“Transnational travel makes culture a commodity. When the ethic of consumption is extended to new people and places, everything comes with a price. Visit to the palace – $12; mountain trek – $35; traditional dance performance – $8; sense of self-worth – priceless. Today’s holiday brochures boast bargains like an Argos catalogue; instead of homeware and cheap electronics, we find tigers, temples and tribal villages. All are commodities, just the same.
We buy these things for the same reason we buy any other nonessential product: to look better, feel better or else appear better. We are, in effect, cultural cannibals, consuming culture so as to assimilate some aspect of it. Thus, New York confers cosmopolitanism, India spirituality, the Caribbean coolness and so on. And then there are optional extras, side dishes if you like. A five-star hotel suggests status, a wine tour imparts taste, the prefix ‘eco-’ implies ethical acumen. In the realm of the tourist-cannibal, you are what you eat.
And thus, we travel to consume; it’s all that we know how to do.”
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