Before and after tourism(s). The trajectories of tourist destinations and the role of actors involved in "off-the-beaten-track" tourism*: a literature review

Aurélie Condevaux, Géraldine Djament-Tran, Maria Gravari-Barbas



* Report compiled within the framework of a collaborative research project entitled “The transformation of ordinary places into tourist locations and the abandonment of tourism enclaves: what is civil society’s role?” (Alain Chenevez, Francesca Cominelli, Aurélie Condevaux, Géraldine Djament-Tran, Edith Fagnoni, Maria Gravari-Barbas, Sandra Guinand, Anne Hertzog, Sébastien Jacquot and Cécile Renard-Delautre), PUCA (Plan Urbanisme Construction Architecture [Town Planning, Construction, Architecture]), France.


The evolution in tourism practices is challenging the oppositions that exist between tourist and non-tourist destinations as well as between the actors from both camps. Tourist destinations are becoming ordinary places whilst ordinary places are becoming tourist destinations. Holiday resorts are turning into towns (Stock, Lucas, 2012) and working-class suburbs are becoming established as emergent tourist spots (Gravari-Barbas, Fagnoni, 2013).

This to-ing and fro-ing between the ordinary and the extraordinary are sometimes called upon in support of the idea that the 21st century appears to mark the advent of the “post-tourism” era. This is thought to be characterised by the end of tourism as a field offering specific social, spatial and temporal horizons and a de-differentiation between tourist and non-tourist destinations and practices. The boundaries are becoming blurred between the here and the elsewhere and between the exotic and the everyday. A tourist can no longer simply be defined as “someone who made the periodic, temporary transition from the ordinary space–time of industrial work to the extraordinary space–time of going on holiday” (Girard, 2013: 45).

This dilution of tourism into everyday practices is thought to translate, furthermore, into a weakening of the distinction between civil society and tourism as a commercial sector. Whilst “experiential” has become a buzz word in tourism marketing, tourism professionals are stressing the need to meet tourists’ expectations with a provision that is based on a total and sincere commitment that goes beyond the classic boundaries of business and pleasure (Blondeau, 2015). Conversely, tourists are becoming actors in the creation of tourism products. Toffler (1980) refers to this as “prosumption“, a contraction of production and consumption (in Gombault, 2011). With the help of new technologies, tourism practices now often rely on do-it-yourself arrangements, which use social, transport and accommodation networks in ways that are outside the control of professional tourism operators, on the one hand, and tourism policies, on the other. According to Schéou (2013), if the “end of tourism” is nigh, it could be defined as the challenge that these new practices present to the commercial dimensions of tourism.

The aim of this literature review is to examine the current hybridisation processes at work between ordinary and tourist destinations by focusing on the emergence of tourism in some places and the end of tourism in others. These issues are analysed within the larger context of the notion of post-tourism, which has been a particularly important element in tourism studies since the 1990s. This review will be guided by two main questions: (i) How can a large group of actors who are not necessarily involved either in the policy (institutionalised) field or in the tourism market participate in the contemporary dynamics of tourism? and (ii) How should these changes be defined? Do they mark the beginning of a new era in tourism (whether this is defined as post- or hyper-tourism)?

Following a summary of post-tourism approaches, this literature review presents and analyses the ways in which research has resulted in accounts of tourism development in ordinary urban or rural locations. It then examines the role of the actors who are not involved in (or who do not consider themselves to be involved in) either the industry or the tourism policies in these intersected dynamics.

Post-tourism and the “end of tourism”

The notion of post-tourism was introduced in 1985 by Feifer, who defined post-tourists as those who were less dependent on the tourism industry and who had different types of tourism experiences. This expression has since been used by many authors and has taken on varied meanings. According to Girard (2013), post-tourism can be understood in two ways These can both be related to the points of view developed independently in the 1990s by two sociologists, Jean Viard and John Urry (Girard, 2013: 43), but both are based on the observation that the lines are blurred between tourism and non-tourism, and this is linked to the de-differentiation between the here and the elsewhere.

The first perspective, developed by Urry (1995), situates this phenomenon in a post-modern, globality. This point of view presupposes a rupture between modernity and post-modernity, not only in the blurring of the distinctions but also in the renewal of the values on which tourism practices are based. It aims to provide a theoretical account of the far-reaching changes within society and of the new ways of doing tourism. This perspective thus allows us to give an account of the general criticism surrounding tourism. For some, this seems to be doomed to disappear in a world where mobility – both for ecological and economic reasons – has to be reconsidered. It also allows us to give an account of new trends in tourism practices, such as the quest for authentic experiences or new ways of exploiting this authenticity.

The second perspective, which corresponds to Viard’s position (2000; 2006), describes the process of extending cultural tourism values to different social horizons. It aims, more concretely, to give an account of what happens after tourism has been developed in certain highly tourist areas when these areas attract not only tourists but also new residents, who can therefore be considered as post-tourists. This perspective documents the “after”, in other words the extended tourism developments, or the post-tourism spirals as Girard called them.

We therefore seem, on the one hand, to have an approach that highlights the reinvention of tourism through practices that exploit the boundaries between the ordinary and the extraordinary and which offer alternative practices or destinations “that emphasise the diversity of new destinations made touristic” (Bourdeau, 2012: 43). On the other, post-tourism takes on a more literal meaning. It refers to a process of transition and of residential reconversion in holiday resorts and tourist regions (Viard, 2000 and 2006; Violier, 2002; Rieucau, 2000).

Whichever perspective is considered (in the literal or more general sense), the contemporary trends in tourism are thought to lead to a break with “tourism in the strict sense of the word, which emerged with the arrival of modernity” (Bourdeau, 2012: 43), which is based on a “highly polarised and polarising ad hoc planning and development of spaces where the main heritage attraction (monument, famous site) and the resort are seen as symbolic” (ibid.: 44). It is worth remembering just how much the idea of spatial as well as temporal rupture was thought to be a constituent of tourism in the 20th century. Graburn (1989) thus saw in tourism a way of marking the difference between the sacred and the profane in modern secularised societies. In other words, he saw in it a practice equivalent to that of the rituals that effected an inversion of the normal course of social life in more traditional societies. This tourism in the strict sense of the word is, moreover, marked by strong political and socio-economic intervention (Bourdeau, 2012).

