In the book Qualitative Research in Tourism : Ontologies, Epistemologies and Methodologies, edited by Lisa Goodson, and Jenny Phillimore, author Barbara Humberstone notes that “…tourism studies are about the relationship between the visitor, the Other (host) and the locale …” (p.120). This begs the question what makes for a good relationship? Developing Humberstone’s thought further, transactional elements of the relationship emerge: expectations or wants (by the visitor), offerings (by the host), and context or culture (provided by the locale). Modelled in more mathematical terms, a visitor’s wants are serviced by some proportion of offerings of the hosts and the context of the locale. Presumably, goodness of a relationship is measured by success in satisfying the visitor’s wants.
This model offers a point of departure to develop and organize my thoughts on the workings of tourism. As a first step, I apply the model to a recent trip, beginning the process of validation and refinement.
In this experiment, the trip falls into the category of leisure travel; reseting one’s context of place and routine to escape the shackles of daily life, delivering us from routine into an alternative state (the offerings in context) that enables relaxation (the wants). Or so goes my theory.
Applying the model, I recognised the subjectivity of wants, their malleability, and that there was some sort of negotiation among the model’s elements. That is adjustments in the offering and context determine which wants could be served and how well. Conversely, the search for “good” wants would determine the configuration of the offering and context. This lead me to think of the relationship as less an algebraic one and one more algorithmic, by which I mean, the focus is less about the equivalence between wants and offerings + context and more of an optimization calculation (and here I have in mind Runge-Kutta Fourth Normal Form where the parameters vary, generating a landscape of wants, and it is from this landscape a choice is made, possibly determined by economics).
If, as suggested above, the primary want of leisure-travel is relaxation, realising goodness, while a subjective assessment, comes down to an optimization process minimising tension and maximising harmony.
A frequent first step in leisure-travel is to change context (locale) as in getting away from it all. In this test case the context was changed from a cold, wintery Canada, to a resort hotel on a small island in the Caribbean. The offerings are provided by the resort, the local businesses (tour operators, restaurants, shopping, etc.) and the character of the island. All were presumably arranged for the visitor, to reduce “hassle” and maximise enjoyment. Over the years, these arrangements have become more and more sophisticated, tuned by market demand, resulting in the design and development of destinations that optimise the parameters in such a way that the place is both attractive and economically viable.
In their book, The Tourist Gaze 3.0, authors John Urry and Jonas Larson build on Boorstin’s analysis of ‘pseudo-events’:
… mass tourists travel in guided groups and find pleasure in inauthentic contrived attractions, gullibly enjoying ‘pseudo-events’ and disregarding the ‘real’ world outside. As a result tourist entrepreneurs and the indigenous populations are induced to produce ever more extravagant displays for gullible observers who are thereby further removed from local people.
The Tourist Gaze (p. 7-8)
This leads me to define the dreamscape as that type of place optimizing context and offerings towards a visitor’s wants. While such places may exist in nature, many are created and thus the refined notion of the Manufactured Dreamscape. A place that has been designed, tuned, managed and built to purpose. There are as many of these as there are dreams, and wallets. Yet we should not condemn too quickly these manufacture dreamscapes. In his article Staged authenticity: arrangements of social space in tourist settings published in American Sociological Review, 79 (1973), MacCannel, using the term ‘staged authenticity’ suggests that such places are both a means of generating value as well as protecting the lives of the host people.
Climbing the stairs, we enter into the resort and leave behind our daily life, and weather, entering a space manufactured to create distance from our normal reality. In a curious way, the purpose of the dreamscape architecture is similar to the purpose of sacred architecture (to define a space that conveys the glory of God and the magnificence of Heaven on earth). Something to look forward to.