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The Role of Leisure and Tourism for Social Identity and Status

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Leisure and tourism qualify to be two such experiences. The dynamics of association between tourism and social identity exhibit a distinct mechanism. During the first industrial revolution in the early 19th century, the demarcation of social classes in the developed economies was blurred (Veblem 1902). This was a cause of concern for the upper classes as it challenged and diluted their status quo in this new scenario (Veblem 1902). Thus, it became imperative for the upper classes to exploit their influence to come out with a new idea or scheme of life that embodied a hitherto unknown ideal of decency (Veblem 1902).

Tourism and leisure certainly constituted an integral aspect of this new ideal of decency. The wealthy traveled to flaunt their wealth. Once such a notion regarding tourism and leisure percolated down to the lower strata of society, there arose a need for conforming to this cherished code, which looked on access to leisure and tourism as being tagged to one’ s social identity and status. This gave way to the identification of tourism and leisure with social identity and status for the times to come.

The working class felt a dire need to align with this new code, in appearance if not in actuality. The lower strata of society in the pre-modern world well understood that the identification of an individual or a group with a class status was not essentially based on one’ s actual wealth, but on one’ s acumen for assuming social appearances through a deft manipulation of the symbols associated with the ways of the upper class (Veblem 1902). The middle class resorted to travel and leisure to display its upward mobility.

While the lower classes moved on to adapt to or at least mimic the travel habits of the affluent, the upper classes responded by giving way to new patterns within the realm of tourism and leisure, which preserved their essential status. This not only gave way to segmentation in the tourism and leisure industry but also made it a symbol of social identity and status. Such commodification of tourism conclusively associated it with the notions of social identity and status. Irrespective of the fact that tourism became accessible at the advent of the 20th century, it was never able to divest itself of the tags of social identity and class.

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