The de-differentiation of practices is one of the elements that is thought to most clearly mark the break with this tourism model and our entry into post-tourism. This hypothesis, put forward in particular by Urry (1995), is a necessary response to new mobility practices that are difficult to classify in tourism and leisure terms, which include short stays, single overnight stays (or no overnight stays) and the lack of a strong otherness differential questioning the practice’s (non-)tourism character (Équipe MIT, 2011: 201). The rupture between the space–time of everyday life and that of holidays is questioned here. The de-differentiation observation is also essential for practices that pass from the routine to the non-routine, such as hobbies or leisure activities, which can become the main reason for a holiday – for example, a golf or tango training course – or conversely, recreational practices associated with tourist destinations can become part of the everyday space (a climbing wall in a person’s own home) (Équipe MIT, 2011). This de-differentiation or dissolution of tourism in ordinary practices and vice versa is also thought, as mentioned in the introduction, to translate into a weakening of the distinction between the hosts and the visitors (Cohen and Cohen, 2012: 2182). Finally, it concerns the destinations themselves, with former tourist resorts become multiple-use spaces where tourism is only one use of many (cf. part III). To summarise, we seem to be facing an infusion of tourism in the everyday space, which is becoming “a normal method of spatially organising social realities, which not only express themselves in specific areas and practices but also, and especially, become present in situations that are not ostensibly tourism-related” (Lussault, 2007: 199).

The post-tourism perspective also focuses on changes in the behaviour of the tourists themselves. Poon (1993 and 1994) uses the term “new tourists”, whom he describes as more experienced and educated. These new tourists are differentiable by their appetite for “amusement and ludic transgressions based on artifice, inauthenticity, pastiche, provocation and even a ‘devil-may-care’ cynicism…. In this secondary tourism, the main attraction is no longer thought to be a place’s geography, landscape or monuments. Rather, it is seen as centring on the sensation and the experience created by events, shows and festivals or by unrestricted, hybrid recreational experiences in which the marketing of new products and the organisation of the activities seem to play a key role” (Bourdeau, 2012: 44). This central role accorded to amusement goes hand-in-hand with the acceptance that tourism products are artificial. Hence, “‘post-tourists’, rather than being interested in the origins of supposedly authentic attractions, prefer ironically and playfully to surf attractions that are clearly inauthentic” [translated from French] (Cohen, 2008 in Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015).

At the same time, and this runs partly counter to these observations, some authors highlight the fact that the new tourists seem to be increasingly in search of an authentic experience as well as a personalised, tailor-made provision (Équipe MIT, 2011). They are looking for an “off-the-beaten-track” experience and are drawn to the mundane, the routine and the familiar (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015). Rather than just a simple one-directional evolution, we seem to be dealing with a plurality of behaviours, which some authors account for through more detailed typologies. Hughes thus talks of “post-industrial tourists” when discussing those tourists who wish to control the impact of their practices and to behave in an ethical manner towards local populations (which, moreover, corresponds to trans-tourism, as defined by Bourdeau [2012: 44]) and “postmodern tourists” to refer to those tourists who can enjoy an “overrated” show whilst being perfectly aware of its inauthenticity (Hughes, 1995 in Moscardo and Pearce, 1999).

Finally, rather than dismiss these tourist categories because they are defined by different attitudes and values, some authors make the increased expectations and desires of contemporary tourists a property of these tourists (Gombault 2011: 19). This hypothesis is called hyper-tourism. It is taken up by a number of authors making the observation that the new tourism practices (alternative tourism, off-the-beaten-track tourism, etc.) are not replacing visits to famous tourist spots (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015) and that tourists interested in alternative forms of tourism can also continue to enjoy seaside resort tourism at the same time, which still has much to offer (Berriane and Nakhli, 2011). The hyper-tourism thesis allows us, therefore, to give an account not only of this accumulation and diversification of practices, where tourists move indifferently from seaside tourism to alternative or heritage tourism, but also of the spread and transversality of contemporary tourism phenomena (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015).

Despite the criticism of post-tourism theory (Girard, 2013), these approaches have the merit of drawing attention to the renewal of values that form the basis of tourism practices. Questioning certain aspects of tourism leads to a rediscovery of the “nearby” and/or a search for other ways in which to do tourism. It is, for example, partly in the criticism of mass tourism that the question of rural tourism as a more sustainable tourism makes a reappearance. However, the hypothesis of the end of tourism leads us to examine the reconversion of tourism destinations (what happens after tourism?). Developing tourism in ordinary areas, just like the abandonment of tourist destinations, can therefore be analysed as the effects – local or globalised – of a challenge to tourism practices. These approaches allow us to shed light on the mechanisms of developing tourism around the ordinary, around the end of tourism and around hybridisation but, above all, they enable us to think about the processes as a whole.

Developing tourism in “ordinary places”

The question of the ordinary in tourism needs to be repositioned within the recent awareness within the human and social sciences of the thematic of the ordinary (Marie, Dujardin, Balme, 2002) and/or the routine. From the late 1980s onwards, Sansot’s poetical socio-anthropology has been calling “for an aesthetics of ordinary landscapes” (Sansot, 1989). Since the late 1990s, geographers (especially social geographers) have examined the “territories of everyday life” (di Meo, 1996) and “ordinary spaces” (Berger, Pousin, 2008) in the tradition of the work of Lefebvre (1947) and/or de Certeau (1990) or of Perec’s (1989) infra-ordinary study. At around the same time, urban studies have also been undergoing a similar evolution, marked by a militancy in favour of studying “routine city life” (Farge, 1994), from the ordinary urban factory against the historiographical focus on extraordinary projects (Clémençon, 1999; Montel, Backouche, 2007). The metropolis is studied not as an exceptional city but in terms of its normal mode of operation (Halbert, 2010), and ordinary towns are studied by breaking away from the global towns/other towns and Northern towns/Southern towns dichotomies (Robinson, 2006). In the field of heritage studies, where a “class rating” (Aguilar, 1982) has been criticised in the promotion of the extraordinary, the notions of small-scale heritage, local heritage and mundane heritage in Geppert and Lorenzi (2013) and of ordinary heritage and the mundane heritage industry in Isnart (2012) and Letissier (2014) have diffused through the influence of ethnology (Bromberger, 1999; Dassié, 2012) and new museology (Rivière, 1989), whilst the focus has been on ordinary practices of monumental heritage (Watremez, 2008). A similar line of questioning has spread to tourism studies.

The questioning of tourism practices translates most notably into a refocus on local spaces (or sometimes even forms of renouncing tourism), at least for some forms (air travel, long-haul destinations). Is developing tourism in ordinary areas the future for tourism? How do these transformations fit into the reconfiguration of the tourism system and in what ways do they respond to a greater involvement of civil society? First and foremost, however, what place could these ordinary areas have in tourism?

In contrast to prestigious and religious tourism areas, ordinary places are envisaged as “small or medium-sized towns and peri-urban spaces with no hosting tradition, [which] seek in tourism a new way of developing or of economic and territorial relabelling” (Bourdeau, 2012: 39). These ordinary spaces correspond, for example, to rural areas that have no mountains, coasts or insular tourist attractions. Vitte describes them as “non-tourism territories, as they have not been identified or recognised as such and they escape the structural and operational standards of so-called tourist areas” (1988: 69). The term “ordinary place” is becoming synonymous with “non-tourist place” in the sense that there is nothing remarkable about it that makes it attractive. The ordinary is therefore defined in negative terms or as the opposite of “hyper-specialised tourism spaces, that is to say spaces where the level of tourism activities dominates other activities” (Fagnoni, 2004: 51).

