Tourism has a long history and is widespread in all cultures and is an important social element in the lives of contemporary people. It is one of the major industries of the world and both developed and developing countries have recognized its significance. The concept of tourism includes the movement of people to destinations outside their normal place of residence and work, the activities they undertake during their stay in those destinations, and the facilities created and services provided to cater to their needs. In a way, the study on tourism focuses not only on the traveler and his/her expectations but also on the destination (i.e., the physical environment) and the host community and the impacts it has on the economic, environmental, and social well-being of the host community. The increasing number of influential studies devoted to trying to understand the cultural processes associated with tourism have provided insights for comprehending the complex nature of tourism.

Anthropological interest in tourism which gained momentum only after the 1970s is now a well-established sub-discipline with positive signs of future development and growth. Anthropologists have been interested in everything that concerns humankind and the study of tourism emerged from an anthropological concern with cultural contact and culture change. Anthropologists began to see the tourist like the conqueror, the governor, or missionary, “as the agent of contact between cultures and directly or indirectly, the cause of change particularly in the less developed regions of the world’’ (Nash 1989: 37). There are numerous accounts of tourist behavior and a variety of theories to help us understand the motivations of tourists and social and cultural complexity in touristic encounters. There also has been a shift from an overwhelmingly negative assessment of tourism to a more balanced view of the subject.

Anthropologists do not hesitate to accept their late arrival on the tourism scene and now have managed to contribute significantly to this branch of study. Social anthropologists using their distinct methodology, and ethnographic fieldwork have been in a considerably strong position to highlight several interconnected themes. The studies on how tourism has contributed to changes in societies over time, its impact on the economy, environment, and social fabric of the host community, and the practical implications for the host government that has been made. Both the good and bad impacts of tourism have been highlighted by various scholars. Globalization and a changing world in terms of intense connectivity have impacted tourism, changing its character from the time when the journey would take months and years, and travelers had little communication with home and community. Anthropologists have much to contribute to the changing nature of tourism as the world transforms in complex ways. 


Discussions on contemporary tourism in today’s globalized world focus both on the local and global concerns, by recognizing the interconnectedness of economic, environmental, and social domains. Globalization is often described as a process by which events, decisions, and activities in one part of the world can have significant consequences for individuals and communities in quite distant parts of the globe (Giddens 1990). The Nineties period that saw increased global connectedness has been adequately summed by Giddens (1990: 64) as ‘‘the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa’’. Globalization came to be understood as a process having ramifications on every aspect of our lives be it economic, social, or cultural. Robertson (1992: 166) called it ‘compression of the world’ as there is increased cross-border exchange of people, goods, assets, ideas, and cultures.

Internet and increased communication resulted in remarkable ‘time-space compression’ as people across the globe have been brought closer through various technology-assisted developments. Burns and Holden (1995: 75) refer to globalization as ‘how at one level (i.e., at the level of trade and consumption) economic and political relations between nations are increasingly framed by a sort of ‘cultural convergence’ where a set of values emerges across a range of countries with a tendency towards ‘cultural homogeneity. Anthropologists like Michael Kearney (1995) and George Marcus (1995) were some of the first anthropologists to recognize the impact globalism and transnationalism have had on issues such as personal/community identity, de-territorialization, and migration. Marcus has further argued that globalization is changing not only the face of local communities but also the discipline of anthropology. Other anthropologists and sociologists have theorized the socio-cultural aspects of globalization like Appadurai (1996), Bauman (1998), Eriksen (2003), Robertson (1992), Inda and Rosaldo (2002). 

They have noticed that the situation of growing global interconnectedness and interdependency New Directions in the Anthropology of Tourism 128 has opened up the cross-cultural production of local meanings, self-images, representations, and modes of life typical of various groups and individuals (Appadurai 1996) thereby putting the notions of the ‘local’ to the forefront of scholarly analyses. The ‘local’ here not only refers to a particular space but also to the people inhabiting that space, who have a particular way of life and a particular worldview. This notion of ‘local’ gets more pronounced in tourism studies. Globalization has opened the sites and destinations which were once remote to becoming tourist destinations. In this shrinking world people have been brought closer and as Cairncross (1997) puts it that there is a ‘death of distance, and there is a rapid flow of people/travelers physically moving from place to place across national borders. 

All the societies which were earlier remote destinations have started to see the flow of tourists. Earlier the terms used for people who traveled to distant places were ‘explorer’ and ‘adventurer’; there were implications of danger and uncertainty, but in a world where travel and communication have been highly developed technologically, travel to even very remote places has become a part of routine tourism, something that can be undertaken by anyone. Since travel and going to distant places have lost their glamour as well as adventure, it has become a task for tourist agencies to recreate the illusions of adventure. The anthropologists are involved in the study of the symbolic aspects of travel, motivations as well as the interface of tourism with the political economy of the world. Tourism also exposes notions of identity, belongingness, and personhood. 

