Sociability is a somewhat special tourist practice in the sense that it cuts across all combinations. However, it can become essential for certain individuals who overvalue it or in certain destinations. Conversely, misanthropy and “keeping to themselves” are values for others, or even for the same individuals at other times.
Sociability, a cross-cutting practice
Sociability is pervasive in tourism since, by definition, tourists settle elsewhere and come into contact with others, the inhabitants. Admittedly, in certain situations, particularly in comptoirs (exclusive resorts) and hotels, the local people are primarily employees. Tourists and locals get to interact through the service relationship. The presence of the former creates jobs for the latter. In general, the local society derives a more or less substantial benefit from the transient presence of the tourists. Beyond that, the meeting is far from obvious or easy. Local employees are mostly busy and do not often/always master the codes and languages of the temporary inhabitants. The latter can be contended with keeping to themselves, something which boosts their ego.
However, tourists also meet the other tourists. This encounter is not always to everyone’s taste. In certain destinations, inbound tourists are selected according to certain criteria, particularly social criteria. For example, both in Mauritius and the Maldives, the initial plan aimed to accept only the wealthiest. High airfares and controlled access to accommodation, excluding accommodation with a local host, ensured an effective social selection. Development has brought in some form of diversification with the emergence of accommodation with a local host at reduced rates. Tourists themselves tend to prefer contacts with individuals who are most like them.
Finally, meeting others can also mean meeting relatives, friends, or family, for holidays are interesting in that they reveal certain aspects of the personality of different people, other than what can be seen in daily life. Many friendships and love stories end with the holidays; many others are born during the holidays, following or just before a break-up.
Sociability is triggered in some micro places
Some components have progressively been introduced to foster sociability in tourist places that were geared to other practices. Some examples include promenades, constructed in cities in the 17th century, piers perpendicular to the sea, the kursaal (assembly room in a health resort) and casinos that became widespread in the 19th century. The same goes for some accommodation that facilitate interactions, such as youth hostels or the Treinta hotel in Mallorca where, in the 1990s, only guests under the age of 30 could stay. Any chance of a hotel for the 80-year-olds? In its own way, Club Méditerranée is also a meeting place, even if rest, play and discovery may be part of the stay.
Sociability has also contributed to the reputation of some destinations
Meeting with others and having fun together are also essential components in some destinations. Certain cities are renowned for their carnivals, such as Rio de Janeiro, Venice, and Nice. Others are known for their festive atmosphere. For example, while Ibiza is a typical seaside destination for families, it has become a hotspot for clubbing. Given its insular location, it offered the isolation that allowed a feeling of freedom during the dictatorial and heavy-handed government of General Franco, welcoming the hippy community (Rozenberg, 1985) and then the gay community. Similarly, in China, Lijiang prides itself on the title of City of Love where groups of young students meet every summer to lead a sexual life that is criticised elsewhere in the country.
- Rozenberg Danielle, 1985, Tourisme et utopie aux Baléares. Ibiza, une île pour une autre vie. Paris, L’Harmattan, coll. «Tourismes et Sociétés», 200 p.