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The Tourist Bubble,

Religious Sites and the Sociocultural Impacts of Tourism


The Shrinking World. Fast and cheap air travel enables tourists to visit to remote jungles or the mass tourism hotspots. Tourism is globalised! The effect on the indigenous culture and that of the visitor will depend upon the volume and type of visitors, duration of stay and degree of interaction. Deitch, (quoted in Smith 1978:208) says: ‘The alteration of one culture by another has always been a fact of existence…. resulting in the dilution and adulteration of culture’. It is only the rate of change cultures that varies.

What is The Tourist Bubble ? Tourists normally have preconceived images of the hosts’ culture,morals, dress and habitat, but many still require, (often demand), standards of accommodation, transport and service comparable to “home”, while behaving with scant regard for their hosts. This isolationist approach is termed the tourist bubble.

What is a Religious Site? A religious site is determined by local faiths, traditions and history . The more recognisable are: secular buildings (churches, mosques); towns and cities, (Jerusalem and Mecca); ruins (Machu Picchu, Acropolis); burial sites (Pyramids of Giza, The Catacombs of Rome); or geographical features and areas (River Ganges, Mount Fuji).

Who Visits Religious Sites? Religious tourism is closely connected to holiday and culture tourism, (Rinschede, G. 1992:53). Tourists fall into two categories: · Pilgrims; evidenced by their involvement in prayers, prostrations or genuflections · Seekers of a cultural or an inquisitive experience whilst on holiday .

Who Has Most Impact? A single tourist interacting with the host community will have minimal impact while mass tourism will have maximum impact, but the degree of impact depends upon the diversity of cultures, attitudes, interaction, and frequency of visits. Both host and visitor will be effected, but in varying degrees. See Doxey’s paridagem in The Effect of Concentration

What are the Sociocultural Impacts? ‘Sociocultural impacts relate to changes in societal value systems, individual behaviour, social relationships, modes of expression and community structures, and tend to focus on the host community’, (Page et al 2002:276). Social impacts concern the individuals’ and society’s relationships, linguistic and dialect issues, health, religious practices and morality; while culture relates to non material customs (dance, folklore, traditions), material customs (crafts and products) and the long term societal changes (acculturation). Diagram 1 illustrates the potential impacts to both host and tourist. Impacts can be positive (+ve) or negative ( –ve).

Religion Host Population



Traditional Arts

Traditional Lifestyles Values & Behaviour

Language Fig 1.

[Source: adapted from Swarbrook 2000:72]

Religion +ve impacts: mutual respect, tolerance and understanding; possible religious conversion. Jerusalem has many sites which are uniformly revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Generally, the three religions worship without hindrance as do the Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists on Mount Kailash, Tibet, which is sacred to each religion, (Shackley 2001:119). –ve impacts: a loss of spirituality ; commercial trivialisation. ‘The intended spiritual experience may become a commodity on the tourist tick list, with photographs being the lasting reminder of attendance’, ( Shackley 2001:111). Colourful, vibrant and mystical religious ceremonies may be tailored to fit tourist stereotypes, tastes and schedules. The anticipated spirituality of the Sea of Galilee is effected by the proliferation of fast food outlets; the volume of visitors effects that of the Church of the Nativity, (Shackley 2001:p28/29), while the novelty of a traditional Thai wedding, complete with a blessing by Buddhist monks, trivialises the rite, (Tourism Concern (1994) cited in Page et al 2001:281).

Heritage +ve impacts: Stimulation of pride in the host’s heritage; fostering of local crafts, traditions and customs and conservation of sites. The abandoned sacred Haida Indian village on Anthony Island, Canada, accessible only by canoe, meticulously preserves its’ heritage. Visitor numbers are strictly controlled by ‘Watchmen’, who explain Indian history, culture and crafts, and maintain the ‘Spirit of Place’. The village, with many ornate sacred totem poles, is the remotest of Canadian sites and there are no visual visitor impacts at the site. (Shackley 2001:p25). The Egyptian Pyramids, Greek temples and [] Stonehenge are examples of management and conservation of religious heritage sites by government departments. –ve impacts: Theft of artefacts, desecration and graffiti, litter and human presence. The Taj Mahal has had tiles removed from its walls; initials have been carved into the walls of the Nativity Grotto; and microclimatic damage to wall paintings in some Egyptian tombs, (due to the water vapour in visitor’s breath), has necessitated closure or restricted access. Diminished aestheticism is evident from urine pollution at Giza Plateau; litter on Mount Everest (sacred to Tibetan Buddhists); and noise due to an excessive number of tourists at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Shackley 2001:37).

Language +ve impacts: Promotion and re-introduction of local languages and dialects . Gaelic on the Isle of Skye declined due to the constant influx of tourists, however, BBC radio 4 (12 Mar 2004) stated that Gaelic tuition & promotion is increasing anew. –ve impacts: Loss of a language as the host converses in the tourist’s language for trade. The adoption of a new language is a key indicator of “acculturation” leading to the host community succumbing to the ‘demonstration effect’ , i.e. the indigenous community aspires to emulate the status of the Tahitians Interact with Tourists tourist, (Page et al 2001:281). [Source:] The diminuation of cultural identity may be accelerated by the influx of immigrant workers and the excessive volume of visitors. In Hawaii and Tahiti English has overtaking native tongues to accommodate the high volume of English speaking visitors.

