Frontiers of Tourism

Tourism in its actual form questions frontiers on various ways. As an unnecessary phenomenon (Urbain, 2011) which is particularly indicative of our society, it touches to a range of practices deployed in space and time and involve various actors who interact within or beyond their cultural frames. As it has been examined through multiple disciplinary perspectives (geography, economy, sociology, etc.) for a long time, tourism may seem to be a well known object for social sciences. However, it is a far from immutable phenomenon that changes and is continually reinvented, according to our societies’ evolutions, aspirations and interests of the individuals they are formed of, as well as territories where tourism takes place. Key elements usually contributing to tourism definition such as time, space, practices, actors and cultures are indeed in mutation, thus challenging the limits between categories that define a constantly changing phenomenon. In this regard, a recently observed tendancy is that of an affirmation of post-tourism as theorized by John Urry (1995), consisting of a difficulty to distinguish between tourism in its classic sense and everyday-life because of their growing intermingling. This invites us to question the limit between tourism activities on the one hand, which are supposed to be extra-ordinary, and everyday activities on the other hand.


In everyday language as well as in geography, the term « frontier » has multiple significations. In the military vocabulary, it refers to a contact zone with enemy forces - front - ; but it also have a political sense referring to a state’s territory limit based on natural obstacles or arbitrary decisions. It is more generally a dividing line between two different entities that it separates. However and far from necessarily meaning a closure, frontiers mark a discontinuity also permitting exchanges. Finally, it refers in the figurative sense to spaces to discover or conquer and so to the different steps taken in human knowledge.


Questionning the frontiers of tourism thus implies for young searchers to be interested in the limits between tourism and non-tourism in relation to the elements that structure this phenomenon. The point is on the one hand to try and delineate this multidimentional, complex and in perpetual mutation object. This must be done in terms of space, time, actors as well as cultures. On the other hand, it would be interesting to explore the polysemy of « frontier », as the term has a heuristic value. It prompts researchers to engage with liminal situations or in other words with limits of their research object, while at the same time encouraging them to take interest in contact zones with other topics. Indeed, if frontiers may sometimes be based on observable facts (« natural » frontiers), they may also be based on arbitrary assumptions (artificial frontiers), the questioning of which allows to reach new spaces of research. Finally, the theme of frontiers of tourism also touches disciplinary limits as well as limits of the means deployed to analyze this complex phenomenon.

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