Dean MacCannell nicely captured an aspect of this problem in his concept ” staged authenticity.” This term refers to the staging of local culture to create an. Loading data.. Open Bottom Panel. Go to previous Content Download this Content Share this Content Add This Content to Favorites Go to next Content. ← →. This chapter reviews the staged authenticity in cultural arrangements beyond tourism and the implications of this relocation, also exploring Dean MacCannell.

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March 13, ; Accepted Date: May 03, ; Published Date: Authenticity and Cultural Portrayal in Indigenous Tourism.

J Tourism Hospit 5: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

This study examined the perceptions of authenticity in cultural portrayals by both visitors and indigenous tourism operators in Far North Queensland. Surveys were administered over a two week period to indigenous tour operators and visitors at six locations throughout the region.

The results showed that tourists place a high value on authenticity and the majority of them who had participated in an indigenous experience were satisfied with its level of authenticity. The study further found that the use of theatrical effects in cultural presentations was viewed negatively by tourists. The overwhelming consensus from all those interviewed was that, players in the indigenous tourism market authentickty still grappling with how they could appeal to a broad range of tourists without losing authenticity in their presentation of culture.

The solution is likely to be found in local capacity building and multi-stakeholder engagement, not least the involvement of governing authorities and the mainstream tourism sector. Tourism is one athenticity the fastest growing industries in the world market today. One facet of growth in this sector is indigenous cultural experiences. The continued growth in this tourism sub-sector has been attributed to a shift in tourist desires away from trips involving participation with modernized, centered cultures to experiences with groups who have historically been along the margins [ 2 ].

Consequently, an increasing number of indigenous communities all over the world are becoming important members of the tourist industry [ 3 ]. A plausible assumption in much of the contemporary literature, concerning the impacts of modern tourism on host societies, is that tourism leads to commoditization of the life of a community and destroys authenticity of local cultural products and human relations [ authemticity ].

Clearly, the development of culturally appropriate indigenous tourism experiences can be tremendously difficult. And as Theodossopoulos asserts, authentic portrayal of indigenous cultures is inherently difficult to balance with modernization and lifestyle changes within the community [ 6 ].

Real (or) Staged? Authenticity and Cultural Portrayal in Indigenous Tourism

The tourism industry is often accused of objectifying people and cultures in order to autehnticity the world in the most marketable way [ 7 ].

Incidentally, since any presentation of culture outside its traditional context can betray cultural heritage, those opposed to indigenous tourism also accuse its practitioners of the mavcannell sale auhhenticity cultural traditions and practices [ 8 ]. On the other hand, there maccznnell those who argue that its economic gains can lead to increased cultural preservation.

That is, if culture is presented appropriately, education can reduce stereotypes and prejudices [ 910 ]. In Australia, Aboriginal tourism has only recently emerged as an industry.

This is partly in response to an increasing interest in Aboriginal culture, by both domestic and overseas visitors. Within the Aboriginal community, tourism is seen as a practical, important way to provide an economic base to ensure that communities prosper and that Aboriginal heritage is supported [ mqccannell ]. Towards this end, the government has been encouraging the development of indigenous cultural aughenticity in regional and remote areas of Australia, so that indigenous communities may capitalise on their local natural and cultural assets [ 12 ].

Furthermore, indigenous tourism is seen as a way of reducing welfare dependency wtaged strengthening cultural identity among Aboriginal people, as well as being a means of positioning Australia as a culturally distinctive destination [ 313 ]. That said, while there exist a significant body of literature on authenticity within indigenous tourism in general, macccannell is a lack of research focusing on the Aboriginal communities in far north Queensland, and in particular, an analysis of the authenticity-inauthenticity divide in modern Aboriginal authentidity portrayal [ 14 – 18 ].

This aughenticity sought to examine the perceptions of authenticity in cultural portrayals of Aboriginal tourism in far north Queensland. The far north Queensland region is home to numerous Aboriginal communities.

