Communication Tourism and Intercultural Communication
Bal Krishna Sharma
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 July 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0260


Tourism as a global economic activity utilizes communication to create and represent cultural differences between the tourist and the Other through various media and spaces, despite the fact that such differences have become weaker and deterritorialized due to transnational mobility and globalization. Tourism communication reinscribes ethnocultural stereotypes, and this action is often motivated by a quest for cultural authenticity in the Other. The Other commodifies its cultural stereotypes with various discursive and semiotic tools and is often motivated by the exchange value of its cultural identity. Most previous scholarship on global tourism communication focused on North-South tourism mobilities, based on the stereotypical image of the tourist as an English-speaking white male. The recent demographic shift in world tourism presents us with a different picture. There are touristic encounters between people who move from one part of the Global South to another, and English does not necessarily serve as the default language of communication in these exchanges. There is also a shift in theoretical orientation in understanding what intercultural communication entails. Instead of treating culture and interculturality as essentially determined by broad variables such as nationality or ethnicity, attention is now given to the process that individuals engage in and perform via communication. Although there are some scholars who view intercultural communication in tourism as a positive force in raising people’s cross-cultural awareness, recent scholarship is mostly informed by a critical lens in that tourism is used to (re)produce, maintain, and justify relationships of inequality between the traveler and the local. A critical focus on intercultural communication provides important insights into our understanding of contemporary tourism and its situatedness within broader societal structures of power and ideologies.

General Overviews

Culture in tourism has been approached from heterogeneous disciplinary orientations, but it is difficult to find any systematic book-length study of intercultural communication in tourism. Jack and Phipps 2005 provides a broad picture of the intercultural nature of tourism encounters. McMullen 2017 reviews several areas of intercultural communication research in tourism. Diverse disciplines in social sciences, linguistics, and marketing have approached intercultural communication in tourism from slightly different perspectives. Sociology and anthropology scholarship has treated tourism communication as part of a general intercultural engagement between the traveler and the host/local. Bruner 2005 and MacCannell 2013 discuss how tourists and locals perform their identities by engaging in performances to create and consume authentic tourist experiences, respectively. Edensor 2008 focuses on how various tourism stakeholders orchestrate their activities to create tourist spaces. Salazar 2010 offers a compelling discussion on how tour guides mediate the tourist and the local, sometimes by reconstructing ethnicity. Intercultural communication research in marketing has focused on the saliency of national and cultural characteristics of tourists for a business purpose. Reisinger 2009 discusses tourist behaviors and expectations for operating a successful tourism business. Scholarship in sociolinguistics and discourse analysis has shown that interculturality is a discursively constructed phenomenon observed in various communicative genres and contexts. Thurlow and Jaworski 2010 and Jaworski, et al. 2014 offer analyses of diverse tourism genres to understand the cultural and economic consequences of global tourism. Baider, et al. 2004 focuses on the discourses of identity and otherness in tourism discourse. Likewise, chapters in Bielenia-Grajewska and Cortes de los Rios 2017 offer empirical analysis of diverse tourism discourses, including chapters on communicative challenges in tourism translation. Chapters in Held 2018 turn specific attention to how linguistic and semiotic resources are dynamically adapted to create cultural experience in tourism.

  • Baider, Fabienne, Marcel Burger, and Dionysis Goutsos, eds. 2004. La communication touristique: Approches discursives de l’identité et de l’altérité. Paris: L’Harmattan.

    This book, written in French, includes several chapters that analyze the role of language and discourse in tourist communication. The chapters use semiotic and multimodal analysis frameworks to investigate cultural stereotypes and ideologies. They also attend to the roles played by gender, ethnicity, and culture in tourist communication.

  • Bielenia-Grajewska, Magdalena, and Enriqueta Cortes de los Rios, eds. 2017. Innovative perspectives on tourism discourse. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

    The book offers a succinct linguistic and discourse analysis of diverse tourism communication genres, and also addresses challenges in intercultural communication and translation in tourism encounters.

  • Bruner, Edward M. 2005. Culture on tour: Ethnographies of travel. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    This book draws examples from Africa, the Middle East, the United States, and Indonesia, and provides a rich ethnographic account of cultural performances by locals for tourists, as well as the cultural and political significance of such performances.

  • Edensor, Tim. 2008. Tourists at the Taj: Performance and meaning at a symbolic site. London and New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203010655

    This book offers a succinct account of how tourist spaces are orchestrated by various actors, such as tour manager, guides, and tourists.

  • Held, Gudrun, ed. 2018. Strategies of adaptation in tourist communication: Linguistic insights. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    This edited collection offers analysis of a range of communicative practices (e.g., guidebooks, travelogues, print advertising, and TV commercials) in order to understand how they turn places into desirable tourist destinations.

  • Jack, Gavin, and Alison Phipps. 2005. Tourism and Intercultural Exchange: Why Tourism Matters. Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications.

    DOI: 10.21832/9781845410193

    This book discusses the intercultural life of tourists as they engage in various tourism activities.

  • Jaworski, Adam, and Annette Pritchard, eds. 2005. Discourse, communication, and tourism. Clevedon, UK: Channel View Publications.

    This collection takes a social semiotic approach and analyzes tourism texts, performances, representations, and spaces in the context of communication studies.

  • Jaworski, Adam, Crispin Thurlow, and Monica Heller, eds. 2014. Special issue: Sociolinguistics and tourism. Journal of Sociolinguistics 18.4.

    This special issue includes three empirical articles, an introduction, and a discussion commentary. The issue aims to establish and extend “sociolinguistics of tourism” as an emerging domain of research in sociolinguistics, situating it within a broader discussion of the sociolinguistics of late modernity.

  • MacCannell, Dean. 2013. The tourist: A new theory of the leisure class. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    The author examines the quest for authenticity as a transformative influence on modern travel. In addition, he discusses high versus low cultures and the construction of a social world in tourism. Originally published 1976.

  • McMullen, Melissa. 2017. Tourism and intercultural communication. In The international encyclopedia of intercultural communication. Edited by Young Yun Kim, 1–9. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

    DOI: 10.1002/9781118783665.ieicc0075

    This chapter provides an overview of intercultural communication in tourism, with a discussion of culture shock experienced by tourists, language use in tourist destinations, and tourism promotional materials.

  • Reisinger, Yvette. 2009. International tourism: Cultures and behavior. Oxford: Elsevier.

    This book provides a general discussion of cultural differences in tourist behaviors based on nationalities, and provides important insights for marketing tourism.

  • Salazar, Noel B. 2010. Envisioning Eden: Mobilizing imaginaries in tourism and beyond. New Directions in Anthropology 31. New York: Berghahn Books.

    This book is an ethnography of tour guiding, with special attention given to the question of how tour guides act as intermediaries in tourism encounters.

  • Thurlow, Crispin, and Adam Jaworski. 2010. Tourism discourse: Language and global mobility. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    This book analyzes diverse tourism communication genres, with a focus on understanding how tourism is discursively produced and represented globally.

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