Authenticity in Tourism

As tourism  products are highly intangible and many people travel in order to gain new experiences, authenticity obviously is vital for the whole industry. I started reading the paper “Authenticity of Tourist Products” by Ahmad Zamil Zakaria to understand what authenticity in tourism is about. According to Zakaria “Authenticity could be defined as a product or representation of the particular culture or heritage which produced it.”.  Furthermore he claims that authenticity always depends on the individual tourist and on the environment/ destination that he is visiting.

Personally I believe that experiencing authenticity is not easy if you go book for example a package holiday. The average tourist who probably goes to a sea destination for 7 or 14 days will spend most of the holiday within the resort or club hotel. The provided food and beverage is likely to be similar to the food that guests eat at home, staff members will try to give guests the chance to speak in their mother tongue and the music and entertainment will also be tailored to the average European taste. If people however decide to go to places off the beaten track they might not be successful as such areas won’t always be accessible. MacCannell  (1973) described a phenomenon called “staged authenticity” were local understand that tourists want to visit traditional places and create a kind of “faked” authenticity only for satisfying tourists. Some experts also argue that tourists often know that it is not possible or extremely difficult to encounter real authenticity and therefore are fine with activities that are obviously just developed to entertain tourists and don’t have much to do with real authenticity. (, 2010)

In the future tourists probably won’t be satisfied by observing “authenticity” as a performance on a stage in their hotel or in a setting that is only created for them and I also think that locals won’t be willing to just “sell” their culture.
Hence, I believe that integrating real authentic experiences in tourism products will be vital for the tourism industry.


–        MacCannel, Dean. “Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of Social Space in Tourist Settings”.  The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 79, No. 3 (Nov., 1973), pp. 589-603

–        Zakaria, Ahmad Zamil. “Authenticity of Tourist Products”.


cheers, Robert

2 Responses to “Authenticity in Tourism”

  1. Livia Cravos says:

    “The provided food and beverage is likely to be similar to the food that guests eat at home, staff members will try to give guests the chance to speak in their mother tongue…” Robert writes. It is the sad truth. Often I hear people saying: “Oh you don’t have to learn that language, they speak English/German,”.
    I don’t like that, because I actually travel to other countries to learn something about its’ culture or maybe to learn simply words of its’ languages.
    What belongs “food and beverage”, as Robert already wrote, people who are spending their holidays in resorts, let’s say in Greece, will rarely get the chance to taste the local food. When those tourists come back home, they will tell their friends and family, that the food in Greece is not so different then in their home country. They will say, it is not true what they heard or read in the media about the food in Greece. So these tourists won’t bring back home new experiences about food or language…

  2. Nicola Herrmann says:

    Dear robert!
    I just read you blog entry and I think your argument are very true and very frustrating as well.
    You already mentioned that real authenticity is not easy to access. This is certainly true. I wanted to ad though that another issue is that people in fact cannot always perceive a difference between real and fake authenticity. It is obvious that a person who never experienced a country in an authentic way would not be able to do so. This is way this whole principle using the §fake authenticity” works in the first place, if you ask me.

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