This makes it ideal for the development of indigenous tourism, which both the government and other stakeholders are encouraging [ 12 ]. The region is very popular with tourists. Furthermore, although available statistics show that many international visitors to the region participate in some sort of indigenous experience, the indigenous tourism strategy report for Queensland has identified low indigenous involvement in the tourist industry as a significant concern.


Ideally, Indigenous tourism is a niche market or special interest sector, which includes a wide range of experiences, built around tourists visitations. In regard to the use of the term authenticity, we are aware of the multiplicity of meaning under negotiation at any given discussion about authenticity. According to Theodossopoulos [ 16 ], this multiplicity of meanings provides an escape from a strict and limiting definition of the authentic, an opportunity to apply their own specific meaning.

This authenticity polysemy can be advantageous in inviting the understanding of authentic within the cultural contexts of its production [ 1 ]. A cross authenicity survey involving indigenous tourism operators and visitors in far north Queensland was conducted, in order to gain a perspective on indigenous cultural tourism within the region. The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews using semistructured questionnaires.

We focused on 3 locations, which receive the greatest number of tourist visiting far north Queensland, namely the city of Cairns and the surrounding towns of Kuranda et al. Surveys were administered to both visitors and Aboriginal tourism operators in the selected towns.

Staged Authenticity: Arrangements of a Social Space in Touri by Lee Sheng on Prezi

Visitors were selected using convenience sampling while indigenous tourism operators were selected using a combination of purposeful and convenience sampling [ 20 ].

Indigenous tourism business interviewees were selected based on their knowledge of the organization they were working for length of employment. A semistructured survey questionnaire was used to gather information from visitors while interviews with Aboriginal tourism operators tended to be more unstructured. The free flowing conversations with the operators were useful in helping to draw deeper meanings of indigenous cultural values and their attendant presentations.

A total of visitor and 22 Aboriginal tour operator interviews were conducted. Notwithstanding the small number of Aboriginal tour operators interviewed, their stories were deep, and comprehensive enough to warrant comparison with the interview responses obtained from tourists.

All responses were entered into an Excel spreadsheet for ease of analysis. Responses about authenticity and maccannelp selection were coded on a numerical scale and the results were presented using appropriate graphs. However, the subsequent discussion of the results does not necessarily replicate this categorisation. Besides, previous research has shown that genuineness or authenticity of a tourism setting is macccannell a tangible asset but a value authentivity placed on the setting by the observer [ 2223 ].

The tendency for tourists to develop notions of what they expect to experience, and to often value something that conforms to these expectations over a truly authentic display of culture, has also been reported by Culler [ 24 ]. Tourists are more likely to resort to make-believe to overlook any shortcomings in order to have an authentic experience [ 18 ], which could explain why there were an overwhelming number of authentic responses in this study.

Tourist perceptions of authenticity after participating in an indigenous tourist experience. Half of this group felt that the experience had been totally staged, while the other half had mixed thoughts about its degree of authenticity.

The primary sentiment among those who expressed mixed feelings was that they had witnessed a staged performance based on the actual culture. The question is whether, from the point of view of these respondents, this characterization of indigenous cultural productions truly captures the authenticity or inauthenticity in stage portrayal.

Even, though tourists tend to have their presupposed original culture, Cohen postulates that they are able to accept a product of tourism as authentic, if in their opinion, it comes close enough to the actual experience [ 18 ]. According to articles 11, 14, 15 and 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, Indigenous people have a right to keep secret their sacred and ritual knowledge in accordance with their customary laws.

Their right to decide on how their cultural heritage is portrayed, must at all-time be respected [ 27 ]. Hence, balancing visitor expectations of authentic cultural portrayal, and the need for the Aboriginal people to keep their sacred information secret, will almost always result in contested ethos of cultural authenticity.

These contested views were evident from the responses we obtained from indigenous tourism operators, as discussed in the section below. The indigenous tourism operators expressed similar views on dealing with visitors; that is they strive to maintain the originality of their cultural performances.

