Destinations: Cultural Landscapes of Tourism

By Greg Ringer | Go to book overview

1

TOURISM AND THE SEMIOLOGICAL REALIZATION OF SPACE

George Hughes
In 1738, John Wesley, with his brother Charles, founded the movement that became the Methodist Church. Two hundred and fifty years later, in 1988, the British Tourist Authority (BTA), using the 250th anniversary, considered the possibility of establishing a Wesley Trail intended to appeal to an estimated 54 million Methodist worshipers worldwide. That such a conjunction of tourism and evangelism was considered sufficiently uncontroversial to be pursued by a national tourist authority, and to be used subsequently in a vocational tourism text (Lumsdon 1992:132) is symptomatic of the scale of cultural change that has occurred in the intervening centuries and of the current role tourism is playing in facilitating and reflecting the change. The objectives established for this project did not address the religious sensibilities of Methodists or conceive of the trail as a mark of respect for the Wesleys or Methodism. Rather, the project was addressed in exclusively commercial terms. More specifically, the idea satisfied a number of criteria in terms of BTA objectives:
1 The Methodist Church provided a clearly-defined group which could be targeted;
2 As Wesley had so many strong links with different parts of the country, such a promotion would spread the benefits to areas which would otherwise not readily attract overseas business;
3 The idea had potential for sound public relations work which would have a wider impact than the specific promotion;
4 The campaign could also be extended to include the centenary of John Wesley's death in 1991;
5 The campaign had a potential for joint sponsorship (Lumsdon 1992:133).

Yet this potential interaction of tourist development with a belief system,

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