand




3C. Public transport that cannot be reserved beforehand



4A. Through travel companies and organisations




4B. Through family, friends acquaintances or colleagues


Other Services

5. Insurances, credit cards, passports etc.


The column labelled D refers to services offered from the destination country (hotels, local operators, Impsources, etc.). The column labelled H refers to ImpCal services offered in the Home country (travel agencies among others) and column T refers to the Tourist arranging things himself.

This is a general overview of what can be arranged beforehand and those items the tourist has to reserve himself. For those entities that offer tourist services from the tourist’s home country to the destination, it is important that these services can be reserved.

A tour operator or other sort of travel agent gets in touch with the hotel or transport company or Impsource concerned, makes the necessary reservations and pays for them. All services that cannot be reserved beforehand cannot be offered by the travel organizations in the tourist’s home country. This is an important observation, because it is this type of supply that comprises all the incidental Impsources or those belonging to the daily life of a local population. In other words, what tour operators and travel agents offer are usually the main Impsources. The same holds true for the destination: the owners of hotels or tourist attractions offer those to the public and receive the resulting reservations. This is separate from the fact that there are many services which cannot be reserved beforehand and the tourist has to arrange them himself. In that case the tourist uses already existing infrastructure, which is also utilized by the local people; an important characteristic in this case is that even if the tourist does not go there, these services are performed just the same.

Item 1A in Table 1 deals with those Impsources that are purposely built for the tourists; Disney World is a case in point. Travel organizations from all over the world offer this Main Impsource, as does Disney World itself. Item 1B embraces those Impsources that already exist but which are further developed for tourism and supplied with more infrastructure. As an example we can mention a national park that has been enhanced with trails, an information centre, parking lots, restrooms, and so on. For item 1C we think of a distant, hard to reach little beach where no hotels have been built yet, or an old village where there is little or nothing in terms of tourist infrastructure. There is no clear ownership in these cases and Incidental Impsources are part of these experiences. Item 1D comprises an important part of tourism: all those things that belong to the daily environment of a local population not directly related to tourism. The colours and smells of a place belong to this category, as do the cultural manifestations of a population. These kinds of things have no specific owner and would have existed without tourism just the same. In other words, we are talking about the sort of supply that is not affected by travel organizations or investors and we call them Shared Impsources. As far as the infrastructure near an Impsource is concerned, we also distinguish between that which has clear ownership and can be reserved beforehand (2A), and infrastructure that must be shared with the locals (2B). Item 2a consists of souvenir stores or hotels while 2B concerns shops in general, churches or hospitals.

Transport can be divided into two categories. First (item 3A), there is transport from the home country to the destination (this transport is inherent to the concept of tourism) and this transport is usually arranged for beforehand (airplane, train or bus). Obviously, there are cases where the tourist can simply reach his holiday destination with his own car, in which case he does not have to arrange anything. Once at the destination country or region, he usually has to get some other means of transport to reach his hotel. This transport may be reserveable (option 3B), or it may occur with public transport (e.g. bus or ferry) via arrangements the tourist must usually make for himself (3C). The option of a rental car means that reservations can be made, thus this is considered a case of 3B.

Another aspect inherent to tourism is information flow. General information may be provided by the ‘official’ sector, such as government institutions, tourism boards or Internet companies (e.g. Wikipedia) – see category 4A. Another case is when the tourist relies on his own information sources, including families and friends (4B). See the chapter on ‘Tourists and Sustainability’ for a further explanation of information flows in tourism.

Finally there are general services, such as travel insurance, credit cards, passports or vaccinations, that are offered by the various governmental institutions, banks and the like (item 5).

In summary, we can see that a tourist can arrange various things via travel agents (for example) in his home country: the main and side Impsources, hotels or other services under the heading of ‘infrastructure’ (options 1A and 2A), transport towards the destination, and perhaps local transport at the destination (3B). Information and travel insurance (4A and 5) can also be easily arranged in the tourist’s home country. In the cases of 1C, 2A and 3B the tourist can also make reservations locally or by email or fax from his home. Other things really have to be arranged by the tourist himself: 1D, 2B, 3C and 4B.

