Critiquing creativity in tourism

Authors: Long, P. and Morpeth, N.D.

Pages: 304-310

ISBN: 9780415523516

DOI: 10.4324/9780203120958


This chapter defines and critiques the concept of ‘creativity’, positioning it in its changing meanings and applications within society generally and in relation to tourism in particular. These observations are made acknowledging the shifting cultural landscapes within society from the Renaissance, to modern, post-modern and post-industrial societies and the emergence of the cultural economy. In discussing the melding of creativity and industry, now firmly established within the parlance of policy communities notably in Western, ‘developed’ economies, there are issues with the amalgamation of two concepts which are potentially dissonant and mutually exclusive in their respective meanings. This is consistent with the emergence, particularly in North American and European cities, of clusters of artistic and creative communities and milieux where their raison d’étre is broader than (and perhaps antagonistic to) the pursuit of commercial gain and being appropriated and assimilated into creative industry and cultural tourism strategies. In considering creativity and tourism it is important to note Packard’s The Wastemakers (1960) and his timeless themes of ‘ever mounting consumption’ and ‘creative obsolescence’, which arguably underpin creative consumption as a leitmotif of contemporary societies. There is a controversial confiation of the terms creative and cultural and the assimilation of the ‘creative industry’ sectors as a central part of the so-called experience economies (Pine and Gilmore 1999). This underpins public-sector promotion and the corralling of the creative industries (and also tourism) as the panacea for de-industrialisation, a defining policy initiative of the previous UK New Labour government, for example (DCMS 2001, 2004). The current UK government, in reducing the funding for the cultural and creative sectors, is at the same time promoting the creative industries as important economic drivers during a period of economic crisis. In focusing on a case study of the UK city of Shefield, we interrogate a so-called exemplar of good practice in the development and promotion of the creative industries in relation to tourism and emphasise that there are creative counter-narratives to ‘oficial’ versions of the creative sector and places. ‘Creativity’ needs to be conceived within particular social, historical and political circumstances as the term may not readily be translated and recognised in different cultural settings, cautioning against any grand generalisations and singular definitions. We acknowledge that the discussion and examples of creativity in this chapter draw on literature published in the English language and situated in ‘developed’ economies. Future research might encompass a broader global perspective. This is particularly apposite in universal understandings of creativity from a spiritual dimension, and within creation and mystical narratives. From a Western perspective, the Renaissance and the epoch of the Enlightenment emphasised humanistic, romantic notions of ‘… conjuring something forth, giving form to what is inchoate, and bringing an inner voice or vision into being’ (Negus and Pickering 2004: 4). Nevertheless, the ability to be creative, or the capacity to appreciate aesthetic qualities is not solely the preserve of those who are somehow divinely inspired and/or endowed with unique, inherent talents and capabilities (Robinson 2001). There is a risk of assigning the capacity to be creative as belonging to an elite, educated and privileged class (which parallels conceptions of the ‘cultural tourist’ and the supposed ‘tourist/traveller’ dichotomy). All people have the capacity to be creative in everyday life, as tourists and/or as workers in tourism occupations, for example. However, when the term is appropriated and conjoined with ‘industry’ and the everyday, creativity may seem to become routine and banal, and risk losing any particular meaning (Schlesinger 2007). We acknowledge that people practise creativity in daily life through consumption practices and expressions of taste and distinction as part of identity formation (relating to conceptions of ‘cultural capital’, and the creative consumer – Bourdieu 1984). Such tastes for ‘creative consumption’ may be shaped in part through our experiences as tourists and may also feed into our subsequent destination choices and behaviour as tourists. The confiation of the ‘cultural’ and ‘creative’ with ‘industry’ is a source of considerable controversy and academic debate. Some critics argue that the ‘creative industries’ definition values culture primarily or even solely for its economic role, rather than for its much wider contribution to ideas, aesthetics and society. ‘Culture industry’ has negative connotations for some theorists drawing on the work of the Frankfurt School in its critique of the media in particular (Habermas 1987; Adorno 1991). For such critics, new and emerging media and technology organisations possess too much power in shaping socio-cultural change, with particular concerns about their impact on the young, poor and vulnerable and in the alienation of society at large (Schlesinger 2007; Raunig et al. 2011). For Raunig et al. ‘creativity is astir: reborn, re-conjured, re-branded, resurgent … the creative industries sound the clarion call to the Cultural Entrepreneurs. In the hype of the creative class and the high fights of the digital bohemians, the renaissance of “the creatives” is visibly enacted’ (Raunig et al. 2011: 1). They also suggest that, ’culture making is a crucial industry in today’s global battle for tourist cash, as such like any other industry, it is subject to government policy’ (ibid.: 185). For critics, therefore, a de?ning feature of a creative market system-based economy is the search for constant innovation, production and consumption of consumer goods and images. Negus and Pickering (2004: 11) characterised this as an ’everrolling mobility of pleasure, frustrated desire, obsolescence and new desire rationally incorporated into a commodity system maintained by the techniques of advertising, publicity and marketing’. For Raunig et al. (2011: 185) ’culture is instrumentalized for its “value-generating” spin-o?s … [with the] value that is more valuable than all others [being] monetary, and where “art is conceived as an abstract quantity, another product, like baked beans”’. The economic valuation of creative outputs may also result in, ’[an] idealised opposition between “authentic” and “arti?cial” forms of creativity that assumes the marketization of culture generates only a spurious creativity which consists of manufacturing devices for keeping people continually in the process of coming back for more new things’ (Negus and Pickering 2004: 11). In their 2006 paper, Richards and Wilson argue that there has been a proliferation and ’serial reproduction’ of generic cultural attractions and destinations often linked with regeneration programmes and that these have resulted in some bland developments (such as retail and waterfront projects). Alongside this, they suggest a turn towards more sophisticated and complex markets as people (at least those with the resources to do so) engage in ’skilled consumption’. They argue that tourist practices can provide opportunities for the building of personal identities involving the acquisition of ’cultural capital’ through creative pursuits and experiences, and that the tourism sector is increasingly developing and promoting packages, trails and products aimed at satisfying such demand. The implication of these arguments is that there is substantial scope for the tourism sector to work more closely with creative practitioners (although mutual misunderstanding may be observed at times as a consequence of di?erent educational and perhaps occupational and ideological backgrounds – Fitzgibbon and Kelly 1997; Beck 2003), with some artists and neighbourhoods resisting being packaged and presented as tourist attractions. It is necessary, therefore, not to lose sight that the ’critical evaluation of experience, both inner and drawn from social encounters and relationships, is based on far more than market eficiency and personal satisfaction’ (Negus and Pickering 2004: 11). Therefore, the ’doing’ of tourism as practitioner and tourist affords a means of creating difference and promoting selfdiscovery and ’self-making’, and moments of creativity that ’flow’ and are beyond purely economic value (Csíkszentmihályi 1997, 1999).

Source: Scopus

Critiquing Creativity in Tourism

Authors: Long, P.

Editors: Smith, M.


This chapter defines and critiques the concept of ‘creativity’, positioning it within a wider historical lineage of both the derivation of the term and in its changing meanings and applications within society generally and in relation to tourism in particular. We discuss the melding of the concepts of creativity and industry, now firmly established within the parlance of policy communities globally, though most notably in Western ‘developed’ economies.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Philip Long