While authenticity discourses have enjoyed sustained attention in tourism studies, they have only more recently come into the fold of research examining tourists’ experiences in what is colloquially referred to as “nature” or “wilderness”. However, what constitutes “authentic nature” or “wilderness” as well as the place of authenticity in nature-based tourism and recreation activities is important to understand in our increasingly urban society. Does the perceived authenticity of “nature” or “wilderness” matter to users/visitors? Does authentic “wilderness” even exist anymore, and is that a factor in how or why individuals engage with tourism and recreation in “nature”? Further, how do notions of authentic wilderness interact with contemporary preservation and sustainability discourses, and what types of recreation are permissible?
Indeed, authenticity has a role in driving motivations, expectations, and experiences crucial to nature-based tourism activities, informing expectations of what nature or wilderness is supposed to look like, and how recreationalists are supposed to comport themselves there (see Senda-Cook, 2012; Rickly & Vidon, 2017). An important consideration is that nature and wilderness have been constructed as privileged spaces frequently associated with the recreational, tourism, and leisure spheres, themselves privileged, rarely interacting in any substantive way with the “workaday world”. And while many applaud designations of protected nature, others object, citing protection of authentic nature and wilderness as a mechanism for government land grabs (see Neumann, 1998; Vidon, 2016). For example, nature and wilderness are central figures in conflicts over land use, and both tourism and leisure activities figure prominently in those conflicts (Saarinen, 2016; Vidon, 2016; Rickly & Vidon, 2017).
To date, these themes have been little explored in tourism studies, yet there is both a theoretical and a pragmatic need for such investigations. At present, ideological battles are being fought over the authenticity of nature and wilderness, and those who use these spaces for recreation and re-creation occupy powerful positions in such conflicts. Addressing these themes from a diversity of perspectives is important and timely, and is one of the central aims of this session and the special issue that will follow.
|Presenter||Benjamin Gardner*, University of Washington - Bothell, “To preserve a piece of heaven”: Ecotourism and the search for authenticity in Tanzania||20||10:00 AM|
|Presenter||Lisa Cooke*, Thompson Rivers University, Kellee Caton*, Thompson Rivers University, Reading ‘Super, Natural British Columbia’ as a (settler colonial) moral geography||20||10:20 AM|
|Presenter||Jill Bueddefeld*, University of Manitoba, Wild bears, real bears, and zoo bears: Discourses of authenticity in polar bear tourism||20||10:40 AM|
|Presenter||Valérian Geffroy*, University of Lausanne, Unmasking authenticity in practices of nature: outdoor sport tourism at work||20||11:00 AM|
|Discussant||Jillian Rickly The University of Nottingham||20||11:20 AM|
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