For the sake of place authenticity: tourists versus migrants in anti-tourism discourses.

Authors: Paolo Giaccaria*, University of Turin, Francesca Zanutto, University of Turin
Topics: Tourism Geography, Political Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: tourism, anti-tourism, mobility, refugee, sharing economy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Astor Ballroom II, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In summer 2017 members of the leftist group Arran Països Catalans addressed tourists with the slogan “Tourists go home, refugees welcome”. Within the broader rise of anti-tourism feelings and practices, the Catalan protest is particularly meaningful as it establishes a connection between two forms of mobility that are at odds with each other: (Northern) tourism and (Southern) migration. Moreover, it subverts the common feeling about which kind of mobility is desirable and which one not. Anti-tourism protesters describe tourists as invaders who endanger the social and cultural (re)production of places. As such, they adopt the allegation that xenophobic populism moves against migrants from the Global South and revert it against tourism. In both cases, an endangered sense of place fuels feelings and emotions.
Our contribution aims to critically engage with the role that place authenticity plays in fostering both experiential tourism and violent reaction against the capillary spread of tourism in historical neighborhoods. In particular, we question how different kind of mobilities (such as tourism and migration) engage with the issue of authenticity and experience. Are tourists and migrants bearing similar threats to the authenticity of places? On the one hand, travelers’ search for authentic experiences seems to endanger the social (re)production of places. On the other hand, refugees’ burden of traumatic authenticity is scary to nationalists and alt-right activists. Drawing on two Italian case-studies (Airbnb’s Borghi Italiani and Caritas’ “Comuni Welcome”), the paper will investigate how “local authenticity” is performed and reproduced in both experiential tourism and migrants hospitality.

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