Our life on cruises and tourism
Life on cruises and tourism
Heritage Values and Local Communities
Tourists inherently change the places they visit. Cruise tourism’s impact upon socio-cultural valuesand the built environment are highly localized, as home port and port-of-call communitiesare the primary point of contact.
However, literature focusing specifically on the relationship between cruise tourism and the cultural heritage values of local communities is negligible and most often occurs in the media.
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Sources on the physical impacts of cruise tourism are almost entirely based in the media. Se limited academic and professional research that has been conducted
tends to relate the changes resulting from this interaction and the precedence given to cruiseship tourism’s economic impacts. Sus, most literature focused on cruise tourism and heritage values is centered on preserving these values in the face of increasing economic pressures. As cruise tourism is usually a form of mass tourism, many of the central issues concerning the cruise ourism’s impact upon local heritage values are subsumed under the larger and well-documented
discussions about tourism in general and its relationship with host communities.
Discussions on themes of authenticity—what heritage means and how to preserve it, if it all—the
relationship and exchange between the tourist and host community, and how to manage these relationships
in a sustainable manner. Criticisms of tourism include the disintegration of physical
sites, the erosion of native traditions, the detrimental effects of outside interest and control, and
the consequent lack of self-determination. Conversely, tourism’s merits are often cited as fostering
a revitalization of local heritage and enhancing economic development.
As Andriotis (2010) observes, tourism is often a form of escapism, a relief from the stresses of daily life and an opportunity to experience something different.
In witnessing another culture, tourists expect a degree of cultural “authenticity” in which tourists are guests in the normal
life of the host community. However, increased interaction between the two groups creates aprocess through which culture becomes a commodified and consumed product. Se concept of “authenticity” is therefore constantly being reevaluated and reimagined through progressions of changing relationships between the actors that participate in its performance.
Further, the appearance and persuasiveness of authenticity is paramount to creating marketability.
Because of the desire to experience things in their “true” form, to see things as they
really are, the tourism industry promotes the intimate experience of authenticity to “[s]ightseers
[that] are motivated by a desire to see life as it is really lived, even to get in with the natives” (McCannell,
In the context of cruise ship tourism, Weaver (2005b) notes that many cruise tourists may not
be looking for an extreme degree of authenticity, but rather one that contains elements of the foreign
but is strongly rooted in the familiar. In Belize, “tourist bubbles” are specially constructed areas
designed for tourists. As Diedrich (2010) observes, “these areas often bear more resemblance
to a shopping mall in the United States than the host country.” If the tourists left these areas to
go on a tour, most travel in large groups on an air-conditioned bus, increasing the distance between
the tourist and an “authentic” cultural experience. Jaaksen (2004) notes in his case study in
Zihuatanejo, Mexico that cruise ship tourists opted to remain within the ship’s “tourist bubble”
of the immediate port, usually the site of the most intense commodification of local culture, and
intermingle with the local community so long as these interactions remain within their comfort
zone. Despite this, researchers have found that heritage sites remain a main attraction. In Heraklion,
Greece, Andriotis (2010) found that 80% of those surveyed visited archaeological sites
and historical places and 77% went on city walks. In this study, respondents’ top three reasons for
going on the cruise were “discovering new places,” “experiencing new cultures and way of life” and
“visiting historical and archaeological sites.” The UNWTO (2010) states that San Juan’s Spanish
colonial cultural heritage is a particularly strong draw for cruise tourists. Thus, while cruise
tourists may express a desire to experience different and “authentic” cultures, they tend to do so
within the confines of a comfortable and familiar environment, interacting with local communities
who are perhaps presenting a distilled, marketable version of their culture.
Host communities are often willing participants in the creation and re-creation of their cultures.
In poor and rich communities alike, tourism’s economic contributions are often viewed as
a path toward prosperity by creating jobs, increasing revenues, and facilitating access to futures
that may not have existed before. In many areas, tourism augments cultural pride and self-worth
by increasing attention paid to communities and their history and the sense of valorization
they receive from being a tourist attraction, from being something worth seeing (Burns, 2003).
As a result, tourism can often assist in the preservation and revitalization of cultural traditions
when communities examine and reevaluate the significance of their heritage (Pulsipher, 2006).
However, the influences of increased financial capital can also lead to the commodification of
culture and an environment in which the local community’s economy is entirely dependent upon
tourist revenue. Particularly in poorer countries, the introduction of globalized, material-based
culture can have an enormously detrimental effect upon a society that is not accustomed to having
an abundance of physical possessions. While the increased capital has its previously noted
purposes, it can, paradoxically, also become an overly influential deciding factor and directive
instrument for the cultural development of the host community.