Traditional Arts +ve impacts: The retention, revival and teaching of traditional crafts. The iconic wall murals at Ayios Nicholais Monastery, Cyprus, portray a high standard of artistry and are regulary repainted by quality artists to retain freshness, while the carved shrines used in the most sacred rituals of the Buddhist inner temples at Bali, are constructed with the utmost care on the premis that the gods accept only the very best. Lesser carvings are sold to the public. The Amish society, USA, sells traditional furniture to supplement their income but strictly limits other social contact. –ve impacts: Commoditisation. The mass production of secular artefacts, often termed ‘tourist art’ or ‘kitsch’, satisfies tourist demand for souvenirs. Too often, though, this work is shoddy, hastily produced, of questionable taste and miniaturised to fit tourist baggage. Kitsch figurines of the Virgin Mary are sold at the many souvenir shops in Lourdes and other Marian sites, while Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales highlight that the medieval sale of kitsch, (in the form of ‘genuine’ bones from the saints), is not a modern idea. Even natural resources are depleted to feed the tourist’s souvenir Madonna Figurine lust. Water from the River Jordan, [Source: ] sand from the desert of Judea and canned air from the Holy Land are all packaged. (Shackley 2001:p86). Although the physical amounts removed may be small, it is environmentally destructive and could be imitated at venues with more delicate ecosytems.

Traditional Lifestyle +ve impacts: An increased awareness & respect for other cultures. Both host and visitor gain enrichment from the exchange of views, history, culture, food and leisure activities – although these could also be considered as possible negative impacts. To preserve their unique lifestyle, the Amish society keeps tourist at a distance and discourages close interpersonal relationships . Artefacts are sold to tourist outside of their settlement, (Dogan 1989:223). In Bhutan, tourists are not permitted to visit certain monasteries to prevent contamination of religious life. –ve impacts: Staged authenticity & ‘Disneyfication’ of rituals; dependency or displacement of communities. Balinese temple dances have been graded into sacred, secular and ceremonial with some modified to meet tourist expecta tions, (the Disneyfication effect). The most sacred dances are confined to the inner t emple away from tourist eyes, Bali Temple Dancers (Shackley 2001:p54). [Source:] The Masai tribe, Kenya, have been moved several times from their homeland to create game reserves, (Page et al 2001:pp282 & 286). The proliferation of McDonald’s fast food outlets has irrevocably changed the dietary habits of many cultures, but as Cooper et al 1998:179 states: ‘culture is dynamic and changes continually in order to capture and embrace the needs of society in the present time’. This being the case, it is inevitable that traditional lifestyles will evolve with time and outside influences.

Values and Behaviour +ve impacts: Changes in practices towards people and animals. Tourists tend to shun destinations with repressive regimes, abuses of human rights and overt maltreatment of animals. The head hunters of Borneo and the political repression in Myanmar (Burma) caused tourists trepidation, thereby restricting tourism to sacred sites until policy changes occurred. Bull fighting in Spain still deters others. –ve impacts: Society subsumed by tourists, loss of dignity, servility and increased crime. Examples: Hawaii is totally commercialised and subsumed by American ideals with only a few trained guides and entertainers demonstrating traditional culture. Wilkinson 1989:159 cites the Canary Islands and Mauritius as two examples where visitor numbers greatly exceed the island population to magnify both social and cultural impacts. Several Caribbean islands have bad reputations regarding crime and tourists, confirmed by seasonality statistics.

Host Population +ve impacts: Improved standard of living, employment, health and national income. The money and jobs created by tourism enable better water supplies, health and sanitation,provided that the improvements are not solely for tourist use. A Marian apparition brings economic and industrial benefits to otherwise impoverished areas. Lourdes thrives in contrast to adjacent Pyrenean cities,(Rinschede 1992:57), and the 1970’s discovery of a weeping Madonna at Knock, Ireland, created a basilica and international airport to accommodate the influx of pilgrims, (Shackley 2001:120). The local economy employment benfitted from the industry attracted to the area. Knock, Ireland [Source:]

–ve impacts: Poorly paid jobs, exploitation, the ‘Demons tration”’effect. Exclusion from management or seeing higher grade jobs go to immigrant workers provides the hosts with feelings of exploitation, servility, low esteem and resentment. However, the influence and presence of tourists leads some hosts to aspire to a better life though the emulating of visitors’ attitudes, values and behaviour, (i.e. the demonstration effect). This phenomenom is evidenced by Indonesian temple dancers in full costume rushing between displays, while riding mopeds and using mobile phones, and by remote primitive tribes huddled around television sets.

