Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Is There a Field of Tourism Studies?

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Is There a Field of Tourism Studies?

Article excerpt

"We deliberate not upon the goals themselves, but upon the means to attain them. A doctor does not ask himself if he must cure his patient, nor does an orator ask himself if he will be persuasive, nor does a politician ask himself if he will establish good laws, and in other domains one never deliberates about the goal to achieve. But once one has fixed the goal, one examines how and by what means it can be reached: and if it appears that it can be accomplished several different ways, one looks for the best and easiest way that will bring about the accomplishment."

Aristote, Ethique à Nicomaque, III, 5, 10-15 (éditions Vrin, 1990, p. 135)

"It is generally agreed that science, in its principle of finding the reason behind the phenomena, is international and even universal in its aims. But beyond this topos, the real question is that of the historically specific forms of the internationality of science." (Gingras, 2002, p. 31).


Tourism represents a global industry, which is the subject of numerous studies. The proliferation of conferences bringing together scholars from various countries leads one to think that this subject of research constitutes a particularly "international" field of study. However, if one takes a closer look at this "internationalisation" one sees that it is multifaceted. Indeed, the degree of "internationalisation" of the principal journals in tourism studies, such as Annals of Tourism Research or Tourism Management remains very weak. The vast majority of the authors come from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Canada and Great Britain (about 77% of the authors of ATR and 65% of the authors of Tourism Management come from these countries; research done in June 15 using Web of Sciences), although there is a growing readership in China (Tribe, Xiao & Chambers, 2012). Logically, the Englishspeaking area dominates research in terms of distribution and visibility. Yet, for a large part of non-Anglophone countries, the institutional concerns and issues surrounding publication are potentially national and/or disciplinary. And, de facto, the publications in other languages circulate little in the Anglophone universe. This weak internationalization in regards to authors in English-language journals does not, however, prevent the circulation of scholars, nor does it stop the spread of concepts, methods, and theories between North America, Great Britain, other European countries, Australia and Asia. How does this circulation of ideas and people function? Does a "field" (as defined by Bourdieu (see for instance, 1997)) of tourism studies exist? And if so, does it exist at an international level or only in national spaces?

In order to answer these questions, a theoretical and methodological framework that allows one to grasp the emergence, development and the structuring of tourism studies must be defined. Tribe (1997) shows that approximately two large branches of study on tourism exist (one being commercial and the other in social sciences), but what ties do they maintain with each other (Xiao & Smith, 2006)? How should we judge the academic work that deals with tourism as a peripheral element of research? There were very few researchers who first started working on tourism in the Anglophone world and they were relatively isolated (Nash, 2007). According to Dean MacCannell, the majority of these scholars did not set out to make 'tourism' a permanent research subject. Tourism was considered a phenomenon permitting the study of social, historical and psychological transformations (interview with Dean MacCannell, Paris, May 20th 2014). How should we explain the development of this field of study? Starting in the 1990s, the epistemology of research on tourism gave rise to numerous debates. Xiao & Smith (2007) and Beckendorff & Zehrer (2013) mentioned different publications, which produced such debates. Among the many inquiries taken up during these debates, two crossdisciplinary questions can be distinguished: Can tourism be considered as a science in its own right that takes on different names (tourismology, tourology, etc. …

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