Such changes are part of the Tourism Areas Life Cycle Model, which evaluates a site’s evolution
through a series of developmental stages that starts with exploration and ends with deterioration.
This end stage is reached when tourism’s negative impacts exceed its positive effects
and is often associated with uncontrolled mass tourism (Diedrich, 2010). Within this framework,
processes of change function in a cyclical relationship rather than a linear one, where economic
changes facilitate socio-cultural modifications and vice versa. While tourism’s economic
potential cannot, and should not, be ignored, the loss of economic self-determination caused by
over-dependence upon tourist revenue influences the loss of socio-cultural value systems and
traditions. Cultures can undergo processes of Disneyfication, in which cultural traditions are
transformed into traditions of tourism and become mimetic representations of their original
state (MacCannell, 2000). During this process, heritage is essentially “frozen” and simplified into
an amusement park-like attraction where the primary function of the community is to entertain
the tourists. “Authenticity” is usually lost and the presentation of heritage feels generally
contrived. This includes scenarios in which local communities become performers of their own
heritage, inventing or presenting highly affected displays of tradition as a response to tourist or
Per National Geographic Traveler, cruise ship tourism has had negative impacts on Mykonos, Greece
Cruise ships alter the natural aesthetics of Mount Desert, Maine
tour agency expectations. Often called “museumification,” such processes also include situations
in which architectural styles are frozen in time and neighborhood activities are homogenized
for popular consumption. Nasser (2003) notes that though these development patterns have
become popular, they “call into question whether tourism-led development is undermining many
of the precepts that conservation is based on, particularly an overemphasis on the physical, external
aspects of heritage and conservation, at the expense of an in-depth understanding of urban
culture.” The community’s response to the pressures of tourism can thus subvert and spoil
the original attraction into a perceived falseness, which then diminishes the value of the highly
sought-after “authentic” experience. In situations where these customs and styles have been previously
lost or diminished, scholars debate whether this revival performs the service of preserving
otherwise forgotten customs or is too “inauthentic,” distanced from its original form, and interferes
with the organic development of a culture.
Home ports and ports of call are in particular danger of Disneyfication and museumification.
In a 2007 review of 111 island destinations, a National Geographic Traveler singled out cruise
tourism as “clogging the streets” in Mykonos, Greece, “not keeping with the natural aesthetic” in
Mount Desert, Maine, and “diminishing quality of life” in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Given
the concentration of tourist activity and revenue generated within the “tourist bubble,” these port
communities may be predisposed more so than other tourist areas to commodify their heritage
for tourists. Wood (2000) notes that increased interaction between visitors and local communities
furthers processes of globalization and homogenization. This process is sped up within the
host community when the ratio of visitors exceeds that of the local community, a phenomenon
that Brida (2010) and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (2010) note is especially
prevalent in the Caribbean. Such inequality threatens to undermine the role of the local
community in their own home as they compete with tourists for space and begin to feel like they
are guests in their own neighborhood.
Se economic disparity between tourist and local populations can create an antagonistic relationship
in which the latter is subservient to the former. In MacCannell’s (1992) perspective, the
“ultimate goal of travel is to set up sedentary housekeeping in the entire world, to displace the local
peoples… to subordinate them…[and] make them the ‘household’ staff of global capitalists.”Sough perhaps extreme, he points to a widespread opinion that tourism, when controlled by
outside interests, has the potential to subjugate the local population. As described by Pulsipher
(2006), this is especially the case in the Caribbean, where, as previously described, fiscal policies
that favor cruise operators recreate cultural constructs of hierarchy in a manner that is closely
reminiscent of western colonial structures that historically oppressed many of these societies. In
this region, cruise tourism offers an impoverished experience that disenfranchises locals in their
own place. Further, the brief visits in concentrated port areas leaves little opportunity to interact
with local communities. Pulsipher notes, “cruise tourism may be the final deteriorating state in a
tourism strategy that once held great promise for both regional development and international
understanding” (Pulsipher, 2006).
Such local interaction is necessary because, as Pulsipher (2006) and Diedrich (2010) both
note, tourism also initiates a cross-cultural interaction and understanding between host communities
and the mainstream population that benefits both parties. Sis argument assumes that
increased contact between the two groups will lead to a more even perception of the other party.
In the Caribbean, if cruise tourists leave the “tourist bubble,” they will gain a more even perspective
of local culture that perhaps negates previous stereotypes. In turn, local populations will
acquire a more personable and humane perspective of outside interest groups who, despite their
economic contributions, are viewed as objectifying local culture and pushing out local interests.
Sis improved understanding leads to changed perceptions and behaviors that in turn foster a
more equitable relationship between both parties.