Change or loss of indigenous identity and values

Tourism can cause change or loss of local identity and values, brought about by several closely related influences:

  • Commodification: Tourism can turn local cultures into commodities when religious rituals, traditional ethnic rites and festivals are reduced and sanitised to conform to tourist expectations, resulting in what has been called "reconstructed ethnicity".
  • Standardisation: Destinations risk to be standardised in the process of satisfying tourists' desires for familiar facilities. While landscape, accommodation, food and drinks, etc., must meet the tourists' desire for the new and unfamiliar, they must at the same time not be too new or strange because few tourists are actually looking for completely new things. Tourists often look for recognisable facilities in an unfamiliar environment, like well-known fast-food restaurants and hotel chains.
  • Loss of authenticity and staged authenticity: Adapting cultural expressions and manifestations to the tastes of tourists or even performing shows as if they were "real life" constitutes "staged authenticity". As long as tourists just want a glimpse of the local atmosphere, a quick glance at local life, without any knowledge or even interest, staging will be inevitable.
  • Adaptation to tourist demands: Tourists want souvenirs, arts, crafts, and cultural manifestations, and in many tourist destinations, craftsmen have responded to the growing demand, and have made changes in design of their products to bring them more in line with the new customers' tastes. While the interest shown by tourists also contributes to the sense of self- worth of the artists, and helps conserve a cultural tradition, cultural erosion may occur due to the commodification of cultural goods.

Based on UNEP Production and Consumption Unit Tourism Programme

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