I love to travel. My personal motto is whoever dies with the most passport stamps wins!!! However, tourism is much more than just visiting interesting sites, eating local food, drinking local beverages, meeting interesting people, and staying the night in a hotel. Tourism is a two-way street. Not only must tourist destinations prepare programs and infrastructure for tourists to use and enjoy, but tourists must also prepare for their journeys. At a minimum, tourists must have a basic understanding about the countries they are travelling to and the locations within those countries. It is not enough to say, "I want to visit a museum or an archeological site". Tourists must do some research before their travels to have help them understand the history, politics, economics, culture, and language of the area they are travelling to. If a tourist does do his or her "homework", he or she will find that their trip experience will be much more enjoyable and fulfilling.

In addition to completing the required preparation prior to the trip, tourists must decide what type of trip experience they are seeking. Are tourists seeking a familiar or an authentic experience? Many tourists opt to stay at the Sheraton, Hilton or other "chain" hotels that will feel like "home". These trips will feel rather generic no matter how much research is completed in advance of the trip since 4-star and 5-star "chain" hotels are very similar inside and one could not be faulted for thinking that they are currently in Chicago, New York, or Buenos Aires. On the other hand, authentic tourists stay in locally owned hotels (which incidentally could also be 4 and 5-star hotels for those seeking this level of comfort) and seek out new experiences that will help them become acquainted with the culture up close and personal. There is room for both types of tourist, and the two can meet between, but the traveler needs to think about what type of experience he or she may desire.

Whichever type of tourist you are, you need to be aware that cultures and customs differ and not everything will be just like it is at home. For example, most countries are much more relaxed about time. A two-three hour lunch is common in Argentina and the expectation is that you will linger over your meal. This in turn means that restaurant staff may take more time to take your order or bring your food, and you will never be rushed out of the restaurant so the owners can "turn the table" and seat another customer. Eating in Argentina is a social experience, not just a time to "grab a quick bite". So, wherever you are travelling to, do your homework to better understand where you are going and what you will encounter. If you do, your tourist experience will be markedly improved.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Roberg
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Carthage College

1 Pierre Van Den Berghe, "Why Study Ethnic Tourism," The Quest for the Other, University of Washington Press. (1994) pp. 8-20.