For example, persons traveling to say, Myanmar, in British India, from any part of India, say Calcutta, would not consider themselves tourists; as they were traveling within their own country. People also traveled when they had to, for work, trade, or administration. Traveling for pleasure is a phenomenon of a global world with safe travel possibilities, reduced time, and connectivity. At the same time, in the post-World War II world, there has been fragmentation and reformulation of identities; creation of new nations, and a different sense of belongingness. 

In the context of tourism, there has been a phenomenal increase in the growth of the tourism industry and newer places are being continually drawn into the tourism process. Not just capital and commodities are being transferred across borders but tourists too. As the biggest growth industry, employer, and source of revenue around the world, many Third world countries soon realized that by boosting their tourism potential they can progress and earn foreign exchange. 

Tourism is also deeply influenced by the political status of the country and also the relationship of one’s own country to the country of travel. Tourism decision-making is an aspect that anthropologists can study within the ambit of global power fields. People do not make the decision to travel to particular places based on only one criterion, there are multiple aspects including, economic, political, and cultural ones. Only through in-depth data collection methods, used by anthropologists, a nuanced and realistic insight can be gained into the phenomenon of tourism. 

Many countries are out of bounds if they do not encourage the visit of people from another country. Whether or not one is even allowed into a country depends on the position in the global power hierarchy of that country, citizens of the USA, for example, do not need visas for many countries. The political relations between one’s country and the other are also important. Financial constraints are also important criteria for Emerging Trends in Anthropology and Tourism 129 tourism. This is the reason that Third World countries are preferred destinations for tourism as everything appears cheaper there for visitors from First World countries. 

Technology and Tourism

Technology is an integral aspect of culture and technological changes are a significant aspect of culture change. Anthropologists have been engaged in the study of culture and technological changes for a very long time. Technological changes are not simply mechanical changes but result in considerable transformation of social relations and patterns of behavior of social persons. 

With the advent of internet technology, likewise much has changed in societies around the world. With increasing urbanization, human relations had been atomized. People have also become more individualistic though not in all cultures. Earlier most lives were embedded within families and people spend most of their lives taking care of household duties. With the overall transformation of technologies and with greater urbanization, people are now liberated from intensive involvement with community and family. In the cities, people are enculturated into a lifestyle that encourages individual decision-making and movements. 

A family of husband, wife, and children can take an independent decision to take a family holiday, without having to take permission from family elders. In some cultures, people travel in huge family groups as well. On the other hand, single persons can also travel individually. Travel agents have to be perceptive to all kinds of travel demands. They have different ways of dealing with family groups, larger family groups, individuals, and also group travels where the members are not related. Under the present conditions of globalization, it is quite possible that in a group of unrelated travelers, people may be of different nationalities and cultures. The internet and media connectivity have not only connected people, but it has also brought the world to one’s homes. 

The media has increased awareness about different parts of the world. There is also a snowballing effect of tourist visits, as certain sites begin to gain in popularity, thereby increasing tourist footfalls exponentially, as more people going means that informal networks are used to spread the word around, and more and more people gain interest in visiting a particular place. International tourism and hospitality enterprises take advantage of multiple incentives for people to go for tours to expand their operations globally. The use of Internet Technology has further enabled the tourism industry to extend its span. This face of the new tourism aided by Internet Technology has two main dimensions:

1. The more informed new tourist and consumer-The proliferation of information technology have made potential tourists more informed, who not only require value for money but also value for time. The internet tools enable consumers to search online for information about the destination to be visited and also make reservations. The internet allows the consumer to access reliable and accurate information and make reservations in a fraction of the time. The service quality can also be ensured through IT as per the demand of the consumer thereby enabling higher tourist satisfaction. It also ensures a more customized tourism product. The new consumers are more culturally and environmentally aware and they often like greater involvement with the local society. 

2. Increased competition and changes in tourism promotion- On the supplier front the opportunity to communicate with the target population i.e., New Directions in the Anthropology of Tourism 130 the tourist, enables the travel agencies and other intermediary organizations to have a direct relationship with the consumer. There is quick identification of consumer needs and in no time, comprehensive, personalized, and up-to-date information is made available. 

The internet has revolutionized flexibility in both consumer choice and the service delivery process. Thus, the internet empowered the new type of tourist to become knowledgeable and seek value for money and time. Offering tailormade tourism products not only ensures customer satisfaction but also ensures that tourist organizations will attract tourists in the future as well. 

The tourist organizations also involve themselves in extensive market research to look into the demands and concerns of the potential tourist. Developing relationship marketing allows tourism organizations to establish a close partnership with the consumers and maintain consumer retention and loyalty. Schmalleger and Carson (2008) have highlighted how the internet is significant in tourism within the promotion, production distribution, communication, management, and research. 