In this sense, any area will be ordinary until it is discovered by tourists. This mechanism of inventing tourism areas is highlighted by Knafou (most notably in 1991), who defines it as “a new use of an existing area that both subverts and develops it” (ibid.: 11), that is, the mechanism separates it from its normal use and incorporates the area in question to new territories that were not previously connected by former usages (for example, linking beaches to coastal villages or mountains to alpine villages). The term “inventing” is preferred to that of “discovery” here since the latter suggests the exploration of an unknown place whilst the former emphasises a change of gaze (ibid.).

The rarely used expression “ordinary tourism” was coined by the association Promenades Urbaines (Aguas, Gouyette, 2011). This association was created in 2007 and has been providing tried-and-tested urban hikes since 2001, which are open to everyone from “discerning hikers” to “informed residents” to “enlightened tourists”[1]. Beyond the notion of inventing tourism, the expression “ordinary tourism” also refers to innovative forms of tourism. These are categorised in the literature as off-the-beaten-track tourism (Maitland, Newmann, 2004), alternative tourism (Breton, 2009; Butler, 1990, 1992; Cohen, 1987; Stephen, 2004), experimental tourism (Urbain, 2002), interstitial tourism (ibid.) (which adds a transgressive dimension to the innovative character of experimental tourism), slow tourism (Fullagar and Markwell, 2012), collaborative and participatory tourism (Coquin, 2008; Ferrary, 2015), creative tourism (Gombault, 2011), and so on.

The development of tourism in ordinary areas may arise from at least three main loics: a logic of diffusion from extraordinary areas towards local, ordinary areas; a logic of inventing a tourism area based on an ordinary area actually consuming its own ordinary character; and a logic of stigma reversal.

Diffusion and its limitations

The diffusion of tourism development in places central to peripheral areas is most apparent in suburban tourism. One example of this is the case of the Paris suburbs, a historically non-tourist area in relation to the Central Tourist District (Duhamel, Knafou, 2007). Some neighbourhoods, especially the former working-class and/or peri-central immigrant neighbourhoods currently undergoing gentrification, are gradually becoming new tourism destinations. Certain tourist metropolises are paradigmatic of these evolutions, including in particular Paris, London, New York and Berlin. In Berlin, Novy and Huning (2008) have identified the appearance of new tourism zones in the former working-class districts of Kreutzberg (former immigration district to the south of the historical centre) and Prenzlauer Berg, which became bohemian, gentrified neighbourhoods in the 1990s. In his thesis, Novy (2011) compared the Berlin neighbourhood of Kreutzberg and the New York neighbourhood of Harlem to illustrate how tourism contributes to increasing the value of historically marginal urban areas.

Maitland discusses the emergence of off-the-beaten-track tourism in London, using in particular the case studies of Islington, Bankside and Spitalfields, which are now peri-central, post-industrial, gentrified areas with a concentration of arty activities. Maitland highlights the emergence of a quest for the creative experience of everyday life as well as the synergies that exist between the tourists and the residents, who all come from the cosmopolitan consumer class (Maitland, 2010a). Maitland considers tourism to be a stakeholder in a continuum of mobilities and an integral part of everyday life (ibid.). He shows that the tourist gaze re-enchants the town and that, for the discerning visitor, the routine is not simply ordinary but also includes the extraordinary (Maitland, 2013).

The literature also identifies attempts in Paris to extend tourism beyond the city boundaries in response to increased global competition. These attempts were formalised in 2015 with the Paris ville augmentée project (which is developing tourism in Paris by using the transport network). The tourism stakeholders in the city’s periphery are already pleading “For collaborative tourism in the Île-de-France. Bridging the gap between visitors and the Ile de France inhabitants”, to use the title of a study carried out by Sallet-Lavorel in 2003 for the Paris Regional Planning and Development Agency (IAU Île-de-France).

The French example presents a specificity, in terms of combined efforts in the development of off-the-beaten-track tourism since the 1990s (particularly in 2000), of promoting tourism and suburban heritage (Jacquot, Fagnoni, Gravari-Barbas, 2013). Whilst the trajectory from tourism space to suburb (maintaining tourism features), as illustrated by Enghien, has been documented (Équipe MIT 2005), it is also now possible to identify the opposite trajectory, namely from suburb to tourism space (or suburb).

The invention of tourism in the ordinary areas of cities is also linked to the promotion of immigration tourism. Hence, the European Migrantour project, implemented in Italy to promote the cultural diversity of nine cities (Turin, Rome, Florence, Milan, Genoa, Lisbon, Marseille and Paris) from December 2013 to July 2015, has provided urban walks in multicultural districts, led by intercultural guides called culture couriers.

The same diffusion theory can be observed in the case of spaces that have retreated from the rural environment, such as that of Essaouira and surrounding areas in Morocco (Berriane and Nakhli, 2011). These marginal areas “benefit from the proximity of tourist resorts and their redistributed flow“. These areas are therefore defined more by their marginal or peripheral character in relation to the centres of attraction than by their ordinary character. It is worth noting, moreover, that not all peripheral areas seem devoted to benefitting from a diffusion of tourism practices.

The overspill, or diffusions of tourism from extraordinary places to nearby ordinary places, is by no means automatic. Bernier (2013) noted in his study of what he called the “marginal heritages” and “tourist peripheries” of the “Tourist Routes and Cultural Itineraries” (conference name) that a number of configurations are possible in the relationship between these routes and their peripheries. Whilst some routes tend to be veritable tunnels, other cases illustrate lateral overspill or linear accumulations. It appears that the overly ordinary or mundane aspect of peripheral areas is not enough to explain any lack of diffusion. The “shadow effect” can exist even when the marginal areas present a potential interest to tourism.

Turning an ordinary area into a tourism area

 Developing tourism in rural areas often depends on different mechanisms because of their disconnect from the main tourist attractions in cities. An analysis of the literature on rural tourism reveals that it concerns areas that fall fairly systematically into the “ordinary” category. The definition of rural tourism, furthermore, encounters the same problem as that of ordinary areas in that it tends to appear “hollow” in contrast to positive references. According to some definitions, therefore, rural tourism is not connected to either mountain tourism or coastal tourism (Sceau and Plancoulaine, 1988). These spaces are described in literature as fragile or weakened (especially by rural exodus).

Developing tourism in ordinary rural areas is often perceived as a way to boost the local economy. However, an analysis of tourism development policies in these areas shows that the desired goal is often far from being attained, and this leads to pessimistic observations on “the current system’s tourism failure in rural areas, which appears to be less of a dominated periphery than a forgotten margin” (Vitte, 1998: 71). These destinations struggle, in particular, to highlight their specific identity, and they suffer from a vague and even negative image linked to the idea of poverty in remote rural areas (ibid.). Policy rollout methods reinforce the difficulties of promoting this image. Countries position themselves on the scale of tourism development whilst their sense of tourism and identity is often very unclear. Despite conducting often costly studies in an attempt to develop a common denominator and a promotable image for the tourism market, tourists are rarely attracted to these territories and the originality and attractions they offer (Vitte, 1998).

