Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are you a Tourism Extremist?

Extremists More Willing To Share Their Opinions, Study Finds - ScienceDaily (Oct. 21, 2009) — People with relatively extreme opinions may be more willing to publicly share their views than those with more moderate views, according to a new study. [Click Here for the full story.]

The story linked above is about a study at Stanford University in which students with extreme views on an issue were more vocal in expressing their opinions when they thought that the majority of their peers leaned in their direction.  There were generally silent if they thought that their peers held moderate or opposite views to theirs.

While we all have met people who are willing to express their "extreme" views even if they are clearly in the minority, they are the exception. The problem is that human nature assumes that the most vocal are expressing the dominant opinion of a group, whereas in reality, they actually represent an extreme position.  Thus, we (those of us on the left) assume that the talking heads on Fox News represent the typical Republican Party views in the US, when they really are a marginal extreme.

So what does this have to do with tourism?  Off the top of my head, I see the following implications:

We (tourism professionals) often assume that everyone want to travel and everyone is supportive of tourism because that is what seems to be the majority. In reality, there people's opinions on travel and tourism run a continuum from no interest in travel to travel as a lifestyle, and from no support for tourism to tourism as a foundation of the new service economy (cf. Urry's discussion of the "service class").  Making the pro-tourism and pro-travel perspective dominant has enormous impacts on macro economic priorities (such as transit and destination branding), community development decisions (where and what to spend tax dollars on), and human behavior (defining the range of possible leisure time activities). 

And this has resulted in major sustainability challenges, from the massive greenhouse gas emissions of long haul air and cruise ship travel, to change in traditional cultures from tourists visiting remote destinations.

Do we ever seriously even consider a no-tourism option as a lifestyle, as a form of community development, as what might be best for a destination? What kind of world would that be like ... possibly a more sustainable one?


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