Tourism has long been advocated as the world's greatest growth industry in which all nations, regions, and communities should have a stake. As a consequence, a parallel industry has grown up in both the public and private sectors involving research and consultancy in tourism planning. This can be regarded as a symbiotic relationship whereby communities can benefit from independent expert knowledge of tourism strategies, while tourism professionals of various kinds can earn income or research funding, apply their knowledge, remain close to the “coal face,” and find a ready supply of new opportunities to test theories and generate empirical data. This article raises some self-reflexive questions, derived from the author's experience of conducting regionally based cultural tourism research and consultancy, concerning the relationship between contract tourism research and consultancy and its outcomes. It considers the consequences of such client-based tourism research involvement, asking whether this “disciplinary practice” constitutes an intervention that promotes cultural homogeneity in the name of diversity while frequently failing to produce significant economic benefits—and sometimes the reverse. In particular, the issues of independence and imitation are considered in the area of cultural tourism, with tourism researchers and consultants potentially implicated in an ideological deployment of culture and tourism that helps obscure the need for deeper structural remedies to social and economic problems, and in a contradictory project offering competition without losers, and prescribed cultural identities without loss of diversity. In order not to collude in the perpetration of this institutionally encouraged (if usually unconscious) deception, cultural tourism research and consultancy needs to resist the temptation to borrow imitative “off the shelf ” models in favor of adopting more open, contingent, and uncertain strategies of analysis and recommendation.
Tourism, Culture & Communication is international in its scope and will place no restrictions upon the range of cultural identities covered, other than the need to relate to tourism and hospitality. The Journal seeks to provide interdisciplinary perspectives in areas of interest that may branch away from traditionally recognized national and indigenous cultures, for example, cultural attitudes toward the management of tourists with disabilities, gender aspects of tourism, sport tourism, or age-specific tourism.