Sex and Tourism: Journeys of Romance, Love and Lust

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



Ingram, H. (2004), "Sex and Tourism: Journeys of Romance, Love and Lust", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 273-274.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

There is often a tension in society between the importance placed by psychology on sex and the extent to which many of us want to talk about it. The contention of Bauer and McKercher in this edited book is that romance and sex plays a major role as a reason to travel and stay in hotels. This can be positive and mutually beneficial in, for example, family holidays and backpacking, and even more important for a honeymoon or a singles' cruise. There is, however, a dark side in commercial sex tours and child sex tourism. As students, academics or practitioners, we should be aware of the link between sex and tourism, and this book sets out some of the issues objectively, without taking moral standpoints.

Armed with this understanding, practitioners can understand how the hospitality and tourism operators provide the setting, context and venue for romantic encounters. Holidays are, after all, an opportunity to do things they would not normally do at home, and are escapes from the humdrum of everyday life. This means that certain behaviours are more tolerated than at home, in an anonymous context, and this can provide problems for the hospitality operator. Management needs to facilitate enjoyment by guests, while keeping behaviour within certain bounds for the sake of all residents. This is a difficult path for hotel operators to tread, requiring fine judgement on setting bounds on unacceptable behaviour, while trying not to give offence. There is often a link between sexual and alcohol‐related behaviour, especially with young people, which can have serious personal, environmental and cultural effects.

As travel opportunities become more easily available, especially in Western societies, so there are more varied reasons for tourism. One such phenomenon is that of Western men who travel to Thailand and find romance with a Thai girl, or go purposely to seek a wife. Erik Cohen suggests that such transnational marriages can be affected by tensions because of cultural and social differences.

From the accommodation provider's viewpoint, Leo Jago argues that sex tourism has become a pejorative term; nevertheless, male business travellers away on business have the reputation for employing prostitutes. He suggests that motels especially are often the venue for accommodation in which there is sexual activity, which cannot be monitored by management, and which he terms “the hot pillow” trade. Some moteliers actively exploit this market by providing services such as videos, theme rooms and vibrating beds. Again, there is a need for such operators to be judgemental and to display discretion.

Chapters on the dark side of sex tourism include the trafficking of Nepali girls for Indian brothels (Nina Rao), the deadly combination of AIDS and tourism (Jerome F. Agrusta), sex tourism in Cambodia (Paul Leung). The final chapter about ending child sex tourism (Christine Beddoe) is the only one in the book which takes a moral stance against unacceptable sexual practices and asks for hotels and guest houses to keep an eye out for unaccompanied children.

In summary, this is surprisingly an interesting book, which at first glance might be regarded as an excuse to celebrate erotic tourism. Rather, it broaches a subject which, at least in Europe, is often regarded as taboo, in a scholarly and illuminating way.

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