The internet has made a networked economy where tourism suppliers can operate on a global scale and there is less reliance on traditional intermediaries like travel agencies thereby making tourism products more individual-specific and flexible. It is thus seen that there is an omnivorous production and consumption of places around the globe and core components of contemporary global culture now include a hotel buffet, the pool, the cocktail, the beach, the airport lounge, and the bronzed tan (Urry and Larsen 2011: 24). This growth of ‘tourism reflexivity’ which enables a place to monitor, evaluate and develop its tourism potential consequently leads to the development of tourist infrastructures at the unlikeliest places like Alaska, Antarctica, Nazi occupation sites, Mongolia, etc. 

Another feature of contemporary tourism is that many tourists are coming from the Asian region which was earlier the region consumed by western travelers. The rising income of an Asian middle class has created a strong desire to visit those places in the West that appear to define global culture. 

There is an increase in the number of middle- class pursuing education, jobs, or holidays in foreign countries. Following Bourdieu’s Distinctions (1984), Urry and Larsen in their book The Tourist Gaze 3.0 (2011) have discussed how social classes constantly struggle and seek to distinguish themselves from others (class factions above and below) by way of education, occupation, commodities they own and thus construct a lifestyle different from others. The incorporation of tourism as one of the characteristics of distinction, of cultural superiority is a consistent incentive for tourism. 

In Northern India, like in Punjab, being ‘foreign visited’ is taken as an additional qualification for a bride-to-be. People count the number of places they have visited as a kind of value addition to their social status and cultural achievement. The commodities they own may be objects such as cars, furniture, and also experiences such as holidays. 

The consumption of holidays is one feature that has assumed a significant role in this class and cultural differentiation. It can be said that contemporary tourism had gained a symbolic value. Ian Munt and Martin Mowforth (2016:125) in their book Tourism and Sustainability: Development, Globalisation and New Tourism in the Third World have shown how different social classes consume tourism which is an under-researched area. Additionally, another important strand that needs attention in tourism studies in the globalized world of today, is the issue of sustainability and sustainable development. Since the statements of the Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development 1987, sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. 

It has been accepted as an approach that opines the coexistence of economic well-being along with environmental quality. When we talk of sustainable tourism, it suggests that tourism must be sustained, but this is a very narrow perspective. Therefore, it is proposed that tourism must contribute to sustainable development. As per sustainable development, the idea is that tourism should be inserted into the existing economy rather than displace the economy i.e. tourism should help to diversify the economy rather than replace one sector with the other. Despite considerable discussion on sustainable development and tourism planning, it is seen that there is a substantial gap between theory and practice.

Tourism planning and management

Most tourism plans set goals for increasing the number of visitors or attracting tourists with the belief that the local community would benefit if there is an increase in the number of tourists. In developing countries like India, there is a continued emphasis on the Master Plans that set the direction for development. These plans are often made by external consultants and attract external investments on the pretext of the potential of the tourism industry of a particular area. 

The benefit-cost analysis that is often employed in the tourism planning projects which decides the implications of the tourism project in a particular area should ideally combine economic, socio-cultural, and environmental benefits and also assess the sustainability. For instance, economic benefits can be assessed quantitatively but the environmental impacts or social concerns need a qualitative assessment. The evaluation of the project must encapsulate the growing concern for the environment and natural resources. As more and more developing/ Third world countries are drawn to the sphere of tourism there is growing concern about the global environment. 

The debates over the environment, development, and sustainability of tourism have gained importance. The steps should be taken and the planning of tourism development should be done in ways that minimize the negative impacts and simultaneously accentuate the positive impacts. Sustainable development will not occur unless certain criteria are taken care of i.e. equity and efficiency, ecological and cultural integrity, and continuity of traditional institutions. Briefly, we can say that sustainable tourism and its development and planning should take care of the following points:

1. Ecological integrity- the touristic activities should be compatible with the environmental capabilities of the area and steps should be taken to maintain the life support systems like land, water, air, and vegetation. 

2. Cultural integrity- tourism must be used to develop, enhance and protect culture as expressed in religion, arts, and institutions through a policy of cultural tourism. 

3. Community- opportunities to be provided to the local community to participate in tourism directly or indirectly in tourist businesses as well as supporting the craft industry and agricultural activities. 

4. Balance – maintaining balance and harmony between economy and environment, between sectors such as agriculture and tourism. Careful local planning of tourist areas should be done in line with their resource base. New Directions in the Anthropology of Tourism.
5. Equity and enhancing the quality of life- The benefits of tourism should reach the local society and enhance the quality of life.


