Ryan, C. (2008), "Quality Tourism Experiences", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 235-236. https://doi.org/10.1108/09596110810852203
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
While the book contains essays from 17 different authors it maintains a sense of a holistic whole by reason of the active collaboration between the authors who met in 2003 in addition to chance meetings at various conferences, and who co‐authored across different chapters. This sense of unity is a compliment to the editors as the book seeks to weave two different sets of concerns. The first relates to the subject matter. Tourism experiences, it is stated, are social constructs and thus only have meaning when considering the tourist's interpretation of place and activity. To do this requires an understanding of the context of being a tourist, and the role of other variables that impact upon the tourist's interpretation of place and purpose of trip. Therefore, the book contains thoughts on the role of mass media and management of place. Linked to this latter issue are considerations of what constitutes a “quality experience” of place on the part of residents, and reference is here made to quality of life indices. Additionally the book includes chapters that refer to equity and political processes; an aspect of tourism that is often overlooked.
The second theme that permeates the book is the role of different research paradigms and the ways in which they impact upon our own understandings of tourism as a social, economic and environmental phenomenon. This is possibly best stated in the earlier chapters of the book, and there is a tendency to move from the wider sociological considerations of the earlier chapters to a less critical stance of quantitative based empirical positivism as the book progresses, although a final chapter by the second of the editors tries to pull the diverse themes into a unitary diagram – itself surely an acceptance of some form of meta‐narrative that some schools of thought that are earlier alluded to would regard as a negation of some of the earlier statements of specificity and diversity of experience. To this reviewer's mind this second theme was a slightly less successful feature of the book, but equally this reviewer believes that heroic failure is much better than limited ambition!
Within such a wide overview of tourism there are bound to be some omissions, and criticisms might be directed at the absence of various concepts or frameworks of analysis. Thus one might argue that the book tends to the sociological rather than the psychological, or that there are omissions in, just for example, some key texts relating to politics in tourism (e.g. by Hall), but these would be relatively minor given the more major achievement of creating a text that attempts a contextualization of tourism that is wider than normal. I am sure each reader will identity their own omissions, but surely it is a value of the book that such readers would then possess a better context and be able to reach beyond their own “pet theories” to a more inclusive understanding of tourism?
One comment that, as a reviewer, I do feel bound to make is that the publishers include comments on the dust jacket from a series of distinguished colleagues as to the quality of the book. These comments speak highly of the book and serve to demonstrate how fortunate we are as a body of scholars that we are generally supportive of each others' efforts. The down side of the comments was that they made me expect more than perhaps could be delivered within 253 pages, and thus my own experience of reading the text was one of initial disappointment that possibly there was little that was actually new in the text. I then realized that what was new was the attempt to weave together so much in a readily accessible way. Consequently this is a book I would recommend for students toward the end of their second year of a degree when they have an understanding of the complexities of tourism, wish to have directions as to what wider patterns exist and require a text to encourage critical thinking to better inform their final year of studies. Many such students would gain enormously from this book. The book is thus useful and makes a positive contribution in making students aware of the wider debate that surrounds tourism in a post‐modern world.