Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Peter M. Burns, Cathy Palmer and Jo-Anne Lester
University of Brighton, Eastbourne, UK
We are crammed with stimuli. Capitalism plus
electronics have given us our new habitat, our
forest of media .
(Hughes, 1980, p. 324, italics added)
If intellectual and cultural acceptance is a
signifi er of such a 'coming of age', then travel
and tourism has clearly arrived: in late 2005 (at
London's Hayward Gallery), a group of some
70 artists were invited to articulate their experi-
ence of travelling through various countries and
cultures at an exhibition, 'The Universal Experi-
ence: Arts, Life and the Tourist's Eye'. With cre-
dentials such as these, it is hardly surprising that
a discrete group of colleagues researching and
teaching tourism give high status to visual evi-
dence. Avgerinou and Ericson (1997, p. 287)
develop the general argument about the value
of visuality a little further:
About Tourism
The Robert Hughes quote from his 1980 tour
de force, The Shock of the New , made a some-
what prescient point that applies even more in
the early 21st century than it did when he wrote
it some three decades ago. Taking a cue from a
more recent cultural icon (if not commentator),
Madonna assures us that 'we live in a material
world', and it is argued in this topic that tourism
is an image-rich cultural and commercial part of
the material world (and the ironic double mean-
ing Madonna attaches to her epigram). One
only has to consider the rapid transition from
the 20th-century passive consumption of visual
materials (photographs, brochures, TV docu-
mentaries and postcards) to the greater interac-
tivity of the 21st century such as home-made
videos, manipulable digital images, interactive
websites and the like. This introduction makes it
clear that economics, planning, impact studies
and even anthropology are not enough to
explain tourism in late capitalist systems. In this
sense, the time is right to claim that tourism
studies have come of age.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we live in
an era of visual culture, in the so-called 'bain
d'images', which infl uences enormously our
attitudes, beliefs, values and general lifestyle.
The images inundating our environment, be it
private or public, come in different forms and
through several channels of visual communica-
tion. The almost ubiquitous TV set is not the
only one to blame. Films, Advertising and New
Technologies of printing and reproduction are
also responsible for this fl ood of visual
What is addressed here is that amidst our
increasingly visual milieu as highlighted by
Avgerinou and Ericson (1997), there exists a
rich seam of visual evidence in its various forms
that can inform our understanding of tourism as
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