Why Do People Travel – The Search For the Authentic Other – Part 1

Tourism is the ‘ism’ that drives the largest industry of the modern world. It forms an integral component of the fast growing business of leisure. Accounting for roughly 11% of global GDP, tourism is a major ‘movement’ impacting the world.

The Search for the Authentic Other

A very substantial part of tourism, as we know today, is the individual’s search for authenticity; of people travelling away from their home societies to an authentic (often primitive) other; drawn by myths embedded in folklore, heritage, religion, literature.

It is this search for the authentic other that has brought tourism closer to religion, blurring boundaries between a pilgrim and a tourist. The tourist of the west, searching for the authentic other, is a pilgrim of the modern secular world. His religion is the individualistic religion of the modern society, as different from the collective and organised notion of civil religion. The tourist, fed up of the western secular materialism, locates his elective centre ‘out there’ away from his home society. The counterpart of the western tourist is the pilgrim of the east who locates his elective centre in the holy places of worship.

Thus, there is a great degree of similarity in the sacred pursuit of authenticity for a western tourist and an eastern pilgrim. This search for authenticity, in both cases, is thwarted by the tourism industry and the religious establishments respectively by setting up of staged authenticities – fake representations that are perceived as real by the pilgrim and the tourist.

Tourism for Recreation

The rest of the tourism movement is driven by recreation; of people whose centres are firmly rooted in their own societies, who travel to indulge in ‘play’ – a characteristic feature of post-modernistic society. These people are lured by the myths created by the tourism industry; indulge in pleasures – becoming paupers, kings, visiting miniature ancient Egypt etc.

The most striking example of this kind of tourism is the concept of theme park, notable Disneyland. The theme parks ‘recreate reality’ and creates myths about peoples, countries, concepts, civilisations etc. The tourist plays with these, often deriving a vicarious pleasure.

Thus a useful way of looking at tourism is to look at two major motivations propelling modern tourism

1. The search for the authentic other (driving many tourists of the west and pilgrims of the East).

2. The recreation and the concept of ‘play’

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