For this reason, operators such have built their tourism business models around less controversial cultural activities, such as bush walks and historical presentations.

Staged Authenticity Today

This however, leads to the question of who should hold the power to decide what is traditional, and therefore authentic cultural performance. Taylor [ 26 ] argues that, if the concept of authenticity is to have any legitimate place in the discussion of culture, its definition must rest with the people who make up that culture. The implication of this statement is that visitors lack the factual basis upon which they can make judgments on authenticity.


Although in actual fact, this does not stop them from forming their own ideas macccannell authenticity and using these to form authenticity judgments. This inquisitiveness by tourists is perhaps an intuitive way of gauging both the traditionality and aboriginality of the performances, against maccanmell perceived ideas of authenticity.

The study demonstrated that, whereas tourists were concerned about authenticity of cultural presentations in restaurant experiences, their construction of what constitutes real African culture were extremely fluid and differed significantly with that of the local people.

Our results show shifting positions between visitors and operators, within the authenticinauthentic spectrum. The shifting positions in perception, within the authenticinauthentic spectrum, between visitors and indigenous tourism operators, calls for the exploration of the question of how contemporary socio-economic processes of commodification, corporatization and globalisation has affected cultural portrayal, and hence authenticity.

Indeed, in some cases, indigenous tourism presentations and performances have been blamed for upsetting the natural equilibrium destination cultures, exaggerating certain elements of ordinary life and silencing others [ 2930 ].

We found evidence of this in this study, where one of the businesses we visited was working to modernize its display of culture and explained the difficulty in maintaining cultural authenticity while simultaneously working to increase visitor numbers. A common theme throughout all of the interviews with the tourism operators was the necessity to tailor the experience to the audience.

Unsurprisingly, Taylor [ 26 ] compares culture to nature by stating that, like nature, culture too is under attack from the evils of late capitalism. Despite the threat posed by capitalism and globalization to cultural authebticity, there are still certain aspects of indigenous culture which is never shared.

Stagwd prolonged survival of the community and the preservation of their culture depend on their ability to keep some elements of their culture private [ 10 ]. The Aboriginal people are sharing over ,year old secrets; information which is easily marketable and which people can use for personal commercial gains.

Indigenous people have a right to protect traditional knowledge and sacred cultural material [ 27 ]. In this study, the indigenous operators stressed the importance of protecting sites that would be inappropriate to share with outsiders or ahthenticity specific gender. Some of the operators explained that they do not share cultural information pertaining to the use of medicinal plants in their territories as doing so would compromise their cultural intellectual property rights.

However, some of them had been brought up outside the indigenous cultural set up. This means that they had little cultural exposure when they were growing up; reasons of which are outside the scope of this paper.

Clearly, many of the performers had minimal understanding of their own culture, but were very eager to learn and reconnect with it. Opinion is divided as to whether such presenters can portray real authentic culture. For example, Nauta argues that the dilemma of artificiality and authenticity can be solved by pretending one believes in the performance one gives.

In other words, even those events that are the most natural are deeply performative events in which authenticity is constructed and constituted [ 3334 ]. All the respondents said that performing cultural activities improved their appreciation of the culture. Souvenirs and other cultural goods can be used to showcase and express culture and are useful in authenticating the perception on traditionality.

Among study participants who had not yet taken part in an indigenous tourist experience, a clear pattern in preference existed. CDs and DVDs were barely selected at all. One respondent stated that they would only purchase artifacts and artwork if the pieces came with documentation certifying the item was created by an Aboriginal artist. It could therefore be said that, the tourists were looking for provenance from the artefacts, to judge their authenticity. Souvenir selection of respondents who had not participated in an indigenous tourism experience.

Two of the business operations allowed their guides to exercise personal discretion about how much of their culture they are willing to share. The rest of the groups required to obtain approval for all cultural presentations from the elders. For some businesses, the presentations are scripted in order to ensure their consistency, accuracy, and sensitivity. These scripts must be approved by a group of elders.