This completes the explanation of the supply part in general and which kinds of services are offered from either the tourist’s home country or from the destination, and which services can be arranged beforehand or not. Another point in this respect is whether there is a well-defined owner that the tourist deals with (usually for main and side Impsources as well as infrastructure). The whole machinery of interlinking networks of tourist infrastructure, transport and travel agents is very complicated with many parties involved, all of which have something to do with one another and together comprise what we call ‘tourism.’

We have been emphasizing the supply side of tourism and this sector is sometimes referred to as the ‘tourism industry’, a somewhat ill-chosen name since this is an ‘industry’ that does not produce anything, but instead provides potential for experiences. We should never forget that it is the tourist himself who must make sure he has some Impcal intake and he has to process this himself into experiences.

The holiday cycle

So far, we have been presenting tourism based on its principal cornerstone: the experience. In Figure 1, we now give a chronological representation of a holiday:

The Holiday Cycle

The tourist begins in the upper left part, where he tries to fetch initial information for his choice of holiday destination and what he wants to do there. He proceeds to the area depicted below where he can purchase holiday packages – after some investigative work – as well as the transport to the chosen destination (if he is not using his own vehicle). Once the tourist reaches his destination (lower right section of the figure), he can inform himself even more and buy some excursions or make holiday arrangements locally; those who purchased holiday packages in the previous stage (lower left) will get additional information from the local agent or representative of the travel organisation concerned. Next comes the big moment he was longing for from the beginning: the experience (upper right). He will also make use of local infrastructure.

At the end of the holiday the tourist must travel home where he will arrive full of stories and with many pictures or videos. This material will in turn serve as an information source and feedback for friends, colleagues and perhaps travel organisations. This way he will help new tourists who are starting the same holiday cycle.

In the figure, each line drawn from the central tourist circle represents some tie with a network of people and things. The tourist’s social circles are intertwined networks and the same holds true for Tourist Boards, general information on the Internet, TV programmes or films. They all form networks the tourist makes use of and from which he extracts what he needs. All these networks are interlinked with one another. The Tour Operator is in close touch with airlines, local agents or directly with Impsources. Travel stores work together with Tour Operators. Impsources provide material for TV programmes, etc. In other words, tourism consists of a very complicated blend of contacts and each square in the figure above is connected in one way or another with the other squares.

One should also realize that each square is not merely a ‘heading’, it actually represents complicated groups of networks. The most obvious is the case of the square called ‘infrastructure’, which not only refers to hotels, but also to restaurants, souvenir stores, local roads or casinos, and obviously, the people working there. Each service belongs to a group of networks. The same holds true for the Impsources, which maintain contacts on all kinds of levels. The tourist makes contact with an enormous number of networks, but generally he is the last to realize this. Why should he? In most cases he is not made aware of all the networks and he is probably exposed to hundreds of networks in his daily life anyway.

There are cases when involvement in complex network systems suddenly becomes clear and that is when something goes wrong. For example a tourist loses his passport and then notices that all kinds of networks exist. There is the local agent who explains what to do, a consulate has to issue a temporary document, photographs must be taken, and so on. The tourist buying a complete holiday package consisting of transport, hotels and tourist attractions knows very well what he’s getting himself into, and when he pays for his holiday (also involving many networks, this time financial in nature) lots of faxes and emails will be sent elsewhere in the world to reserve and confirm his plans. Many means of communication are used to ensure that everything is ready for the tourist on the day the ‘show’ begins.

It is this complicated ‘ensemble’ of networks that gives life to the concept of tourism. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to go into all the details about what a network really is. However, it should be clear by now that each person, institution, good and reality is in contact with the other elements in some way or another. The relationships among all these identities, as we may call them, can take place on different levels and are subject to their purpose and direction. Contacts may be physical (e.g. written, transmitted over the Internet, or spoken) or they may be more abstract in nature, such as images or based on socio-cultural output. Some networks maintain clearly defined contacts with others and may form complete strings of contacts, as in the case of a hotel that sells via a local agent, who in turn offers this infrastructure to a Tour Operator, who then sells from a travel store. The creation of these strings of networks form the basis of what we call tourism. Some string contacts are close while others may be more superficial.

