January is historically the busiest month of the year for holiday bookings. But if you’ve ever felt uncomfortable with the idea of being a tourist, you’re not the first. Back in 1976, anthropologist Dean MacCannell theorised both our drive to see the world and its manipulation by capitalism in his book The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class.
Travel has changed almost beyond recognition since then: staged authenticity is the norm, and the places you’re most likely to visit are sourced from Trip Advisor and Instagram. Plus, tourism is now shrouded in environmental guilt – what the Swedish call ‘flygskam’.
Fifty years after The Tourist, Novara Media contributing editor Moya Lothian-McLean speaks to MacCannell about disaster tourism, how sightseeing became sacred and our destructive search for authenticity.