Some studies show that for the development of ordinary rural areas to work, network development is a basic necessity. This is proven both in European and non-European case studies. Vitte (1988, 1998), for example, highlighted that fact that the use of accommodation in rural areas very often depends on branding, as in, for example, Relais et Châteaux (mostly in rural areas), Logis de France, Relais du silence and even Hôtels de Charme.

The same conclusion is drawn for non-Western countries. As Briedenhann and Wickens (2004) point out in their study of the development of tourism in rural areas in South Africa, rural tourism businesses are characterised by their small size and, as such, they have limited marketing and promotion investment capacities. Networking is therefore a must for those who wish to “stay ahead of the game” (ibid:. 76). The authors comment on the capacity of tourist routes, which are organised around a theme (for example, rhinoceros conservation) and which connect several rural zones (sometimes spread over several countries), to create jobs and provide real tourism visibility. One of the main tools for successful tourism businesses in rural areas is therefore, as one interviewee states, “to (…) form part of a nodal development with a main attraction as the tourist drawcard” (Briedenhann and Wickens, 2004: 78). Finally, therefore, we come back to the question of diffusion. In order to promote ordinary or marginal regions, it is necessary to create a link with attractive zones.

Other methods can be used to make these areas attractive, such as Montaigne’s artialisation, which can be mobilised in both rural (for example, Lake Vassivière in the Limousin department and its contemporary art centre) and urban contexts. This process is often based on initially alternative artistic forms that can be institutionalised. Hence, street-art walks are being developed in the cities of Berlin, New York and Paris (especially in the 13th arrondissement under the aegis of the local council, which has created street art walks, as well as in Vitry sur Seine under the aegis of the Vitry’n Urbaine association). Those involved in the invention of this city tourism are public bodies, associations and businesses. The Parisian startup Architrip offers Île de France inhabitants, professionals and also tourists original guided trips to “discover two centuries of outstanding architecture in Paris and the Île-de-France and the specific features of Parisian urban development”.

Reversing stigmas

Creating tourism will only be a success if the stigmas associated with these areas – whether urban or rural – are counteracted, overturned and replaced by positive values. Tourist visits to socially and morally devalued areas finds its ambiguous origins in slumming: “a tourism practice that emerged at the end of the 19th century, where rich London or New York inhabitants visited the neighbourhoods in their cities inhabited by the poor and the ethnic and sexual minorities to be outraged at and derive pleasure from their Otherness and their deviance and to reassure themselves of their own identity and the value of their own standards (Heap 2009, Koven 2004)” (Staszak, 2015).

Nowadays, tourist visits to run-down areas take more of a militant approach to reversing stigmas. Many towns have changed their status from unattractive and even highly negative ports and/or industrial towns – linked to an image of insecurity, dirtiness and ugliness (Marseille, Lodz or Belfast) – to that of trendy new tourist destinations. “Their touristic emergence is not only the result of moving beyond their difficult and painful heritages but also of highlighting and even promoting their problems” (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015). One of the most illustrative examples of this type of dynamic is the Cities on the Edge twinned-cities project, organised in Liverpool in 2008. This is a support network for “the towns most disliked by their own country[2]. These “awful, dirty and nasty” cities of (Thomazeau, 2009 in Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015), namely Marseille, Liverpool, Bremen, Naples and Gdansk, “have used their ‘bad reputation’ to mobilise and assert their identities and make themselves visible (Gravari-Barbas, 2013)” (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015). A typical example of developing tourism by inverting a negative regional opinion is also found in the post-industrial Belgian town of Charleroi, “the ugliest city in the world“, according to a Dutch daily newspaper (2008). A local artist has created the Urban Safari tour in response. It is supported by the Charleroi Adventure association, which plays on the city’s clichés.

The development of tourism in ordinary urban areas in France, especially in the suburbs, relies on the same kind of stigma reversal and is sought through political action. The aforementioned efforts to promote tourism and suburban heritage (Jacquot, Fagnoni, Gravari-Barbas, 2013) have to fight against a negative regional image to create a new gaze on the suburb (de Clapiers, 2004). Hence, Saint-Denis has, in a post-industrial context, had an active tourism policy since the beginning of the 1990s. This has been developed with the Plaine Commune inter-municipality tourism scheme since 2003 (Kouloumbri, 2004), which promotes a type of alternative town (Cousin, Djament-Tran, Gravari-Barbas, Jacquot, 2016), as well as with Seine-Saint-Denis since the end of the 1990s. The CDT 93 (Comité Départemental de Tourisme, or Local Tourism Committee), in particular, organises successful tours called Douce banlieue (Peaceful Suburbs). Visitors are taken on tours of a “surprising, often unusual and misunderstood” heritage and to “meet the people who live and work in Seine-Saint-Denis”.

Applying the same logic of working on territorial opinion and of stigma-reversal in run-down working-class neighbourhoods, the northern districts of Marseille (albeit, in administrative terms, they are located in the centre of Marseille) are being improved through an experimental heritage and tourism project, led by the Hôtel du Nord cooperative (Jolé, 2012; Breton, 2015; Hascoët, thesis in progress), which is building an international network entitled “H2H, from human to human, host to host, history to history”. The origins of this improvement project lie in an experimental integrated European heritage mission, created in 1995. This experience, whose stakeholders are part of the heritage sector but who are not in charge of tourist actions, is identified by Jolé (art. cit.) as being part of alternative (i.e., the alternative to mass tourism) and participative tourism.

Reversing stigmas does not necessarily stem from a political or associative commitment. The promotion of rural spaces, for example, is the result of a long process of inverting values and their associated opinions: “rural space, the land, now represents a place that is dreamt of, imagined, chosen, having been pushed aside, rejected and denigrated for so long” (Bessière, 2012: 27). This is particularly mirrored in the rise of ecological concerns and in the dissatisfactions generated by urban living. In contrast to cities, the countryside is perceived as a purifying source of revitalisation, where authentic convivial relationships can be created (ibid.).

The end of tourism: becoming an ordinary place (again)?

The question of a potential after-tourism status can be studied more concretely than that of post-tourism. We can, for example, examine former tourist areas, whose infrastructures are increasingly being used by non-tourists while the tourists themselves are tending to become residents. In this sense, it is more a question of a boost in tourism rather than of a new era of tourism. This approach does not assume the transition from modernity to post modernity, but it allows us to understand the long-term phenomena generated by tourism on a territory. It is what Girard calls the post-tourism spiral.

