The tourist bubble- presenting a place to a visitor

#tourism #destination #touristbubble #experiencescape

In my previous blogs, I have dealt with the concept of a place becoming a destination. I spoke about the unique identity of a place. This place must be presented to the visitors for tourism. Tourists, in turn, arrive at the destination to feel it. However, at best they can have a limited experience of a limited part of the place- both in terms of space and time. Today we discuss this concept.

So, the destination exists as a place. A place of the locals, by the locals and for the locals. Tourist come to a destination to feel it. They try to feel it from seeing the place to immersing into the experience of the locale. Through their visit, they consume services that facilitate their visit and augment their experience of the place.

Experiencescape- the tourist bubble

Tourist visits a place to have a feel of the place. They typically transit through to the locale to gaze the landscape and have a sense of place. They may traverse randomly or quasi-randomly through the place or may traverse on a fixed itinerary. In either case, they would like to have a taste of the locale. They are able to experience the place to a varying degree depending upon the design of their travel. The experience so created may range from near authentic which is genuine to highly commoditized travel where they may be rushed through the sites with little opportunity to experience life as in the case of an organized tour.

This space within the limited reach of the tourist is called a tourist bubble. A tourist bubble is a limited area within the locale which comprises of tourist-oriented attractions and facilities and is separated from its surrounding environment by spatially or psychologically created boundaries. Examples of spatial boundaries is a resort, a cruise ship or a tourist district. Psychological boundaries are set up by advising tourists not to venture beyond the tourist bubble.

Psychological boundaries are created to prevent visitors from venturing into the unsafe part of the locale. Within the bubble, they can be monitored for safety. The other reason is that tourism activities can be efficiently organized within the confines of the bubble. Services could be extended to the visitors professionally and cost effectively. Another interest is to keep the profits from leaking out of the bubble.

While a tourist bubble keeps a tourist safe and his purchase commoditized within the bubble, a tourist has limited interaction with the locals and their locale. The bubble keeps residents out and tourist in. The facilities within a tourist bubble are oriented toward tourists, and local residents may find little reason to spend time and money inside the bubble. By the same argument, the visitors find most of their requirements addressed within the bubble and therefore have little reason to venture out. The inspiration for the concept of tourist bubble is derived from Cohen’s idea of the environmental bubble which he conceived as a comfortable microenvironment within a novel, foreign microenvironment (Cohen, 1972). Thus environmental bubbles are “enclosed spaces that shield tourists from potentially unpleasant experiences…[and that are] operated for the exclusive use of tourists (Weaver, 2005). Graburn looked down on the safe and packaged travel as the tourism of the timid. He despised these tourists who carry the home-grown ‘bubble’ of their lifestyle around with them (Graburn, 1989).

Thus, the experience of visitors is limited to the tourist bubble that they restrict themselves to. However, the limits of such a bubble are expandable. While they may be constrained by the package and the service providers, they are continuously being redefined as visitors venture into the locale of the destination to experience the authentic. Increasingly, tourism service providers are stretching the bubble to allow visitors a feel of the place building in ‘venturesome’ within their offers.

A tourist has his own experiencescape that transcends through the tourist bubble that is associated with every tourist. The experiencescape permeates through the locale. Customized in every case, the experiencescape is largely within the tourist bubble which in each case partly creates a staged experience for the visitors and partly allows him access to the locale. The experiencescape also touches the different “scapes” of the locale and returns a vivid experience for them. Thus, experiencescape is part of the locale in which the tourist stays during the visit. He consumes services within the experiencescape. Experiencescape should reflect on the locale building up on both the landscape and the sense of the place.

Originally published at on May 16, 2017.