“Authenticity in tourism can be differentiated into two different issues: the authenticity of tourist experiences and that of toured objects” Wang, N (2000: 48)
The aim of this essay is to look at the extent to which the authenticity of tourist experiences is mainly related to the tourist’s socio-cultural environment, rather than the authenticity of toured objects.
Theessay will start by looking at the meaning of authenticity within the context of tourism and whether, or not, tourists can appreciate it. It will also look at the criticism attached to tourism on matters of tourists’ perception of authenticity; and finally, how it is influenced by commoditisation of culture and experience.
The meaning of authenticity within the tourism context:
Golomb(1995:7), mentioned in Wang, N (2000: 47), suggests that, the word authenticity is difficult to define because it has been used in many different contexts. Authenticity has become an ambiguous concept in the context of tourism (Sharpley1999:189) since it was originally used in museums, where, as it was stated by Trilling (1974:93) “persons expert in such matters test whether objects of art are what theyappear to be or are claimed to be”.
Wang, N (2000: 48) suggests that “it is mainly the museum-linked usage of authenticity that has been extended to tourism... … however... it… … oversimplifies the complex nature of authenticity in tourist experiences”. According to Sharpley (1999:189), everything which is typical of a country’s culture is, within the context of tourism, often described asauthentic. Sharpley gives some examples of those toured objects (as referred by Wang, N 2000:48) which comprise a country’s culture, such as works of art, cuisine, dress, language, festivals, rituals, or architecture. Normally, they will be perceived as authentic if they have been made by local people, due to the fact of that they connote a sense of genuine, realness or uniqueness.
On the other hand,the concept of authenticity is also used to describe all those travel experiences, generally related with niche forms of tourism. Niche has become a synonymous of authentic, while Mass has become a synonymous of inauthentic, since Mass Tourism represents Modernity and Modern society is perceived as inauthentic.
Therefore, according to Wang, N (2000:48), there is a differentiation between theauthenticity related to toured objects, and the authenticity related to tourist experiences.
Authenticity (Sharpley1999:192) within the context of tourism has two different meaning, “one is based upon the tangible origin of something (real or false)… … and the second is based upon a less tangible comparison (authentic experience compared to another which is inauthentic)” These two meanings have to beunderstood as follows:
Tangible origin: it describes the quality of a real (genuine) toured object associated with production methods which are pre-modern or traditional. Rushdie (1991: 67) mentioned in Taylor 28 (1): 7 states that “authenticity… …demands that sources, forms, style, language and symbol all derive from a supposedly homogeneous and unbroken tradition”. For a toured object to beauthentic (i.e. an Australian didjeridu) it has to be produced for the use of local people and not as a result of commoditisation (Cohen 1988a) mentioned in Sharpley (1999: 190). Wang, N (2000: 48) states that “Objective authenticity… …refers to the authenticity of the original that is also the toured object…but …the authenticity of tourist experience depends on the toured object being perceived asauthentic (whether or not, tourists perceive the didjeridu as part of Australia’s unbroken tradition)”
Social construct: at this point the meaning of authenticity is based on the tourist’s perceptions of destinations as the result of social construction (Wang 2000; Sharpley 1999). According to Wang, N (2000: 49), in this sense tourists are looking for a sign or symbol (Culler1981) which...