The question of end of tourism burnout (Équipe MIT, 2011: 233) is little documented. The observation made two decades ago that “the study of previously tourist areas still remains to be carried out” (Knafou, 1996) is still partly relevant. It is actually the permanence of tourism areas and their ability to renew themselves in spite of major social changes that is a priori most striking. Despite the succession of what could be considered as four tourism systems over the past 200 years, many areas have continued to do well in the ways in which they have been used for tourism. This capacity for renewal can be explained by several factors. The first is the reproduction of spatial values associated with tourist visits, in other words what was considered beautiful between 1700 and 1800 remains so (Équipe MIT, 2011: 215). The Équipe MIT (Mobilities, Itineraries and Tourisms research group) talks of a “constant countryside value” (ibid.: 216) in this respect. However, even though tourism practices undergo quite intense changes, a single site can attract different practices over time (cold sea water is replaced by heated water in the summer) (ibid.: 214). Another factor in the persistence of tourism areas is linked to the social reproduction of the conditions in which tourism is practised. Tourism involves the mechanisms of learning and education and the transmission of a space’s tourism values not only from one generation to the next (ibid.: 212) but also from one class to another and even from one society to another. For example, the image of Paris as the city of romance first attracted mainly European, English and German visitors, and these were then followed by American and now Chinese visitors. Finally, reproduction is driven by a complexification process through which destinations become diversified. Tourism areas are no longer dedicated to welcoming just tourists but an ever-growing population (ibid.: 221).

How then, in conditions where everything seems in favour of reproducing the tourism use of an area, can tourism burnout be explained? Burnout is the process by which, against all the odds, some destinations appear to reach their maximum hosting capacities and then begin to fail. In the French literature, research provides a typology of tourism trajectories that follow three patterns (Clivaz, Nahrath, Stock, 2011; Darbellay, Clivaz, Nahrath, Stock, 2011): the relay, or permanent tourism renewal; the metamorphosis, or diversification of functions; and the decay, characterised by the decline or even the disappearance of the tourism function with no alternative, generating tourism wastelands, which although rare are documented (Rostock, Zadnicek, 1992; Löfgren, 1999; Bachimon, 2013).

Permanent renewal

In order to survive, a tourist destination must be able to transform itself, especially if it is to meet new tourism requirements. This was highlighted most notably by economist Butler’s TALC (Tourism Area Life Cycle) model in 1980 (Butler, 1980; 2011). This model was initially developed in the 1970s/80s to analyse tourist resort life cycles. It is based on the assumption that tourist resorts are an economic product just like any other. They meet a need in the tourism market and adapt to the changes within this need. Resorts must transform themselves in order to adapt. While the model, which therefore anticipated a standard evolution pattern for resorts (Butler, 2011), has generated many extensions and applications, it has also been the subject of discussions and criticisms. In particular, these criticisms assert that the model was not empirically verifiable and even that it was useless, and they point out, moreover, that as the products were living things, it was difficult to define a model that was applicable to all (Butler, 2011: 11). Some researchers have also suggested adding supplementary steps to the model. These criticisms aside, case studies confirm the hypothesis formulated in the Butler model that “hanging on in there” in tourism terms involves having to make major investments.

This renewal of destinations may go through periods of crisis, such as that experienced by Majorca at the end of the 1980s. In response to a major drop in the number of holidaymakers, the authorities immediately created a regulation in response to the growing demand from tourists for sustainable tourism. The original quantitative policy was therefore replaced by a more qualitative development policy, which takes the promotion and preservation of the natural environment into consideration. Even though it was probably more the political European context that brought the tourists back rather than Majorca’s rapid reaction to the crisis, the initiatives for local tourism policy renewal have nevertheless received international recognition (Équipe MIT, 201: 227-228).

Examples of the diversification of uses and functions

Prospective approaches to the effects of climate change on tourism, which sometimes announce the imminent demise of winter sports and question the future of mountain resorts “after tourism”, is a recurring question (Bourdeau, 2009; Savelli, 2012). For the moment, the charted developments do not, however, suggest the end of tourism. Rather, we are facing processes of use-diversification, linked in particular to urbanisation phenomena and the development of primary residences. The terms “diversification” (Violier, 2002), “complexification” and “complex society” (Rieucau, 2000; Équipe Mit, 2011) are used more frequently than hybridisation to define the process by which tourism resorts – often created ex-nihilo – are open to new usages. Even though these changes are frequently observed, they do not all follow a typical pattern and respond to particular allogeneic and endogenous influences.

Some examples of coastal resort diversification are also documented. Using a historical approach to La Baule’s spatial transformations, Violier (2002) illustrates, for example, how a tourism area – built ex-nihilo – becomes a multiple-use area (tourism, residential and leisure). This evolution is marked by a decline in commercial accommodation and a rise in the residential population and concerns mainly elderly people. This renewal of an area’s uses does not erase previous tourism uses, which have a direct influence on the settlement of these new populations. The new residents do not challenge the spatial structure produced by tourism, but rather they settle in secondary residence zones. It is, furthermore, often through tourism that the new residents have discovered the area. The same transformation to a dual-purpose – permanent and seasonal – town was documented in the case of Grande Motte, which has become a town-resort with permanent activities (Rieucau, art. cit.). However, the development of this permanent town has been accompanied by a “destruction of the initial spatial model” (ibid.: 644). Nevertheless, once again, the inherited former structure of the tourist resort is maintained.

In contrast to landlocked tourism areas, which are more controlled, these areas can be defined as heterogeneous, as suggested most notably by Maitland. A heterogeneous tourism area is “‘weakly classified’, with blurred boundaries, and is a multi-purpose space in which a wide range of activities and people co-exist. Tourist facilities coincide with businesses, public and private institutions and domestic housing, and tourists mingle with locals, including touts. Generally, tourism has often emerged in an unplanned and contingent process and an unplanned bricolage of structures and designs provides a contrasting aesthetic context. In some ways, heterogeneous tourist spaces provide stages where transitional identities may be performed alongside the everyday enactions of residents, passers-by and workers” (Edensor, 2001: 64).

The end of tourism

 The end of the tourist function in an area can be based on effects that are exogenous to the tourism system, such as geopolitical conflicts, border closures and accessibility problems. On a more global level, Cohen and Cohen (2012) present terrorism and natural environmental disasters as being part of the main constraints that currently influence destination choice and even directly threaten the survival of certain destinations. Hence, the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and in Japan in 2011 as well as hurricane Katrina had long-term effects on popular tourist destinations. The case of the 2004 tsunami has been highly documented (Coate, Handmer and Choong, 2006; Calgaro and Llyod, 2008; Robinson and Jarvie, 2008; Smith and Henderson, 2008; Ghaderi and Henderson, 2013).

In certain cases, the reconstruction costs are so high that they outweigh the areas’ interest for promotors, and the areas are left completely to abandon, as was the case for the West Indies after cyclones Luis (1995) and Lenny (1999) (Magnan, 2008, in MIT, 2011). In most cases, a significant drop in the number of visitors is recorded – this leads to a rise in pressure on tourism operators to lower prices (Henderson, 2005) – plus a simultaneous reduction in tourism provision as a result of the mass destruction.

