The Authenticity of Tourism, Essay Example

The industry of tourism provides people with the opportunity to explore other cultures while getting away from their daily routines and responsibilities.  In today’s society, people are provided with the opportunity to have diverse experiences while remaining in a safe and familiar environment.  Modernism and post-modernism are two different perspectives which illustrate this need for controlled vacations.  Authenticity is sacrificed for more commercialized and reliable alternatives.  While there may be an adventurous few, most tourists prefer to experience their vacation knowing that above all, they will be safe and comfortable.

Modernism, or the McDonaldization of society, views the world as “growing increasingly efficient, calculable, predictable, and dominated by controlling non-human technologies”   (Ritzer & Liska, year, p. 97).  Even though tourists may want to experience another culture, the majority require a safe and familiar package for them to enjoy their vacation.  For example, even though Disney is infamous for its high costs, long lines, and overall dehumanizing experience, people flock to Disney because it is a familiar concept.  People are able to enjoy their vacations and know that it is a structured and highly reliable source of recreation.  The McDisneyization extends to areas other than tourist attractions, such as shopping malls offering chain stores and restaurants, and small towns having familiar stores such as Walmart and Target available.  People want their vacations to be predicable and safe with all of the comforts of home.  For example, on traveling to Mexico, a modernist tourist will require access to good drinking water and being surrounded by people who speak their own language.  They prefer vacations to be controlled and efficient where they can get the most for their money.  Though they may want to have an authentic experience, the modernist tourist prefers to sacrifice originality with security.

The post-modern tourist embraces the McDonaldization as much as the modernist tourist; the main difference is the element of awareness.  While both the modernist and post-modernist tourist delight experiencing ocean life from a simulation, the post-modernist is recognizes the lack of authenticity and knows that the simulation is not the same experience as snorkeling or deep-sea diving.  With this awareness, they are still able to enjoy their experience and may have more options available for their amusement.  Though they may want to have an “authentic” experience, they are unabashed in their preference for access to familiar amenities while experiencing other cultures.

When people decide to tour other countries, they are often interested in the local cultures and customs.   The United Arab Emirates is a popular tourist attraction because it provides enough authenticity to peek curiosity, while offering tourists a safe haven.  This balance of rich Arabic culture and security lures many American tourists to popular cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  In today’s society, a high amount of tension exists between the United States and many Arabic nations.  It is not safe in certain countries for Americans to venture off on their own.  A faux pas, such as a woman forgetting to cover her hair could result in serious trouble.   However, many people are attracted to experiencing the Arabic culture, because it is full of fascinating traditions with friendly people who have absolutely nothing to do with their government’s strict laws.  Because the United Arab Emirates caters to the tourist industry, people are able to avoid potential problems.  Cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are more cosmopolitan so both the citizens and the government may be more forgiving if a tourist accidentally forgets to honor a usual custom or law.  Tours into the cities or other specialized ventures may provide travel guides to ensure that the tourists adhere to all laws and customs, so there will be no chance of conflict.

The United Arabic Emirates also offers tourists different experiences into the deserts.  Tourists may engage in excursions where they can go on a guided camel ride or drive in the sand dunes and then return to their hotel where they can have a hot shower, a massage, and watch television.  The post-modernist tourist may even opt for a simulated desert experience with either a group in a theater or over the Intranet.

Even with the popularity of packaged deals and simulated events, tourism can still be a truly authentic experience.  However, this requires an adventurous spirit, not common in most, so it is therefore not as profitable.  For example, to truly experience a real African safari would require proper safety training, vaccinations, adequate food supplies, and other practical necessities for surviving the African wilderness.  If there was an emergency, assistance or rescue may be limited or unavailable.  While some may enjoy bathing in a lake or local spring, there is no going back to hotel for a hot shower.  Authentic experiences usually entail more modest lodgings or even camping outside.  No familiar foods such as McDonald’s would be available and tourists may find themselves eating unfamiliar local foods and taking chances with the drinking water.   These factors dissuade many from partaking in a true adventure and it is increasingly difficult to have an authentic experience.  As a result, authentic attractions tend to be more expensive and difficult to find.  These rugged attractions and resorts are often shut down due to inadequate funds and a simulation or more commercialized attraction may be implemented nearby.

Catering to tourists is not easy.  Fortunately, the McDonaldization of tourism has standardized and commercialized vacations enough to satisfy a large percentage of vacationers.  Packaged deals and simulations are more popular than authenticity.  Even though some truly want an adventure, it is not enough for a profit to be made.  The tourists who crave authenticity will no doubt be creative in charting out their own destinations.  But for the majority, the homogenized tours and vacations will continue to thrive.


Ritzer, G., & Liska, A. (year). ‘McDisneyization’ and ‘post-tourism’: Complementary perspectives on contemporary tourism. Editor, Title of Book (pp. 96-109). Location: Publisher.