Another point one has to realize is that a major part of what we call tourism concerns things that also exist without any tourism. These things make use of existing infrastructure, contacts or other elements. Hotels, for example, are there not only for the tourists, but they are also used by many other people who do not fit into this category, such as business people, people visiting family, regional inspectors or students (for some research project). Airplanes and trains are another good example of having many users (the majority perhaps) who cannot be labelled tourists. Then there are the shared Impsources that a tourist can enjoy, but so can anyone else; this may be a landscape or a lively local market. We may even wonder which part of a holiday has been developed for tourists specifically and which part consists of shared or incidental Impsources. This depends very much on the type of holiday. Does a tourist just want to spend one week at the beach or does he prefer a complete itinerary through several countries (multi-destination holidays)? A week at the beach produces much less ImpCal intake and that may be the reason why the tourist chooses a low-calorie holiday. In contrast we find ones with high potential ImpCal, such as treks or any adventure holiday; actually, this applies to any holiday in which every day areas are visited with high ImpCal value – in other words, places where there is a lot to do involving main, side and shared Impsources, as well as places with a potentially greater chance for incidental Impsources. From the moment the tourist gets up in the morning until he goes to bed, there is something to experience; sometimes there may be so much to take in that he needs a holiday from the holiday in order to recover, one with low ImpCal intake in that case.

The tourist has to make important decisions when choosing his holiday destination and what level of ImpCal intake he is aiming for (see the chapter on ‘Tourists and Sustainability’). When one wants to visit nature areas, it must be clear that they cannot expect lively nightlife, because at night they will go to bed early (tired and contented) or just read a book for a little while. Some people enjoy reading during their holiday since they have little time or patience for it in their hectic daily life. Others do not want to read during their holiday (“I can read at home”) and prefer lots of activities. Some tourists like to be busy all the time and especially being kept busy (showing little of their own initiative), in which case an area with plenty of side Impsources is the best bet for them. There are also tourists who value their freedom most and prefer to decide what they will do each day. Obviously, this type of tourist will make few advance reservations and will depend heavily on local information sources. This type of tourist does not give a high priority to main Impsources, but usually allows himself to be led by shared and incidental Impsources.

Apart from what the tourist dreams up beforehand about what he would like to do during his holiday, there is the point of what really happened during that holiday and to what extent this coincides with his original dreams. Did he have all the expected experiences? Was ImpCal intake sufficient enough for him to say afterwards that the holiday was a success? An important role in this matter is played by the shared and incidental Impsources. Even though the journey to the destination may be a rich source of bigger or smaller, possibly superfluous experiences based on flashes of many faces, the tourist may take in few ImpCal because he is too busy making sure he is on the right train or that his seatbelt is fastened.

Besides the superfluous Impsources, there is the ImpCal intake based on the simple fact that the tourist finds himself in a region that is quite different from his own home environment (one of the principles of tourism). At an all-inclusive beach resort, ImpCal intake will be less than it is when touring a country in a rental car. In the latter case intake from shared Impsources will be high and may even surpass the intake from main and side Impsources. For most of the day, the tourist finds himself mingling with local people and seeing local landscapes, for example. A tourist looking for exactly these types of experiences will select a destination with a high shared and incidental Impsource value; obviously, a desert is not a good choice for this, while a city is.

Additionally there is the possibility of social experiences that often form a very important part of the final evaluation of a holiday. A vacation drowned out by continuous rains may be saved by the friendships one made along the way – relations with fellow travellers or with local people. Social experiences have a tendency to impress more, because of their communication element. This means that in addition to ImpCal intake, there can also be output to other people of previously consumed ImpCal (perhaps already processed into an experience), which leads to an exchange of ImpCal and experiences.

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