In other cases, however, reconstruction is rapid, and sometimes an increase in visitor numbers is recorded. This was the case for Katherine Gorge in Australia’s Northern Territories. Following an unprecedented and massively destructive flood at the beginning of 1998, visitor numbers to the gorge and village increased by 15% over the course of the year (Faulkner and Vikulov, 2001). This can be partly explained by the area’s heightened media exposure surrounding the disaster (ibid.: 335). Terrorist attacks are also renowned for having a major influence on the number of tourist visits. This was the case following the attacks in Bali (Ghaderi, Som and Henderson, 2012) and Egypt, where the number of visitors are said to have dropped by about 43% after the 1992–1995 events (Robinson and Jarvie, 2008).

This decrease in the number of visitors is linked to fears that the destination is unsafe and unable to cater for tourists (Ghaderi and Henderson, 2013). Negative images can have a long-term impact, and they need substantial marketing campaigns to thwart them. This is unanimously agreed upon in the literature (Faulkner and Vikulov, 2001; Henderson, 2005; Rittichainuwat, 2011; Robinson and Jarvie, 2008). Studies reveal, furthermore, that the effects of a natural disaster do not only concern the destination that was directly affected but that they may have repercussions on other destinations (Ghaderi and Henderson, 2013). Some authors point out that, over and above their traumatic effect, post-disaster tourism crises – in the cases of rapid reconstruction – can have positive effects on tourism, as has been the case for Katherine Gorge, which saw the disaster as an opportunity to rebuild the park and therefore improve its ageing infrastructures. In addition, it allowed local people to become aware of the important role of tourism (Faulkner and Vikulov, 2001).

Other aspects of crises should be highlighted, particularly epidemics (SARS, H1N1, etc.) and major political changes (Ghaderi, Som and Henderson, 2012), which can also lead to setbacks for tourist destinations. Quite often, the end of tourist visits is temporary (and contextual). In Vietnam, for example, tourism practices and destinations that had developed during the colonial period were abandoned at the end of the French occupation and then rediscovered by the Vietnamese. Today, 300,000 couples choose to honeymoon in Dalat, near Saigon (Équipe MIT, 2011: 233-234). Violent or radical political changes in a destination can, as with natural disasters, affect neighbouring destinations in that many tourists may choose a neighbouring country over a destination that is suddenly presented as unsafe (Ghaderi, Som and Henderson, 2012). For example, the coups d’état in Thailand have tended to benefit neighbouring destinations, such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur (ibid.: 81).

In other examples, the end of tourism seems to be more durable, even though, as the Équipe MIT (Mobilities, Itineraries and Tourisms research group) points out, tourism wastelands are much less frequent than industrial or agricultural wastelands. These cases concern small, infra-local hotels and tourism installations rather than whole areas, as in the case of the Catskills in the United States from 1824 onwards (Brown, 1998). The expression “resort ruins” (Rostock and Franz Zadnicek, 1992; Löfgren, 1999) has become popular in accounts of tourism burnout. The case of Waulsort in the Haute Meuse (Belgium) did not simply concern a few facilities; the entire river town was gradually abandoned by tourists (Équipe Mit, 2011: 238). These abandonments generally arise from – aside from the disasters previously mentioned – major changes within tourism habits and practices. Frequented by the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, Waulsort was one of the most popular destinations in the region up until the First World War, alongside Spa, Namur and Dinant (ibid.). However, the emerging fashion for holidays in the sun and by warm seas put Waulsort out of the running as a destination – as was the case for many other North Sea and English Channel seaside resorts (ibid.: 239) – despite attempts in the 1970s to boost it by creating a camping and caravanning holiday village. In a matter of only a few years, Waulsort became “the archetype – practically unique on a resort scale – of archaeological tourism“. Drops in visitor numbers and hotel wastelands can also arise from international competition and local economic and regulatory constraints, as has been the case for French overseas departments (Gay, 2009).

Beginnings and ends of tourism: actors and processes

A number of different actors are involved in the development of tourism in ordinary areas. A political influence is present, but the mechanisms cannot just be reduced to political intervention. Partially sidestepping planning, the dynamics are often created by actors who do not perceive themselves to be part of the tourism sector. We therefore need to ask what role civil society actors play[3] in developing ordinary tourism or in the return of tourism areas to ordinary areas. If we think that civil society is forced to play a larger role in tourism activities, we come back to the way in which these dynamics challenge, or do not challenge, the oppositions on which tourism practices are based. Do the interpretative framework, provided by post-tourism theories, and the hypothesis of the de-differentiation of practices enable us to give an account of civil society’s involvement?

Non-tourism actors’ roles in developing tourism in ordinary areas

The role of local societies in tourism development has been documented for many years. Knafou (1991) pointed out that, alongside the contribution of celebrities to the general population’s discovery of tourism areas (for example, Brigitte Bardot in Saint-Tropez and the Duke of Monry in Deauville), local actors have also known how to showcase the interest shown in their villages and valleys by trailblazers in order to attract more visitors. For example, the people of Chamonix helped to forge their valley’s reputation by engraving in stone the names of the two men who discovered the Mer de Glace, Windham and Pococke, (ibid.: 14).

There are some examples to show that a “tourism invention” can function in the absence of any policy decision. In these contexts, the external gaze plays an important role in the promotion of a region. An area considered by some to be boring and to have few attractions may also be perceived in the same way by potential foreign visitors, who are able to contribute to reinforcing the attractiveness of a place purely through their interest in it (Knafou, 1991). This is the case for rural areas in Poitou-Charentes, which were promoted through the British visitors’ interest in them. Many British also bought houses far inland from the coasts and from the associated flow of tourists. Some of these new residents open tourist accommodation (gites, bed and breakfasts, etc.) and contribute to strengthening tourism in the countryside: “Far from leading to the end of tourism, British tourists’ residential use creates a change in gaze, a ‘yearning’ (Viard, 1998) for these areas that are of little interest to the French” (Sacareau, Vacher, Vye, 2013: 186).

Moreover, the case of second homes – often rented out during holiday periods – illustrates all the complexities of the connection between the formal and informal tourism sectors (Sacareau et al., 2013). Whether in France or abroad, second-home owners are gradually becoming involved in tourism development, operated on a bottom-up basis by actors who are external to the tourism sphere and who position themselves as such. The studies of Berriane and Nakhlis’ (2011) in Morocco thus show the gradual change in accommodation, which starts out as simple second homes and, first through the owners registration on home exchange websites and then by welcoming passing visitors, gradually transforms into commercial holiday accommodation. Civil society’s investment in the tourism sphere accompanies or is accompanied by a renewal of the values that guide tourism practices. The fact that they bypass the commercial tourism system by being in direct contact with private individuals appears to meet consumers’ expectations of authenticity and even of ethnics (Priskin and Sprakel, 2008): “by refusing to be a simple ‘consumer’, he or she [the tourist] will feel ‘invited’, as in the case of Couchsurfing, which presents itself as a vector of renewal in terms of travel – ‘real’ contact with people (in a non-virtual sense) that is focused on exchanges and reinvented hospitality” (Bourdeau, 2012).

