Catherine Dodd Corona

The Tourist Gaze

The Dilemma of Too Many Tourists

Progymnasmata: Proverb

Creating an analogy between pollution and overcrowding is a fantastic way of exemplifying some of the difficulties with places of interest. While there may be nothing wrong with a particular destination the messy masses can often be a struggle. That being said the messy masses can be an integral part of an experience. Regardless, overcrowding is definitely a form of pollution.  

Urry makes two contradictory points on the influx of people wanting to see a particular sight. One stating that an excess of people can pollute that area even more just by having more visitors. The other is that an influx of people can help protect special places. While contradictory both points are essential to understanding the impacts of too many people, especially when it comes to wildlife tourism. An influx of tourists can cause more trash in a river but that interest can also cause governmental protection of said river. Protection is important to save ecosystems, beautiful sights, environments like parks that benefit public health, and more. It is a balancing act, finding how many people is too many, and how many is not enough. 

A great example for this dilemma would be the protection of the desert southwest along with the increase in industrial tourism. There are lots of National Parks in the desert southwest protecting canyons, arches, sand dunes, and more magnificent natural creations. The protection of these areas allows more people to access them and benefit from their wonders. On the other hand, the influx of tourists have caused crowds and infrastructure that can take away from the experience, and brings in litter, cars, infrastructure and more. Part of the magic of the desert is the solitude and sense of nature, but with an almost Disney esq. visitor center in Zion and hundreds of people it is hard to experience those qualities of the desert. 

It is important to understand both points because it mitigates arrogance. I have felt connected to the desert traveling to very unknown places on river trips growing up. So to see the industrial tourism in these areas hurts my heart because it is such a special place. Especially when the people visiting are disrespectful of the environment through littering and other rude actions. BUT these places that I love would not have the maintenance, or the protection they have if they stated secret and unknown. Arches would be defaced, a McDonald’s could sit two feet from the Grand Canyon, an oil drill could destroy my favorite landscape. I also live in a tourist dependent town, Aspen, Colorado and without tourists my town would cease to exist. Tourists in both places make areas like Zion National Park or Eric’s Bar undesirable in my opinion, but both are interesting places I would recommend many people visit. There are still special wonderful “secret” areas I can enjoy, plus the fascinating places people are curious about. 


Simona Barca

The Tourist Gaze- Comparison

In “The Tourist Gaze ‘Revisited,'” John Urry explores the different side of the “seeing” sense in regards to tourism and connects it to environmental issues. Specifically, Urry focuses on the comparison between environmental pollution and social pollution caused by herds of tourism. The pollution largely focused in urban areas where factories and transportation exhaust are part of the scenery, has inundated the scenic beauty of nature-based travel spots with social pollution, which, in turn, brings environmental pollution as well. The social pollution that Urry talks about is centered around the photography aspect, with everyone wanting to capture certain places and moments on camera so as to memorialize those moments. This is even more glorified in the age of social media, where slogans like “pics or it didn’t happen” reign throughout younger social groups and social media circles. With social pollution, however, comes environmental pollution as well. While it might not be to the extend of city-wide factories, transportation to reach some of these places contributes to environmental pollution, as well as the necessary set-ups to make these places more easily reachable, i.e. roads, campsites, electrical capabilities, etc. Urry himself put it best when describing the effects of social pollution, even when deemed to be lesser compared to those of environmental pollution:

“So photography has heightened the contradictions involved in the relationship between tourism and the environment. It has increased the attractions of particular kinds of unpolluted landscapes and hence of demands to protect or conserve such environments, and it has in turn done much to worsen such environments through increasing the numbers and concentration of visitors all seeking to capture particularly memorable views, views that have forever lost their aura.”

Jack Albert Nusenow

Romanticizing Foreignness

Progym: Narrative

Urry places an emphasis on the visual arm of capitalist tourism advertising as he weaves his arguments together. We have come a long way since Petrarch, and though our history is riddled with colonialism, I don’t believe our reasons for traveling are simply to subject those foreign settings we visit to our own visual interpretation.

I found value in Urry’s breakdown of the different types of the Tourist Gaze and especially related to the idea of the romantic gaze.

In 2015 I visited Rome. While there, I visited all of the places Urry would say that I was told to, but my love and lasting memories of that trip can’t be found in the Colosseum or even any of the pictures I took.

My most valuable memory is sitting in a restaurant whose name I still haven’t forgotten. Cafe Belsiana is tucked away on a small street conveniently called Via Belsiana. As I sat eating bread and pasta, from the very moment I had sat down, I watched an old man drink his espresso, read a magazine, and walk out happy. This memory is what drives my persistent want to travel, but I couldn’t help but feel defensive when I read Urry’s essay. Would he describe this experience as visual appropriation? In my mind, I was captivated by the romantic gaze. But does this make me a tourist in that restaurant inherently? I’ve looked at people in American bars drinking cocktails in the same way. Is this gaze, this moment, really colonizing as Urry says it is? Or is it the inescapable colonialist history that is present wherever we travel?

