Why do tourists frequent artificial places when they want authenticity?

Why do tourists frequent artificial places when they want authenticity?

How about a stay on an artificial floating vegetated island comprising a restaurant, a lounge bar, a beach club, or even a heated freshwater swimming pool? This was what the project proposed Canua Island, designed to accommodate up to 350 customers. Lack of navigation authorization, the boat remains for the time being blocked at the port of La Seyne-sur-Mer in the Var, under the fire of social and ecological criticism. On June 13, the founders of the project declare that they have up.

The island embodies what is called in geography le "simulation tourism". Exploiting the artifice, it is practiced in spaces detached from the geographical, climatic or cultural specificities of the place of their establishment. Even denounced, he knows a global development as evidenced by various other projects such as the idea of ​​a giant tropical greenhouse (the largest in the world) Tropicalia in Berck-sur-Mer or a reproduction of a Croatian quarter in the German leisure park Europa-Park. For spaces already built, success is often at the rendezvous. THE Beauval ZooParc was, for example, forced to suspend reservations in May 2023. The frequentation of major French leisure parks should, in 2023, exceed the records of 2022.

How to analyze this paradox, this coexistence between two contradictory movements? Beyond the Canua Island case, criticism targets mass tourism and moreover encourage certain specialists to propose a reinventing the sector and calling into question the objectives of conquest and excess to prefer approaches that value people, ecology and authenticity. The quest for the latter is established both by vocational studies only by recherches. Despite this, the triumph of fake also invites us to take an interest in the attraction of this simulation tourism.

Authentic copy or original reality?

By transcending nature and cultural tourism, simulation tourism concerns both animal parks, artificial islands or even prehistoric caves reconstituted as Lascaux IV ou Chauvet 2. It is not, in fact, strictly incompatible with the quest for authenticity. It is sometimes a form ofstaged authenticity by professionals to meet the expectations of individuals wishing to live experiences different from those of their daily lives which would remain marked by inauthenticity.

The Lascaux IV cave, an integral facsimile of the cave discovered in 1940, opened its doors to the public on December 15, 2016. JanManu/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

To better understand the attraction exercised by this tourism, we can invoke the notion of simulation, also called "hyperreality". It designates a reality, different from material reality, which leads to no longer distinguishing the true from the false. Two types of hyperreality oppose each other: that which constitutes an authentic or "improved" copy of material reality and that which corresponds to an original reality.

The phenomenon of hyperreality is a dimension of postmodernity that refers to a structural change of the individual and society. This is particularly linked to a disenchantment produced by the socio-economic crisis of the second half of the XNUMXth century.e century. It resulted in the appearance of paradoxical consumption practices.

Spectacular in complete safety

Hyperreal offers thus present desired benefits by some individuals. They offer authenticity, certainly at a discount, but less risky that "true" authenticity, without all the cons existing in reality. Tropical Islands, a water park in Berlin, seems for example more attractive than a real island with stifling heat and full of insects. These offers of a sanitized world allow to safely live experiences providing multiple sensations. THE disney parks also promise extreme sensations while controlling them.

Hyperreality also makes it possible to stage disproportionate dimensions to offer spectacularity because the spectacular gives pleasure. All the cabins of the largest liner in the world, theIcon of the Seas are so reserved while it is still under construction!

It also gives individuals the opportunity to immerse themselves in consumption experiences because hyperreality exploits projective concepts. During a colloque, researchers have hypothesized that immersion would be facilitated by the security feeling procured. Moreover, it would be all bigger than hyperreal offers are unfaithful to the real world, because the individual is not obliged to respect the limits that this world imposes. Wild Planet, in Loire-Atlantique, thus proposes to live the "sensational adventure of an African safari".

The landlocked and secure nature of hyperreal offers has led to them being qualified as "tourist bubbles". Their number should grow because of the importance given by some individuals to the perceived risk and the feeling of security.

Bubbles coming out of the tourist field

Beyond that, these offers constitute opportunities for professionals that can satisfy people's expectations and produce experiences capable of re-enchanting the consumer. Consumption and leisure thus merge in the framework fun shopping ou retail entertainment as does Planet Ocean at Odysseum Mall Montpellier. It is also about bringing together the experiences of individuals to respond to their desire to live multiple experiences, even if the local characteristics are unsuitable. Typically, doing Skiing in Dubai.

The African plain of the Beauval zoo in the Loir-et-Cher. Daniel Jolivet/FlickR, CC BY-SA

The idea can also be less mercantile: contribute to the preservation of spaces fragile was for example at the origin of the realization of the Chauvet Cave 2 ; the ZooParc de Beauval participates in a panda conservation program. Beyond that, there is an objective of public education.

Our limit such offers nevertheless appear very quickly: environmental impact, artificialization of land, incentive for individuals to no longer wish to face the difficulties of the real world and lead them to no longer be able to differentiate the true from the false... Realities from false, such as queues, can also prove less pleasant than what might be experienced in reality. The commodification of almost everything and the standardization of the planet resulting from an excessive exploitation of hyperreality can trigger behaviors of resistance on the part of some people in the face of a "disappropriation" of their life.

All this invites us to recommend a moderation of the use of hyperreality in the era ofAnthropocene. These recommendations are all the more important as the concept of an artificial bubble is used in other sectors such as residential housing to give rise to gated communities (closed communities): the private city Celebration in Florida was originally created by the Disney group. The project Pangeos, this giant 8 billion dollar yacht in the shape of a turtle, also mixes in its own way tourism and residential housing for 60 people. It illustrates the race for excess provoked by hyperreality which leads to the offer ofextravaganzas.

Laurence Graillot, Lecturer in Management Sciences (marketing) - HDR, University of Burgundy - UBFC

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Image credit: Shutterstock/Octopus16

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