All around the world, especially in those domains inhabited by readers of Lonely Planet publications, a fine (or sometimes not so fine) distinction is drawn between "tourists" and "travellers". Almost always, "tourists" are "them", while "travellers" are "us". Tourists are somebody you can look down on, from the height of your greater awareness, cultural sensitivity, or superior poverty. In the old days, the term "pilgrim" described not only people who went to places like Mecca, Jerusalem or Rome, but also those on the "road of life". It seems to me that all travellers are tourists and vice-versa. Anthropologists too are just tourists with a more professional attitude, intent on telling others what they have found in their in-depth investigations and placing it in an academic framework. If you want to get to the bottom of this whole topic---with all the various ramifications---then you must read MacCannell's book, an essay in the (OK, somewhat arcane) field of the Anthropology of Tourism. It is not a bedtime reading book, but will stimulate plenty of thought.
The author takes the tourist as a model of modern man. He engages in a very effective piece of structural analysis; more effective in my opinion than any ever created by the Old Master, Claude Levi-Strauss. A reader of THE TOURIST will come away having understood everything, not totally baffled by mountains of jargon. The pre-modern world has not disappeared, it has been turned into zillions of tourist attractions. We, the seekers, pilgrims, or, if you like, the tourists, try to get close to the roots of our civilization, to our own origins, by visiting and looking at packaged versions of the past. Where pre-modern societies still exist to some extent, for example, among the hill tribes of Thailand, tourists make great efforts to visit them and, significantly, try their utmost to ensure that their visits are not "packaged" but "real". The tourist wants to penetrate and share the lives of "others", others who are so distinct from ourselves. Tourist satisfaction may be directly correlated to how "authentic" the experience seems to the visitors. That's why having the authentic Hungarian peasant's dinner is important. Unfortunately, you can't really share that dinner if you are travelling with forty other pilgrims in search of authenticity on a large bus. But advertising, as always, can work wonders! Fake authenticity has become the norm.
MacCannell discusses such serious topics as "commodity and symbol", "cultural productions and work groups" and how these relate to work. In subsequent chapters, entitled "Sightseeing and Social Structure", "The Paris Case: Origins of Alienated Leisure", "Staged Authenticity", "A Semiotic of Attraction", "The Ethnomethodology of Sightseers", and "Structure, Genuine and Spurious", the author covers a wide variety of fascinating subjects in a brilliant book which will definitely succeed in making you view tourism in a different way forever afterwards. The pages are crammed with insights, analysis, good examples and interesting observations. This book is the classic work of the Anthropology of Tourism. If you are starting out in the field or are just interested in thinking about tourism in modern life, this is your book. If you are a tourist along the byways of Amazon.com, you might consider making a stop here. You will not find less than an authentic gem.