Ethical Agency within the Responsible Tourism Experience
As an escape from the mundane, the holiday can act as a "socially sanctioned period of play" (Ryan, 2002: 4); often resulting in increased resource consumption, as well as environmental and socio-cultural degradation (Williams & Ponsford, 2009). Accordingly, responsible tourism is becoming a significant trend in the tourism market - advancing the holiday experience towards an authentic and impact-minimising form of travel that mutually benefits the guest and host (Goodwin & Francis, 2003; Sharpley, 2013). Yet, despite this increasing demand for the responsible tourism product, our understanding of the 'responsible tourist' is limited.
Much of the extant literature adopts a functionalist approach, assuming that responsible tourists exist 'out there' as a viable market segment demarcated by demographic, psychographic and behavioural traits. Profiling tourists in this way, however, overlooks the possibility that subjects draw upon multiple 'selves' when consuming responsibly.
Another strand of research considers the powerful role of the tourism industry in actively constructing the identities of ostensibly responsible tourists through market discourses. To date, there is little substantive research that focusses on how responsible tourists' experiences are embedded into personal identity projects, nor how these experiences are constituted by, and constituting of, power relations between consumers and the market.
This doctoral research addresses the issues of tourists' ethical agency. It explores how subjects identify with the responsible tourism product as a self-affirming practice, as well as how their construction of responsible identity, and subsequent responsible performance, is constrained by the wider institutional context.
Supervised by: Dr Robert Caruana and Dr Scott McCabe