Tourism and romantic myths of nature

The evolution of a discursive relationship

Authored by: Tony Seaton

The Routledge Handbook of Tourism and the Environment

Print publication date:  July  2012
Online publication date:  August  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415582070
eBook ISBN: 9780203121108
Adobe ISBN: 9781136325564


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The late Raymond Williams once described nature as ‘perhaps the most complex word in the English language’. (Williams 1976). It is also a concept that has profoundly influenced the evolution of tourism, and debate about its environmental effects. The varied meanings and ideologies associated with nature have influenced the development of tourism fashions for: sun bathing and seaside resorts; walking, hiking and backpacking; camping and caravanning; mountaineering; seeking out locations – with paintbrush, camera or video recorders – to turn into picture opportunities and collectible ‘views’; and as places to stay. Ideas and beliefs about nature are embodied in many attitudes to tourism including: meeting the ‘natives’ or ‘locals’ on cultural tourism tours; seeking spiritual and emotional solace in ‘unspoiled’ spaces located among rivers, streams, woods and fields; and marvelling at the inanimate grandeur of wildernesses of desert, snow, ice or rock. And, increasingly, it is beliefs about the auratic importance of nature as a spiritual presence, and as a crucial, physical sustainer of life on the planet, that have produced passionate debate about environmental conservation, including critiques of tourism and its future directions.

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