Seeking direction in tourism

The Geography of Tourism and Recreation - Ecotourism - Tourism Geography. First Edition
May 28, 1999

That a publisher should launch three textbooks on similar subjects within the space of a year should tell us something about the rapid evolution and development of courses in tourism and leisure - and, given the disciplinary focus of two of these, the location of much of that activity within geography.

Indeed Colin Hall and Stephen Page remark that most geography degree programmes now contain significant elements dealing with tourism. All these books will find a market among first or second-level undergraduates in geography. However, they attest to a rather more anxious situation. Hall and Page specify one of their aims as to revivify the study of tourism as a sub-discipline within geography, in the face of competitor degree programmes in leisure studies and similar fields. Their own biographies of moving to specialist departments seem to speak to this process fairly eloquently. In their own ways these books suffer from a definitional angst. First, the need to justify tourism within geography; then the need to justify geographies of tourism; and finally the need to define what tourism might be.

What then are the geographies of tourism to be gleaned from them? Tourism Geography provides a good outline for beginning students. Chapters address the historical growth and changes in the tourism industry from elite education to global industry, then look at physical, economic and cultural changes for given places over time and the role of planning, before examining more advanced issues - tourism actually inventing sites to visit, and long-run sustainability. In all the book provides a useful level of data for beginning students, and some good case studies.

A larger book, The Geography of Tourism and Recreation , gives a great deal more detail and disaggregates these elements by separating policy, supply and demand alongside types of sites - urban, rural, wilderness. It also explicitly brings in recreation as well as tourism, looking at urban parks as recreational spaces and acknowledging local use of facilities. It is at its strongest in compendious reviews of motivational factors and analytical frameworks, while development, change and impact seem scattered in this structure. Compared to the first book, it also uses extensive citations. On occasions it is so busy listing different prior approaches, there is barely space left to discuss them. One strong section compares the development of wilderness laws and protection in North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Such concern for preserving habitats is echoed in David Fennell's engaging account of ecotourism, Ecotourism: An Introduction . This deploys a selected number of examples to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of what Fennell argues is a growing sector of the tourism market. Showing the rising and changing shape of nature tourism and concerns with its sustainability, the book will be of interest to anyone following up these angles, though the primitivised view of indigenous peoples that creeps in seems somewhat problematic.

The general tendency of all the books, especially The Geography of Tourism and Recreation , is to work through a series of lists and typologies, and thus to dissect various aspects of tourism. Students will be able to grasp various typologies but I am left wondering if they will really know much more than the various sub-headings. One might call this tendency, with due apology to another discipline, a categorical imperative: the urge to assemble classificatory schema and definitions to distinguish one factor from another. All the authors seem to lament the "messiness" of tourism as practice and concept and set out to remedy this through typologies. I would like to see approaches that do not feel impelled to create endless analytical divisions and offer instead a sense of tourism practice both to tourism studies and geography.

The view of tourists presented in these books is one of individuals (the idea of tourism as a group activity, both formal or informal, is weak throughout), who have a series of compartmentalised motives, attributes and effects. The sharpness of these divisions may reassure many students, but I am unsure they are helpful.

Mike Crang is lecturer in geography, University of Durham.

The Geography of Tourism and Recreation: The Geography of Tourism and Recreation

Author - Colin M. Hall and Stephen J. Page
ISBN - 0 415 16003 0 and 16004 9
Publisher - Routledge
Price - £50.00 and £15.99
Pages - 309

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