Ehren Joseph Layne

Caveat to “The Tourist Gaze”


I would like to present a caveat to Urry’s “Forms of Tourist Gaze”. Urry outlines 5 forms of the Tourist gaze: romantic, collective, spectational, environmental, and anthropological. I believe there is a 6th form of the tourist gaze: educational. Specifically, those persons who – namely students – travel for study abroad and or study at international institutions. These types of persons have both a collective and solitary experience with new landscapes:  they survey, they inspect, they gaze in awe, and they stay immersed in one or many activities. They cannot fit into any of the forms Urry outlines because of one aspect of their travel: time. Persons who venture to study in foreign locations often end up living a niche life in said locations: they, after a few months, become a part of the landscape they gazed upon in awe when they first arrived. Over the few months, these persons have come accustomed to the daily activities of the inhabitants; they have begun eating their food, maybe even speaking their language. All in all, students present a nuisance to Urry’s original argument that:


“…there has to be something distinctive to be gazed upon, that the signs collected by tourists have to be visually extraordinary” 


Students only partially exist in the same realm as tourists: the first week or two of their travel may be occupied by visiting locations and commodifying their own sight – gazing upon the extraordinary; however, over time students must turn their attention to something foreign to tourists: survival. I can say from having lived in  Spain for over 2 months that living there forced me to focus on survival rather than tourism. I was a tourist for only a few short weeks: afterwards, I had to behave and live like a Spaniard. As much as I may have looked out of place, and as much as I might have been treated like a tourist, I was no longer in a position where I could gaze upon every new site with inexperienced eyes. I had experienced it all already. I had travelled to all the landmarks brochures and pamphlets had led me to. I could no longer be a tourist because there was nothing left for me to tour. I had to, instead, adapt; assimilate the best I could to the Spanish culture. Relieve myself of my Western gaze and turn my focus to living a life I wasn’t born to live. Urry fails to mention time as a means of de-commodifying one’s gaze: Urry focuses more on the system of the gaze rather than an individual’s gaze and how that gaze may change with time or experience. Because of this, I believe it is necessary for Urry to add the system of tourism that brings students to study in new landscapes, to gaze upon those landscapes, but then have to live in those landscapes. Urry mentions how tourists are usually looking for something outside of their mundane lives; they hope to find, in the staged authenticity of new landscapes, a life so extraordinary to them that they will be able to fantasize about living that same life. Students have no need to fantasize: they have to learn to live it.

Nathan Ryan Reeves

The Tourist Gaze-Thoughts

The concept of a person’s gaze is an interesting subject to read about when thinking about the context of travel. “The Tourist Gaze” is the idea that a tourist will have a certain viewpoint of an object or landmark or what-have-you, and that the gaze is so much different compared to a local. From an anecdotal standpoint, the Washington monument and any other tourist attraction here feels a lot normal, and that from living in the district for over a year I have lost that tourist gaze for the things I saw once every 5 years or so.

Although, I would say that the monuments do not need any introduction to tourists since that is what they are here to see. However, each of the monuments does have introductions to them, right outside or right on them, showing the significance of the monument. These are for the tourist to pick up on and be given significance. Urry writes about these signs saying

“There are actual signs that indicate that some other object has remarkable properties even if visually it appears not to be so…”

, which hints at the idea of what exactly the tourist gaze is.

The gaze has to be incited by something that is distinctive to be gazed upon, but, does that apply to everything, and what if something catches you off guard and you gaze upon it because you don’t know what it is. Apart from that, Urry says that collective signs and activities that can distinguish itself from a mundane experience then the experience can hold much more importance.

My thoughts on this are that the concept of the gaze is important because it is what gives humans an appreciation for what they are looking at. The gaze can instill an experience that makes the place or view relevant. I might be going in circles by saying, “why does this happen”, and “can it happen without certain circumstances” (like when lacking a sign, signal, or if you get the gaze from something that isn’t the monument). Or whether the small things can also have a gaze to it from tourists. As someone that looks at the little things and does not take too many pictures when admiring a view, I’m more or less thinking about what makes the environment or the experience possible.

Urry also touches on this thought saying that the concept of landscape is “important for both history and art”, but also says that it’s not a simple question of the physical environment rather the creation of visual consumption and that the gaze has largely to be affected by pleasure and tourism. Just to state that the gaze may just have come from the idea of tourism.

But the most interesting part that comes from this reading is the table or chart on the last couple of pages that identifies the type of gaze, with the theme of the gaze. For instance, romantic, collective, spectatorial, environmental, and anthropological, which all have different gazes and contexts to them. So maybe, the question about what goes into the gaze is special because there is a definitive answer, but the context is what makes the experience so special.



