Can you make authentic places?

We often experience places as authentic when they correspond to the image we have of them in our minds. ©Photo by Aimilia Ioannidis.

by Ares Kalandides*

Destination marketing is obsessed with place authenticity and for good reasons. Tourists, it is said, want to experience the ‘real thing’. What is that real thing? What are authentic places? We know that some places feel more ‘real’ than others, but what does that feeling mean? Is place authenticity the same as the ‘sense of place’?

Imagine the following situation: You are walking in the mountains, maybe wandering through a beautiful forest with no one around. You enjoy the sounds of the forest animals, the smell of the damp earth. The light through the trees makes you dreamy. You enjoy the solitude, that feeling that you are into some kind of discovery of nature and of yourself.

“There are things that give us the feeling that places are authentic, but when examined closely they are somehow flawed.”

Behind the trees you discover a small well-designed kiosk. As you approach a very friendly person greets you: “Would you like some information about the other sights in the area?” Suddenly you are not in the discovery of nature any longer. That very friendly greeting makes you feel that you had been duped. What you thought was an untouched forest was in fact part of the packaged local sights. Continue reading “Can you make authentic places?”

Naples: The anti-tourist city

Ares Kalandides Naples tourist cityby Dr Ares Kalandides*

I’m not often a tourist – a real tourist I mean. I usually travel to places for work or in order to meet friends. But last week I visited Naples in Italy for the third time in my life, as a common tourist. Just four days of sightseeing, eating and enjoying doing nothing in particular. Of course I could not avoid observing things around me that got me thinking about authenticity, place management, tourist promotion etc. Here are some initial thoughts that would need to be developed further in order to make any meaningful contribution to urban studies: Continue reading “Naples: The anti-tourist city”