‘Orientalizing the Orient’ - Mega-Cruise Tourism and Geopolitical Imaginaries

Authors: Manuela Gutberlet*, German University of Technology in Oman
Topics: Tourism Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: geopolitical imaginaries, Otherness, tourist experiences, mixed methods, Sultanate of Oman
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Chairman's Boardroom, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The rapid increase in cruise tourism with compressed one-week circular itineraries in comparison with long-term cruising in the past is in line with globalization, reinforcing power relations between the global North and South and geopolitical imaginaries. Geopolitical imaginaries of place are initially formed by romanticised narratives, imagining how the Other has to be, giving a political or an intellectual authority and power to the West. In mega-cruise tourism, several destinations and even continents are ‘packaged’ within one trip. The study aims to answer the questions: What kind of imaginaries are created prior to the visit of the tourist site? How do German-speaking tourists imagine and experience the Sultanate of Oman?
Qualitative and quantitative methods were applied during fieldwork in two destinations, between 2012-2014. A questionnaire was conducted among German-speaking cruise tourists along with in-depth interviews with different stakeholders. Furthermore, participant observation and content analysis of marketing material and onboard information were used.
Results indicate that geopolitical narratives and imaginaries reflect a myth and a “colonial dream” linked with ‘naïve curiosity’ and a fascination for authenticity, spirituality and power. Imaginaries are materialized in marketing brochures as well as in popular discourses in popular tv-series. The ways in which the desert is imagined, performed and gazed at ‘in situ’ by the tourists and by other actors involved is like an open playground; a mysterious, infinite, imaginary and at the same time spiritual environment. Therefore, connecting the tourists with a liminoid space, a different identity within a simple, ‘traditional’ lifestyle.

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