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date: 18 October 2017

Tourism and Intergroup Communication

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.

Tourism connects people across geographical, chronological, and cultural borders. In Henri Tajfel’s terms, it is a prime example of intergroup process where collective and interpersonal factors play major roles. People become tourists to fulfill their self-derived motivations, including sensation-, novelty-, and pleasure-seeking, or even good will. Their motivations to travel are influenced by group-related factors, such as media portrayals of the destination and the sense of connectedness to the place of visit. Moreover, contextual variables, such as the presence of diplomatic relations or the level of peace and security, should indicate whether the borders are permeable and open to the tourists, and if the destination is accessible as a viable option for them to visit. Needless to say, simply wanting to be different from one’s everyday selves or desiring to be in a different environment are legitimate reasons for one to be a tourist.

Tourists have contact with other people at various phases of their travel to and from their destinations. Through contact, tourists as guests communicate with their hosts, who are local residents of the destination and tourism-related service providers. Guest-host contact often takes place in limited contexts, and tends to be fleeting, non-intimate, and power-structured, often cast in a “they-us” frame. However, such contact can ultimately bring important social consequences to the tourists and to the destination.

Communication accommodation holds an important key to some of the major outcomes of host-guest contact. Accommodation involves adjustment of one’s linguistic and non-linguistic behaviors during communication for smooth interaction and social approval from others. Successful contact through accommodation can bring positive outcomes to the communicators such as an increase in positive attitudes toward the other and advances in intercultural communication competence, while exploitation, deception, and maintenance of power-differentiated relations are also likely associated with communication accommodation. Likewise, contact between tourists and local residents has potential to contribute to long-term changes in the macro cultural milieu of the destination, including the resurgence or erosion of the traditional culture and languages, increased presence of foreign languages, and building of peaceful relationships between societies, all of which in turn become precursors to the further development of tourism.