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Cultural Commodification and Tourism: A Very Special Relationship

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This article concentrates on culture as a commodity: how culture is used to sell a particular destination, and elements of a culture that are sold to visitors and consumed. It draws on anthropological conceptions of culture and compares them to the way destinations have focused on particular aspects of their own cultures and thereby defined the concept. By comparing examples where intensive fieldwork or study has been undertaken, conclusions are drawn relating the types of tourism experienced by a destination to the local use of culture as an asset. It is argued that there is an underutilization of culture by some destinations, and that policymakers and others are missing aspects of culture that could give advantage to certain regions and their local population. Not only does this correspond to their understanding of the concept of culture, but also to their expectations of market demand. The case studies illustrating the points above are based in the following regions: The Canary Islands, The Dominican Republic, and Scotland. The examples draw attention to the process whereby elements of indigenous cultures may become commercially utilized, as well as the relevance of the social organization of tourism to choices and decisions involving commodities and the consumer in specific destinations. These findings suggest a way of understanding the processes that lead to globalized cultural experiences and at the same time ignore the rich and complex diversity of cultures.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • 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.

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