Domesticating “Nonwestern” Tourists: Cultural Contraflows in the Swiss Alps

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For centuries, affluent visitors from Europe have shaped and consumed Swiss mountain space. The global circulation of iconic representations of the Berner Oberland has not only contributed to a consolidated and worldwide recognizable brand narrative (i.e. being the stage for exclusive retreats and outdoor adventures), but also established specific visitor trails along which tourist performances are conditioned and streamlined. Classic and popular cultural representations have fostered our notion of appropriate practices, recirculating images of contemplation and/or exploration of Alpine nature. Hikers, skiers and mountaineers have internalized small routines of how to move, dress and behave “properly” in the mountains. With the explosive growth of Asian guests visiting Switzerland, however, these Alpine routines and textures are destabilized, bringing about alternative and even disruptive tourism performances at popular sites. In the past five decades, Swiss landscapes featured in over sixty Bollywood films, turning Switzerland into the most preferred romantic honeymoon destinations for Asian visitors. In particular, the escapist musicals of Yash Chopra were influential in branding Switzerland as utopian landscape of love, fashioning consistent visual aesthetics, musical tropes and a plot framed around international travel. The lead characters would embark on an escapist journey to Europe (honeymoon, Interrailing, stag parties) in the quest for forbidden pleasures. Owing to the (pop)cultural hegemony of Bollywood in the non-western world, Asian middle class audiences see Switzerland as an utopian, pastiche-like paradise, which represents a liminal dating and luxury consumption space (rather than a space for solitary retreats or outdoor quests).
This paper studies how Swiss hosts are making sense of nonwestern tourism routines and how they are coping with disruptive tourist performances at Swiss mountain resorts. Drawing on a multi-modal dataset collected in May 2017 at Jungfraujoch/Top of Europe and Interlaken, the analysis focuses on two distinct traits. First, emergent microstoria and anecdotes about Asian guests are collected, identifying prevailing narratives about the “Exotic Other”. Second, domesticating practices are presented along an analysis of normative signs, directions and instructions conforming new visitors. The paper concludes with a discussion of the strategic implications of asymmetric cultural contraflows, suggesting that contemporary domesticating practices reproduce Orientalist discourses and deepen, rather than bridge the traditional host-guest divide.
TitelBuilding our Stories : Co-creating tourism futures in research, practice and education. Euro-TEFI 2017 proceedings
RedaktørerDianne Dredge, Szilvia Gyimóthy
Antal sider1
ForlagTourism Education Future Initiatives (TEFI)
Publikationsdato20 aug. 2017
ISBN (Trykt)978879230532
StatusUdgivet - 20 aug. 2017
Udgivet eksterntJa