Measuring the Impacts Unlike other types of impact, (economic and environmental), the sociocultural impacts are difficult to quantify as the changes in societal values or behaviour occur over a long period of time; depending on the level of interaction between hosts and visitors, and the initial differences in their respective cultures, see fig 2. Fig.2

The host-guest relationship

Host Culture

Host Culture

Maximum Cultural Impact Guest Culture

Minimum Cultural Impact

Guest Culture Cultural dissimilarity

Increasing similarity

[Source: Modified Williams 1998 in Page et al 2002:278]

Tourists are often categorised as ‘alocentrics’, (adventurers seeking cultural and environmental differences to their norm), or ‘psychocentrics’, (the unadventurous who seek familiar surroundings), (Plog quoted in Page et al 2002:63 & Cooper et al 1998:172). Psychocentrics are typically within the tourist bubble and tend to demand a high level of tourist facilities and amenities, while viewing sights and activities as ‘another tick on the board’. The larger proportion of tourists will be ‘mid-centrics’, i.e. between the other two, but will still contain many within the bubble.

The Effect of Concentration

Inter-relation with other Impacts

It is widely acepted that the alocentric tourist will have a lesser sociocultural impact than will the psychocentrics but this is not always the case. The lone back packer visiting a remote mountain village may eat, live and communicate with the hosts and, in so doing, adopt their ways and culture. Never-the-less, the very fact of the visitor being there will introduce the hosts to an alien culture and accoutrements, i.e. cameras, clothing and habits. This same person visiting a settlement not too dissimilar to their own will have no discernable impact, e.g. European to the US.

‘Tourism development effects people’s habits, daily routines, social lives, beliefs and values’, (Dogan 1989:217). Sociocultural impacts are inter-twined with economic and environmental impacts, and are inseperable. For example: In St Katherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, (founded at the site of the Biblical burning bush), the resident monks, wish to retain their secular cultural and social purity, and do not make an entrance charge to the 1000 visitors/day. The local Bedouin run St Katherin’s Monastery thriving cafés and souve [Source:] nir shops, thereby generating an induced economic impact, and they in turn are supplied by other businesses. The cascading supply of jobs and money is termed the “Multiplier Effect”.

The welcome afforded tourists varies over time and frequency of visists, changing from initial excitement, through familiarity to contempt or hostility. Many of the referenced authors cite Doxey’s Irredex to explain the changing levels of tourism acceptability, Fig 3. Fig 3. Level of Host Irritation EUPHORIA Initial phase of development Visitors & investors welcome Little planning or control

Mount Sinai is also a sacred pilgrimage site for Muslims, Jews and Christians, but the increasing volume of pilgrims traversing identical routes and over-nighting on the mountainside to observe the dawn has caused severe environmental damge through erosion, litter and water run off. Also, It is reported that the constant traffic fumes are detrimental to the integrity of the ancient monastery walls, (Shackley 2001:69-71, 126-128).

APATHY Visitors taken for granted Host & Guest contact formalized Commercialization prominent Planning concerned with marketing

ANNOYANCE Saturation points approached Residents have misgivings Policy to increase infrastructure rather than limiting growth


ANTAGONISM Irritation openly expressed Visitors seen as cause of all problems Deteriorating reputation [Source: Modified from Doxey1975 in Page et al 2002:284]

This analysis is, however, too simplified as it implies that all members of the host community will be effected to the same degree and at identical rates of change. This is clearly not so as those benefitting most with regular social contact will be the slowest to reach antagonism, whilst those gaining no financial or material benefit will rapidly resent changes to their traditions and lifestyles. All societies are different and have elements that will be effected at differing rates.

Tourist will always seek out new destinations and in so doing will influence the hosts culture as well as being influenced by them. The degree of impact depends on many factors, not least the tourist’s willingness to escape the bubble, respect the host’s culture, cause less offense or denigrate their sacred sites and heritage. Hosts also benefit but may be adversely effected by too many tourists in too short a time leading to commercialization and exploitation, followed by resentment at their loss of culture and traditions. Heritage is fragile and easily lost. If hosts are to preserve their heritage and culture, (the original reason for the tourist’s visit), it is imperative that they are proactive in tourism development, and thet tourists emerge from their myopic bubble to be less psychocentric.

References & Bibliography BBC RADIO 4, The Today Programme, 12 th March 2004 COOPER, C., FLETCHER, J., GILBERT, D. AND WANHILL, S. (1998), Tourism – Principles and Practice, Second edition, Longman, London. DOGAN, H. (1989), Forms of Adjustment: socio-cultural impacts of tourism, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol.16,No.2,pp216-236. MATHIESON, A. AND WALL, G. (1982), Tourism: Economic, Physical and Social Impacts, Longman, London. PAGE, S., BRUNT, P., BUSBY, B. AND CONNELL, J. (2001), Tourism: A Modern Synthesis, Thomson Learning, London. RINSCHEDE, G. (1992), Forms of religious tourism, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol.19, No.1, pp51-67. SHACKLEY, M, (2001), Managing Sacred Sites, Continuum, London. SMITH, V.L. (Ed) (1978), Hosts and Guests, Blackwell, Oxford. SWARBROOK, J. (2000), Sustainable Tourism Management, CAGI Publishing, Oxon. WILKINSON, P. (1989), Strategies for tourism in island microstates, Annals of Tourism Research, Vol.16, No.2, pp153-177

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