In the case of urban tourism, it is also difficult to create a clear demarcation between civil society actors and tourism professionals, political decision-makers and economic actors. Sallet-Lavorel underlines the importance of participative tourism for developing tourism in “regions on the fringe of the main tourism flows” (Sallet-Lavorel, 2014). Participative tourism initiatives often come from associations. In Berlin, for example, there are 35 to 40 residents’ associations who are happy to talk about their city with tourists (ibid.). Startreisen Berlin was set up in 1983 by architects and historians who were collaborating on an East/West reconciliation. In the Paris region, the Accueil Banlieue association, which provides 31 bed and breakfast facilities, has also adopted a voluntary and active approach. However, these are not simply bottom-up initiatives, and the idea of taking part does not fully cover a clearly bottom-up logic. For example, setting up a greeters network in Mulhouse has come from a top-down decision. In 2011, the Business and Holiday Tourism Bureau set up a local branch network in an aim to involve the entire region in the tourism project. Even though initiators do not wish to be perceived as “rehashing alternative trends”, the fact remains that, if they are not to be perceived in this way, the “controlled” aspect of the operation had to be invisible (Colombo, 2014: 26). In the same way, setting up a greeters network in Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis through a joint CDT 93 (Comité Départemental de Tourisme, or Local Tourism Committee) and Parisian association called Parisien d’un Jour, actions “would never have happened without the help of public bodies and the CDT 93 initiative” (Duarte, 2014: 33). The desire to fulfil tourists’ expectations of meeting the real residents can, moreover, lead to intersected projects. The CAUE de Val-de Marne project (Council for Architecture, Town Planning and the Environment) trains young people from council estates to work as guides, helping people learn about their environment (Sallet-Lavorel, 2014). The project meets the double objective of developing regional tourism and enhancing the employability of young people.

Is the involvement of civil-society tourism on the increase?

Whilst the role played by local societies in the development of tourism areas has, therefore, been long documented, what is new is the fact that modern means of communication now make it easier for different actors to invest in the tourism sector. According to analyses from the field of the economics of culture, we are entering a new phase of tourism, which is characterised in particular by an increased consumer involvement in the creation of their own experiences. As Gombault pointed out, this new approach is thought to be “possible due to interactive web 2.0 technologies on social platforms and blogs, which result in (…) major democratisation of creation to the extent that the boundaries are blurred between the creators and the consumers, and traditional creators are forced to find new business models that trivialise creation and its diffusion” (2011: 22).

The internet, for example, provides direct links between holiday accommodation owners in tourism destinations and those who wish to holiday in the destinations (Fang, Ye and Law, 2016: 1). These exchanges may be of a commercial (Airbnb, for example) or non-commercial nature (Couchsurfing for example). In the latter case, the investment of individual actors (particularly in terms of their time) is substantial. This practice means sharing one’s private space and daily life (Schéou, 2013). The host has to organise their home to ensure it is suitable for welcoming guests, and they have to provide a guest area while still protecting their own personal space (ibid.: 101). They also have to be available to talk to, dine with and show their visitors the sights. They frequently become rather skilled guides of their own towns, although often their skills go unrecognised. In other cases, however, the involvement of private actors in tourist accommodation operates in a less direct manner.

Cassidy and Guilding (2009) used Australia as an example to point out that furnished apartments represent a growing proportion of holiday accommodation because of the internet. This sector accounted for 20% of tourist accommodation in 2005 and is expected to rise to closer to 60% in the near future (ibid.: 422). This accommodation is often owned by individual actors who are not involved in any other aspect of the tourist economy but who recognise a potentially viable investment in such a purchase. In general, furnished apartments are part of joint ownership residences and are managed by resident managers, who are not trained in tourism or recruited for their tourism skills. They do not define themselves as tourism actors in the sector even though they play an important role in hosting and providing information. Estate agents only refer to the potential tourism usage of this type of accommodation when prospecting to private investors (ibid.: 426).

Studies on social hospitality networks confirm that the use of furnished apartments is part of an approach that focuses on promoting authenticity and personal development, as previously mentioned (Duarte, 2014; Schéou, 2013). They also illustrate that these users wish, ultimately, to stand out from “simple tourists” (Schéou, 2014: 41). This importance of values is used by collaborative and participative accommodation and transport business promoters (carpooling, hospitality social networks) to promote their actions. Hence, the BlaBlaCar founder, Frédéric Mazzella (2015), states that beyond the ecological and financial gains of carpooling, his company is “proud to add another brick to the bastion of collaborative tourism, which creates human bonds that are strong” and “more authentic”. The network currently includes over 20 million people in 19 countries, and three new users out of four live outside of France. In response to this global development, Mazzella invites BlaBlaCar users to “carpool abroad” because “you can meet local people and add a splash of authenticity to your trip through exchanges that would otherwise have been difficult to spark up” (ibid.: 56). Furthermore, the company works with travel websites like Kayak and Liligo, and its founder is of the opinion that the main development opportunities of the future lie in tourism (ibid.: 57).

At the same time, these values are not new. The desire to see how the Other lives, which plays an important role in the motivation of couchsurfers, for example, is not new. As Schéou (2013) pointed out, the desire to take a look “backstage” had already been recognised by MacCannell in the 1970s as being one of the foundations of tourism practices.

Furthermore, a study of the economic models used by these collaborative businesses shows that they cannot be placed in opposition to the market. As highlighted by Hégron (2014), hospitality networks are generally organised around voluntary work. The Hospitality Club accommodation network was created not through fundraising but through Google advertising revenues. Its founder, Viet Kühne, refused to communicate on his advertising revenues, and some of his volunteers therefore left the network to create an alternative site BeWelcome. Couchsurfing also began as a non-profit organisation but became a commercial company in 2011, primarily financed by paid membership (ibid.). This commercialisation has also caused some heated reaction as well as the departure of many members in favour of Bewelcome, which remains, for the moment at least, an association under Law 1901.

Elements of a conclusion: a return to post-tourism and to the de-differentiation hypothesis

The development of tourism in ordinary areas and the diversification of tourism enclaves are thought to participate in a de-differentiation of tourism and non-tourism spheres relating to both the routine and the non-routine, which are characteristic of the new post-tourism era. The invention of tourism – especially when it applies to areas considered unattractive – very often goes through an enchantment process, which involves turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Have the oppositions that create the tourism experience – ordinary/extraordinary, nearby/faraway, exotic/familiar – been effectively challenged in the evolutions outlined above?

Spotting someone working at a computer through a window is “really cool” and going to the local supermarket has become an “incredible” experience (Maitland, 2013: 17). To give an account of this process, Maitland borrows Wynn’s expression of urban alchemy, which is defined as a process that “transforms the material of everyday experience into something else – that re-enchants the city and creates mutual attachment between the city and the tourists” (Wynn, 2010: 150, in Maitland, 2013: 17). In this case, the exercise of enchantment requires a geographical displacement inasmuch as the people interviewed are international tourists and temporary residents. The residents are probably not ready to see someone working in their office as being “extraordinary”.

