We have all been tourists, and therefore think we know what tourism is. In the modern world, tourism is viewed as an important industry, providing jobs and economic growth. At the same time, tourism and tourists are sometimes looked down on, seen as awkward and ignorant.
Largely forgotten is an earlier era in which tourism was viewed as a tool of politics and a subject of political analysis.
A good example of the latter was Linda Richter’s book, The Politics of Tourism in Asia. Richter demonstrated how tourism might serve political ends through several Asian case studies.
However, since the onset of the market era, tourism has been promoted as an “industry” of considerable economic importance to national governments. This has overshadowed the capacities of tourism to foster political engagement, political advocacy, and activism.
Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel
Enter celebrated graffiti artist Banksy and his opening in March 2017 of the “Walled Off Hotel” in Bethlehem.
The hotel is situated across the street from the Separation Wall. Israel has constructed this wall to separate itself from its occupied Palestinian territories. Marketed as “the hotel with the worst view in the world”, Banksy’s hotel is reviving the profile of tourism as a political tool.