Tourists as Post-traditional Communities

Aktivität: Vorträge und GastvorlesungenKonferenzvorträgeForschung

Karlheinz Wöhler - Sprecher*in

When spaces and places of tourism become less and less significant for tourists (“atopical tourism”), the question is what takes their place: Where do tourists travel? They travel to brands and themes.
Brands stand for places/spaces that communicate continuous and stable messages to tourists. Tourists understand brands “in the right way” relate them to benefits and identify with them. St. Anton, Mallorca and Tuscany are examples from a variety of places/regions that ascribe and inscribe certain qualities and values to/in their offers through branding. This does not only render the offerings unique, but a stay is qualified as more or less unique compared to other alternatives as well. Individualized actors – wherever they are from - voluntarily commit themselves to a temporary membership that is stabilized by a collective self-awareness and a distinctive sense of cohesiveness.
Themes do not hold this immediate frame of reference. Themes are issues in the sense that something is taken out of the local and/or regional offerings and highlighted as special feature. “In the footsteps of Hemingway in Pamplona” or “Gaudi’s buildings in Barcelona” are examples just like a class in “cooking with local products”.
Whereas brands are stable social entities, themes develop transitory entities most often for a few hours only. The offer the possibility to be autonomous but not alone to the individual: one forms a band with other tourists regardless of nationality, social class and age. Theme units counter the fear of isolation and of the masses, both fears are balanced in bands. The theme brings about social inclusion and a shared common interest.
Although both social formations are focused on commercialized goods, my thesis is that both have the potential to induce identification and the development of a sense of community (Vergemeinschaftung): based on previous symbolic, emotional and aesthetic decisions one joins them and symbolically manifests oneself as a person with a certain mentality, emotionality as well as certain aesthetics and /or morals through one’s touristic consumer behavior. Brands and themes act like totems in such new types of tourist communities: mental communities gather around a “holy center” and worship it as it symbolizes a higher meaning: the possibility to be temporarily different and/or experience something different.


17th International Sociological Association World Congress of Sociology - 2010: Sociology on the Move


Gothenburg, Schweden

Veranstaltung: Sonstiges