The importance of the enchantment process and the change of gaze is also perceptible in the alternative visit to San Francisco that was proposed by Lubell, MacCannell and MacCannell (1998). This time, the formula was aimed at residents. Those who took the tour were invited to change their gaze on their city. One of the aims of the enterprise, as the organisers pointed out, was to “slow people down and bring them to consider mystery and surprise, as though they were hunters: the tunnel as though it were a cave, the exposure of the savannah-like polo fields, the enclosure and loss of direction in the woods and the discovery of possibility in the clearing” (ibid.: 147). As with more traditional tourism practices, these experiences are therefore based on the quest for the extraordinary, for the non-routine, whether this means that the tourist finds/creates the extraordinary in a familiar environment (like the San Francisco anti-tour) or turns the ordinary of the Other into the extraordinary for themselves (situations studied by Maitland).

Furthermore, in contrast to these experiences that promote the “mundane”, the development of tourism in nearby areas, especially in cities, can depend on making them exotic and developing a cultural Otherness, which is presented as being as great as that discovered on the other side of the world.

The new forms of accommodation are also challenging the boundaries between the routine and the non-routine. As previously mentioned, a daily living space needs to be provided in the case of Couchsurfing. However, the idea that these practices are participating in the end of tourism, marked by the erasure of boundaries between the ordinary and the extraordinary and the routine and the non-routine, needs to be clarified on several levels. First, Schéou (2013) reminds us that non-commercial accommodation is by no means new and has always been a major part of French tourists’ choice of accommodation. What is new here seems to be the idea that this accommodation is no longer offered by family or friends but by people previously unknown to the tourists. Furthermore, the approach does not participate in the elimination of the boundary between the ordinary and the non-ordinary. However, when tourists travel, they find themselves in a situation that represents a break from their daily routines and so the host’s ordinary becomes the tourist’s extraordinary. (ibid.: 108). If there is any confusion, it will perhaps be on the part of the host because their daily routine takes on an extraordinary aspect during their hosting periods (ibid.).

These experiences certainly question the relationship between the nearby and the faraway. However, at the same time, the exotic/familiar and ordinary/extraordinary oppositions continue to structure the experiences as well as the system of motivations of those who take part in them. Can these practices, which no longer necessitate geographical rupture or distance, be categorised as tourism? Or do we have to conclude instead that tourism measures have penetrated, or “infiltrated”, practices that are actually more leisure and recreational activities?

This question has received different replies from different authors. Vergopoulos, for example, rather than conclude that the guides[4] she had studied were non-touristic in nature, claimed that they contributed to redefining the socio-cultural world of tourism representations (Vergopoulos, 2013: 58): “When the geographical displacement imperative is removed, it [tourism] becomes a single (?) process of reconfiguring the times and spaces of everyday life, realised through a transformation of gaze exercise. It is, to coin Michel Foucault’s expression, some sort of ‘technologies of the self’, which enables the region to be reclaimed and inhabited in a positive manner” (ibid: 59). Hence, tourism is no longer thought to be just an “enchantment exercise” (ibid.) that is independent of geographical displacement. Conversely, rather than include these practices in the tourism sphere, the Équipe MIT suggests that they arise from a “non-tourism” situation albeit “certain aspects, behaviours and gestures have come from tourism practices. This is how ‘tourism’ referents spill over into ordinary situations” (Équipe MIT, 2011: 200). It should, moreover, be pointed out that the actors in these businesses situate themselves outside the tourism sphere. In the case of the Hôtel du Nord cooperative in Marseille, for example, the tourism labelling was discussed among the cooperative members (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015). This repression, or denial, of the term ‘tourism’ by businesses who like to think they are off-the-beaten-track may be strategic. Not presenting oneself as a tourism entrepreneur is one way of affirming one’s authenticity. Similarly, the involvement of local societies, which is presented as a gauge of authenticity, often happens in spite of the local societies, and this can create resentment and even active resistance (Gravari-Barbas and Delaplace, 2015). Inviting ideas of civil society and participation in alternative tourism businesses can therefore be envisaged as an instrument of legitimation.

Likewise, the collaborative and participative dimensions of accommodation networks are used as sales pitches without questioning the existence of a tourism system based on commercial exchange. Whilst carpooling websites and hospitality networks, for example, have often started up through initiatives that have no association with the financial sector and while they are based on an exchange of services between private individuals, it should be noted that these initiatives are always adopted by the market economy. The originality of BlaBlaCar today, a startup which became a global scaleup, grouping together over 300 “collaborators” (Mazzella, 2015), comes not from a non-commercial model but from the modern business culture on which it is constructed, based most notably on a horizontal rather than vertical management system.

Furthermore, new technologies and the ways in which they are used to connect private individuals within the tourism framework do not necessarily pose a threat to the traditional hotel industry (Blondeau, 2015). Studies on the emergence of Airbnb provision reveal that the global hotel sector as a whole is not under threat (Fang, Ye, Law, 2016). Only the lowest cost provisions are in direct competition (ibid.). Furthermore, the Airbnb provision is, in reality, seen as an engine for the tourism sector insofar as it implies a carry-over of spending to areas other than accommodation, especially to the restaurant sector.

Hence, the idea that new ways of doing tourism (using the greeters network and the non-commercial) participate in blurring the boundaries or in de-differentiating practices must be qualified. As claimed by Girard (2013), the idea of blurred boundaries could partly come from a vision effect linked to the fact that, in the construction of tourism as a subject in the social sciences and in order to legitimise a nascent field of study, we have been led to exaggerate the distinctions between tourism and non-tourism even though tourism practices have always been transverse. Describing these dynamics as being founded on a form of de-differentiation of the tourism and non-tourism spheres, marked by an increasing societal involvement (understood as all actors except for those from commercial or political institutions), is not enough to give an account of the new forms of economic organisations being put in place. This is, in part, reigniting a discourse that tends to promote these new forms of organisation for political and financial ends (on the grounds that these businesses are more authentic because they are self-organised).


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[1] Source: Les Promenades Urbaines:


[3] As Pirotte concludes (2007): “Civil society is often broken down into characterisations that vary in accuracy. It distinguishes itself from the state, the market, the church and even from military society“. Like this author, we think that it is important to maintain a critical distance regarding the term “civil society” which appears to be mainly used to legitimatise “good” projects or practices because of the positive aspects it conveys.

[4] Travel guides inviting Parisian inhabitants to become tourists “in their own homes” and to adopt another gaze on their environment.


Aurélie Condevaux, EIREST, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University
Géraldine Djament-Tran, University of Strasbourg, EIREST
Maria Gravari-Barbas, EIREST, EIREST, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University
Translation French > English
Bureau de traduction, Université de Bretagne Occidental