The Tourist Gaze
By John Urry. Sage Publications
1990, 176 pp. (photos,
Street, London EClY
Readers might infer a double meaning from this book’s title. It could refer to the gaze of tourists and also to the tourist, Gaze. This would be Henry Gaze, a tourist who went into business and helped pioneer the modern form of tour operations, like his contemporary,
Thomas Cook (two names symbolizing features of the tourism industry: sightseeing and food?). Unlike Cook, Gaze has been relatively neglected in the literature,
advertising by the two superficially competitive firms represents an early example of promotional activity by a tourism industry (Pudney 1953). Glancing through the The Tourist Gaze, one finds nothing about Henry. The title is about the gaze of tourists, but it also alludes to the gaze of clinicians, as discussed by Foucault (1975).
The Tourist Gaze, by John Urry from the Sociology Department in the
University of Lancaster (UK), contains lively discussions on a number of topics. It should be interesting to anyone with a scholarly involvement in tourism and is likely to become a standard educational reference, because Urry has achieved a useful blend. In addition to some social theory, his book offers perspectives on tourism drawing on a range of social science disciplines, many examples, and brief bits of statistical data (and, a welcome feature in a book on postmodernism,
the English is readable).
Urry remarks that to be a tourist is one of the characteristics of the “modern” experience, an idea discussed in more detail by MacCannell(l976). Modernism and postmodernism,
by definition, imply rapidly perishable perspectives.
with 15 years elapsed since the appearance of MacCannell’s now
classic study, Urry’s book offers a fresh discussion on the ever-evolving links between tourism and modernism/postmodernism.
Urry has identified several
aspects of culture and society and has cleverly shown how they are linked with trends in tourism. The topics are quite diverse, including holiday camps, heritage, packaged tour design, sex tourism, and festivals, each accompanied by statistical snippets. Most of the focus is tourism in England. The book is “about how, in different societies and especially within different social groups in diverse historical periods, the tourist gaze has changed and developed” (p. 1). A brief overview is presented on theoretical approaches to the study of tourism. This is restricted to approaches for studying social and cultural phenomena associated with tourism: Nothing of the whole tourism system approach (Getz 1986) is included. The book’s title, noted earlier, implies an analogy between the gaze of tourists and Foucault’s (1975) clinical gaze. Foucault’s innovative thinking on a range of topics has led to his ideas and methods being applied to many topics in the social sciences. Urry claims the tourist gaze is socially organized and systematized. He remarks there “is It varies by society, by social group, and by historno single tourist gaze. . ical period” (p. 1).
The scope of Chapter 2, “Mass Tourism and the Rise and Fall of the Seaside Resort,” is limited to UK resorts, and no more than passing reference is given to the rise of seaside resorts elsewhere, a rise that helps explain the fall of their British counterparts. Chapter 3, “The Changing Economics of the Tourist Industry,” begins by remarking that “the relationship between the
tourist gaze and those industries which have been developed to meet that gaze is extremely problematic.” A strength of the chapter is its descriptive examples. Urry emphasizes a good point often overlooked: “The economics of
tourism cannot be understood separately from the analysis of cultural and policy...
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