Backpacking Tourism : Identity Formation and the Commodification of Experience
Chronis, Amelia Jane
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Tourism is a worldwide industry with a long and complex history that has far-reaching effects in every corner of the planet. Backpacking tourism, while once considered a marginalized activity only a select few engaged in, has exploded into a global phenomenon of its own right. The research shows that backpackers are a predominantly young, white, Western, middle-class travelers group defined by their low budget, long term, independent trips, along with their quest for authenticity and avoidance of mainstream tourism. A major aspect of backpacking is the opportunity for these young people to experiment with their identities and gain social and cultural capital. While backpackers are sometimes seen as transcending the host-guest dichotomy and operating outside the bounds of tourism, since they remain a part of the tourism cycle, there is no way for them to integrate themselves into their travel destination communities. The commodification of experience facilitated through tourism ensures that backpackers are never able to gain full access to local cultures and peoples. This paper seeks to explore how the commodification process operates specifically within backpacking tourism and the effects that has on those engaging with identity formation. The conclusion drawn here is that understanding backpackers travel experiences as commodified entities undermines many of the defining and foundational features of the group.