chapter  6
28 Pages

Place Experience

Tourism inherently includes an experiential component; however in contrast to the typical forms of mass tourism in which tourists are herded – en masse – to specific tourist attractions, other modes of tourism have emerged. Drawing on the structural-functionalist theories, Cohen (1979: 183) distinguished between five different modes of touristic experiences, namely, the Recreational, the Diversionary, the Experiential, the Experimental and the Existential. The Recreational and Diversionary modes typify mass tourism where tourists originate ‘from modern, industrial urban societies’ (Cohen, 1979: 186) and are similar in that, through them, a tourist merely seeks pleasure (Ibid.: 184). The Experiential and the Experimental modes similarly entail an experience of the lives and livelihoods of others (Cohen, 1979: 189), but while in the Experiential mode a tourist is ‘content merely to observe the authentic life of others’ through gazing, in the Experimental mode, a tourist ‘engages in that authentic life, but refuses fully to commit himself to it’ (Ibid.: 189; also see Urry, 1990 on the tourist gaze). Lastly, the Existential mode encompasses tourists who seek a ‘spiritual’ experience through which they, in the words of Cohen ‘desire to “go native”’ not differently from ‘Hindu recluses, Israeli kibbuz members, Pacific Islanders’ (Cohen, 1979: 190). The Experiential and Experimental modes, in which tourists seek an individualized and distinctive cultural experience of the historic urban landscape, are the focus of this book. These modes are akin to ‘Community-based tourism’ that ‘adopt[s] an ecosystem approach, where visitors interact with local living (hosts, services) and non-living (landscape, sunshine) to experience a tourism product’ (Jamal and Getz, 1995: 188), albeit set in an historic urban landscape. For the most part, in the Experiential and Experimental modes, tourists also originate from the West and endeavour for an ‘authentic’ experience of the ‘other’ culture (MacCannell, 1999). Such individualized experiences mark the shift from mass tourism back to earlier forms of travel. As opposed to tourists, travellers pursue ‘self-transformation’ and ‘close contact and interaction with the landscapes and the cultures they visit’ (Galani-Moutafi, 2000: 216). Indeed, technological advancements, especially in telecommunications and, more recently, in social media, have accelerated this shift by facilitating the availability and the accessibility of information on destinations (Bosselman et al., 1999).