The Reflexive Approach to Tourism

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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:

1BTravellers 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:
2ATourist attractions purposely designed for tourists and provided with the necessary amenities for them (main and side Impsources);
2BHotels, 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;

4AThose involved with tourists, travelers or the tourism infrastructure;
4BThose 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...
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