Places, not destinations

After several years of reading and thinking about tourism, I’ve decided I dislike the term “destination”.

I don’t mind “you will reach your final destination by early evening”, i.e. point of arrival.  But when applied to villages, towns, cities, islands, parks and other protected areas, peninsulas, and whole countries…  urgh!

OK, the word is widely-used because it is useful to us, but therein lies my niggling discomfort with “destinations” in academia and business parlance:  it reflects the generally industrial use of places by travel, tourism and associated industries, otherwise described as commodification.

You’ve probably enjoyed visiting many destinations, but ask yourself this, “would I want to live in a destination?”.

Maybe I’m being quirky or just plain semantic-pedantic, but just as most genuinely happy holidaymakers come back from their travels talking about experiences and not travel products–I think most people are interested in places and not destinations.  And while we’re on the topic, they are also interested in the people that help make those places come alive, not the professionals that planned some well-integrated destination infrastructure.

In short, people live in places, tourists go to destinations, and I, like many other visitors to places, would prefer to be treated as a person and not identified as a tourist.

Let’s talk more about places and less about the other.

4 Comments on “Places, not destinations”

  1. Richard Barden says:

    I went to southern India with an old friend in February. We are both OAPs and we did not consider the trip a ‘holiday’ but a journey [in more senses than one] and a learning experience.
    We visited a number of ‘destinations’ on a pre-planned route but we considered ourselves visitors as much as ‘tourists’.
    We met a lot of people ; on trains boats and in a car. Our travel representive in the deep south became a corrspondent over a period of months. He thought of us as much as guests as tourists which relfected the philosophy of his small company. We even wrote a fived-page, constructive evaluation for him after our return. He appreciated it.

    Reconceptualising the ideas of a ‘destination’ or of being a ‘tourist’ would be helpful to professionals in the tourist business if they want to find a closer match between what many potential ‘clients ‘ are really looking for and the language and thinking of the travel INDUSTRY.
    i even feel it will makeECONOMIC sense in the future if they made this close match.

    • senseourway says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      Perhaps, owing to your more philosophical approach to your “journey”, you enjoyed visiting places — as they are — and not a series of destinations — “designed” or contrived for your “enjoyment” as a consumer.

      This then leads us to the notion of the authenticity or integrity of places — who makes places “happen” (or only succeeds in making sterile places where our potential for enrichment is flattened); who is marginalised, absent or forgotten?

  2. marukomuc says:

    I think you’ve probably pinpointed the root of my distress when I visited Thailand in January. It is a vicious circle of course. There a certainly thousands of tourists who arrive in Thailand on the basis of the reductionist commoditisation implied in the word destination. As disappointing as it is for me to then be treated as an anonymous consumer, that must pale into insignificance in comparison to the disappointment Thais must feel in their encounters with tourists.
    I was heartened to read Naomi Klein (The Shock Doctrine) describing the Thai locals reclaiming their villages in the face of tourism takeover after the tsunami but that could well become very polarised and block the more authentic intercultural experiences you’re implying?
    I’m looking forward to some more answers!

  3. […] In a previous post called for conversations on places rather than destinations. […]

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