Authentic or inauthentic tourists still want to experience it

18 September 2017

New research suggests that tourists still search for, and value, authenticity in cities, and even the hipsterisation of areas can help project the backstory of a place.

Dr Jane Lovell from Canterbury Christ Church University has been researching heritage tourism for ten years, looking at how authenticity is used and sometimes staged by cities and locations. Her research proposes a new idea, the origin of the spaces, suggesting that tourists still want to discover the original story of the places which they visit, valuing the authenticity of their chosen city or location.

Dr Lovell, Senior Lecturer in the School of Human and Life Sciences, explained: “We all value authenticity in its many layers and tourists in particular seek it out. We enjoy staged authenticity such as ‘authentic’ folk dancing, costumes and souvenirs and even in the seemingly inauthentic theme parks, such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, visitors are comparing the detail to the descriptions in the books and ‘authenticating’ the attraction.

“However, places are always changing; buildings are restored or recreated and in recent years areas seem to change beyond recognition for many locals due to the rise of hipsters and gentrification in their neighbourhoods.

“The hipsterisation of places such as SoHo and Williamsburg in New York, Wicker Park in Chicago and Shoreditch in London is highly apparent, to the extent that Shoreditch has been described as a ‘hipster theme park’. But, these ‘hipstorical’ places display industrial heritage traits and features, including symbols of the working class, slow anachronistic crafts processes and vintage products. 

“Gentrification can be seen as authentication on a fast forward button. It’s all part of the cycle, but it can also be very sad as it reproduces the shells of an original community who have had to leave to find a new sense of purpose. Gentrification takes the authenticity of a place and tries to replicate it. In its own way the process places more value on the heritage of an area.”

Dr Lovell’s research features in a new book co-written with Christ Church colleague Dr Chris Bull, titled ‘Authentic and Inauthentic Places in Tourism: From Heritage Sites to Theme Parks’. The book explores how we perceive heritage management focusing exploring on how authenticity is staged (and unstaged) in historic cities, including Canterbury, Durham, Oxford, Cambridge, York and Bath, as well as looking at seaside resorts, historic sites, museums, gentrification and film location tourism, photographed and eventful places. 

Notes to editors

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 96% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2014/15 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey


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Last edited: 14/12/2018 23:19:00