Escaping the Tourism Trap

Tianducheng replica of Paris

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.

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