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Nevertheless, studies indicate that a backpack-
er's attempt to be immersed in a host society
provides potential positive impacts for a host
destination (Firth and Hing, 1999; Moran,
2000; Scheyvens, 2002; Westerhausen and
Macbeth, 2003).
Despite the suggestion thus far that back-
packers are non-institutionalized tourists, some
researchers argue that backpacker tourism is
now a subset of mass tourism (O'Reilly, 2006).
This shift in the backpacker market is argued
both in terms of the expansion of the back-
packer tourism 'industry' and changes to back-
packers' travel patterns and characteristics. This
concern was also voiced by Cohen (1973)
within his concept of the 'mass drifter'. While it
is clear that backpackers have a desire to inter-
act with the host population, it is feasible that
backpackers will adopt the behaviour of 'mass
drifters' by interacting with '. . . those members
of the lower social classes who cater to the mass
drifters and associate with them' (Cohen, 1973,
p. 99). Murphy (2001) argues that backpackers
perceive locals as being the friendly staff who
wait and serve them in tourism businesses.
Elsrud (1998, p. 319) expressed concerns about
the underlying attitudes of backpackers towards
the local people when one backpacker com-
mented that the locals in remote Indonesia are
'jungle people'. The suggestion is that while
backpackers want to visit these cultures they see
them as belonging to a 'lesser world'. Concerns
about the nature of backpacker interaction with
the host population have also been raised by
other researchers. Adler (1985) expressed con-
cerns that backpackers use locals for economic
gain by aggressively bargaining for cheaper
prices. Mowforth and Munt (1998) were con-
cerned that backpackers seek an 'authentic'
experience without having a real local interac-
tion. Additionally, there has been concern that
backpackers have little regard for the host des-
tination (Wilson and Richards, 2004). More
recently, Teo and Leong (2006) argued that the
relationship between host and guest, particu-
larly in the context of Western backpackers and
less developed countries, could be compared to
the unequal power relations between these two
groups. The question raised in this chapter is -
are backpackers moving away from tourist
immersion and more towards Urry's (1990)
tourist gaze?
The tourist gaze
The concept of the tourist gaze as proposed by
Urry (1990) compares the visual 'gaze' of tour-
ists with the 'medical gaze' performed in a clini-
cal environment. The main focus of 'gaze' is the
power of judgment when one visually 'sees'.
Urry noted the power of gaze occurs in accor-
dance with one's existing discourse or, in other
words, one's perception of the social world. For
example, the medical gaze relates to the dis-
course of treatment and medicine, while the
tourist gaze refers to the way a tourist perceives
the tourist experience, which has been socially
created by tourists themselves. Simply, tourist
gaze is what is in a tourist's mindset. It is about
what they see, are aware of, expect and are con-
scious of.
Urry also discusses tourist gaze in relation
to mass tourism and sight-seeing. He argues
that if the 'mere sight' or 'mere gaze' occurs, it is
likely to be at Boorstin's (1963) 'superfi cial
level'. Effectively, when a mass tourist 'gazes' he
cannot connect to the real meaning of what he
has seen because he is infl uenced by the dis-
course of others. This, therefore, leads to the
lack of a deep understanding of a host society.
As the concept of tourist gaze has been
revisited by various researchers through time, the
defi nition of tourist gaze has been reconsidered
and reviewed. Urry's (1990) tourist gaze was
criticized by Leiper (1992) as an approach to
view tourism as a homogeneous phenomenon
performed solely as a one-way process (Maoz,
2006). Perkins and Thorns (2001) also noted
that the idea of gazing is not the best method
with which to analyse an adventure tourist, who
tends to 'perform' rather than to 'gaze'.
However, Urry (1992) defended his con-
cept by noting that a tourist gaze is not only the
simple, visually seen process. The gaze repre-
sents the metaphor of those who perform
'gazing' towards anything with distinctive char-
acteristics, not only towards a building or
object. Urry (1992) further explained that 'tour-
ist gaze' is dynamic and socially constructed,
and is affected by certain conditions, such as
dynamics within a host society or tourist's
length of stay.
Applied to backpacker tourism, it is appar-
ent that there are some factors that could impact
on the 'backpacker gaze'. The relationship
 
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