The above discussion on changing nature of tourism in today’s globalized world illustrates that tourism demands have evolved rapidly since the 1990s and is also changing the whole range of factors influencing the tourism industry in a phenomenal way. Tourism has grown enormously in the last half century and has become the world’s largest industry. The dynamic and multidimensional character of this industry and the globalization experience when taken together demand a new analysis. It is seen that the effects of tourism are complex and contradictory. 

The desirability of tourism as a method to achieve economic development, especially in developing countries has raised many queries which resulted in impact assessment studies by anthropologists and social scientists. The main question asked by anthropologists was, ‘Development for whom?’. The resorts or luxury hotels or golf courses that are built, ‘how would they benefit the indigenous/ local population?’. Another question that is raised is,’ how do local communities view the tourism industry?’. These discussions brought major shifts and the issues of local participation, ecological sustainability, cultural integrity, and environmental education were brought to the forefront. Emerging Trends in Anthropology and Tourism Increasingly anthropologists have moved from the academic side to a more applied side and are bringing out a more nuanced view of tourism, in which it is seen as a strategy that has both positive and negative consequences. 

The new approach also demonstrates the ways in which anthropologists with their theoretical knowledge and field experience can contribute in neutralizing the negative effects of tourism development projects without compromising on the potential of the industry. Various perspectives of the local community members, tourists, travel agents, and community planners have been brought out by the applied anthropologists. 

These new perspectives not only provide a fresh approach but also give momentum to tourism studies and sustainable tourism practices. Applied anthropologists strongly believe that no applied project can succeed without the participation of the local community. By allowing the local residents to have an important role, anthropologists talk of specificities i.e., customized assessments and analysis of local areas. They also help the planners in identifying the specific histories, and political and social elements of the local population and are helping in directing the tourism planning and development initiatives towards cultural conservation.

Applied anthropologists are acting as consultants to the government agencies and have initiated new forms of alternative tourism where the ecological and cultural integrity is not compromised and economic benefits also flow into the community. Generally defined, alternative tourism includes ‘forms of tourism that are consistent with natural, social and community values and which allow both hosts and guests to enjoy positive and worthwhile interaction and shared experiences’ (Eadington and Smith 1992: 3). This new form of tourism has gained the attention of researchers who are concerned with the agenda of linking conservation and development.

Alternative Tourism and Future Possibilities

The new terminology like ‘Green Tourism’, ‘Cottage Tourism’, ‘Culture Tourism’, ‘Ecotourism’ ‘Sustainable Tourism’ etc has been used in Journals, tourist brochures, and advertisements to appeal to the new informed consumer. The alternate forms of tourism were encouraged and it was claimed that these alternate forms were an answer to the problems that were created as a result of unsustainable activities that occurred as a result of conventional mass tourism.

The impact studies have shown that though these alternate forms of tourism are more community-based tourism and protect the natural sites and cultural traditions of the host population, we still lack enough anthropological studies on it. Alternative forms of tourism are being encouraged that are consistent with the natural, social and community values which allow both hosts and guests to enjoy an appositive experience. The Journals of Ecotourism and the Journal of Sustainable Tourism have begun to focus on the possibilities of alternative tourism. For instance, Ecotourism that has gained wide attention today is seen as a form of tourism that is inspired by the natural history of an area including its indigenous cultures. Ecotourists’ appreciation for the natural and cultural resources of an area not only contributes toward revenue to local conservation efforts but also provides economic opportunities to local residents.

This means that the applied research done by anthropologists has become critical to the planning and implementation of tourism projects. Environmental specialists and conservationists (like Honey 1999, Lindberg 1991, and Whelan 1991) are optimistic that ecotourism may help protect nature, New Directions in the Anthropology of Tourism 134 conserve culture while meeting the economic needs of the local residents. The enhanced local participation and local ownership of touristic infrastructure have assumed importance and local communities are partnering with government agencies, non-government organizations, and private tour companies to plan tourism strategies and develop new tourist attractions. The increased local participation in tourism should be analyzed by anthropologists in the future. Anthropologists are proficient in this role and can make tourist development a community-based project.

They can create research frameworks, and broadly outline, within which the policymakers and development specialists can work. Based on the community’s perspective and evaluation, the role of applied anthropologists is to place the community’s concern at the forefront. Once the community’s position is established the planning and policies can be put in place for more sustainable tourism. The continued guidance from anthropologists who can act as mediators should be sought to put local skills and energies to generate creative groups aimed at collective businesses. 

Discuss Questions

1. Give the meaning of the term ‘local’ as discussed in the study of tourism. 

2. Outline the face of contemporary tourism in today’s globalized world. 

3. State how the development of information technology affected the tourism industry?

4. Briefly state the aspects that sustainable tourism and its development and planning should take into account.

5. List some of the terminologies that are used in describing tourism today.

6. What are the factors that can help in developing sustainable tourism practices?

7. Explain the changing nature of Tourism and how applied anthropologists can contribute towards this.

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