Being with others: The commodification of relationships in tourism
Erika Andersson Cederholm
Summary, in English
The myriad of interpersonal relationships in tourism, between tourists, between tourists and locals, and between tourists and the service providers, are essential, generic components of the tourist experience. However, interpersonal relationships are emerging as a commercial value in the tourism industry as well, expressed for example in rural commercial home type of businesses, and in wellness-oriented tourism. ”Being-with-others”, where the relationship per se is depicted and highlighted as a specific kind of experience, is discussed as a phenomenon having a commercial as well as a socio-cultural value. Through a qualitative analysis of the discursive practices of the tourism industry in predominantly the rural parts of Scania in South Sweden, the emerging value of “being-with-others” is interpreted. By discussing the notion of authenticity as a point of departure, and more specifically, the notion of existential authenticity concerning the inter-relational “being-with-others”, a concept discussed by the tourism researcher Wang (1999), the notion of authenticity as a performed, embodied and holistic experience is discussed within a wider social and cultural analytical framework. Furthermore, by adopting the sociologist Georg Simmel´s concept of “sociability”, characterised as the playful form of being-with-others, as well as the sociologist Anthony Giddens notion of “the pure relationship”, it is argued that the different forms of being-with-others provided by the tourism industry, is a mode of playfully performing pure relationships. Hence, the social, cultural and economic dimension of being-with-others are intertwined in a cultural economy of relationships.