Samuel James Conroy

Refutation Progymnasmata

Refutation Progymnasmata

            John Urry’s article, “The Tourist Gaze Revisited,” is an interesting piece breaking down why he believes that people travel and the cultural appropriation that these travelers bring with them intentionally or unintentionally. However, this is a highly critical piece on tourists that talks about how their “tourist gaze” is actually aesthetic appropriation. I find this to be an interesting take as I quite disagree with his overall opinion.

I agree with Urry on how advertising and certain rhetorical imagery has painted certain places to be these wild landscapes that one must see. This paints a picture that you should just travel to these places to see the view which causes a domination of the other culture. However, I believe that the general populous does not travel just to go see some view that is advertised throughout the country, rather, they just enjoy going to explore places for what they are. A majority of people travel either to just get away or to find themselves in some way they feel they’ve been lacking; it seems quite stereotypical to assume that people are traveling just to see some great view and then use it to appropriate an entire culture.  Urry states,

“Much tourism becomes in effect a search for the photogenic, it is a strategy for the accumulation of photographs.”

While back in the 1900s I believe travel was more directed towards this feeling, nowadays it seems the sentiment has changed. Travel is more widely available, and people can see photos online of the most beautiful areas they want to see, so traveling has evolved more into getting to escape from your current life in my opinion.

Phillip Wade Wilson

The Tourist Gaze “Revisited” – John Urry: Narrative

“The most mundane of activities, such as shopping, strolling, sitting having a drink, or swimming, appear special when conducted against a striking visual backcloth”

It always seems that when I travel somewhere different the most boring of activities I almost dread to do at home become somewhat of an excitement. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of doing this activity somewhere new or the fact that I’m happy or even excited about being in that different place altogether so everything seems fun. As Urry has stated, we tourists love to look for the perceptions we want to see in a different place and the visual impact this has on us is based on the presence we are in and what that means to us. I think about every place I have been, especially recently, and I remember how seeing a style of architecture or a landmark changed my perspective of the city or area I was in. On my last trip abroad when I was in Milan, I remember the sights I saw most of all… least of all I remember the smells of the city, the taste of the food, and the sounds I heard. I remember bits and pieces of the latter, but the sights are ingrained much deeper in my memories than everything else.

The idea of sightseeing and using our vision that Urry portrays, in a way, reminds of me of ‘veni, vidi, vici’ (I came, I saw, I conquered). As a tourist, I go to a certain country or city or town or even historical site. As a tourist, I see all the site has to offer while documenting my time there via camera and memories I get to savor for a lifetime. As a tourist, I conquer the place I visit by experiencing all it has to offer and taking it all in so that I can take them back home with me.

Paula I Arraiza

An Underrated Type of Tourist

Type of Progym: Refutation

Even though Urry makes some great points in his piece about what he calls the “tourist gaze”, I couldn’t help but find myself disagreeing with some of his arguments. He seems to have a cynical and almost negative opinion about traveling just to see the sights a place has to offer. One of his main points is that

“there has to be something distinctive to be gazed upon, that the signs collected by tourists have to be visually extraordinary.”

Personally, I disagree with this claim. There’s something calming and refreshing about experiences sights that are familiar when traveling. While many tourists do go traveling for “visually extraordinary” sights, I think many tourists enjoy the simple views some places have to offer. However, they tend to be overlooked because the majority do travel with that “tourist gaze” Utter talks about. Yes, sightseeing is extremely fun, but not everywhere we go will offer an out of this world experience, and I think that’s fine. As we’ve already learned, many people go on trips to find themselves. If you travel with the goal of learning more about yourself and looking inward, sightseeing wouldn’t be something you’d be preoccupied with. For many people, traveling is about being able to escape a certain place, no matter where the destination is. For those who travel for themselves and not with sightseeing at the forefront, whether a place is astonishing or not is not important. The extremely overused phrase “it’s about the journey, not about the destination” would be the perfect way to describe this. For many, it’s not about looking at the best views or monuments, it’s about looking at parts of themselves they wouldn’t discover if they wouldn’t have traveled. Urry seems to forget about this type of travelers when speaking about tourists, which does a disservice to them in general since it portrays them all in a bad light.

Aongus Mui

The Tourist Gaze by John Urry

The Tourist Gaze
John Urry

Progym: Narrative

As a person who travels multiple times in a year, I have seen some truly amazing views. A couple of summers ago my family and I vacationed to The Dominican Republic. We left our house while it was still dark out to catch an early flight. The weather in Boston was beginning to cool down towards the end of summer. When we arrived in Dominican I remember the humid air and warmth of the blazing sun. We stayed in a beach side hotel, I will never forget the view at the right hours. I would wake up earlier than normal to try and catch the sunrise. It was an unforgettable view, there weren’t many people because of how early it was, giving me a clear view of the sunrise with almost no distractions. It was the perfect time to lose my worries and just gaze at the picture perfect landscape. The bright golden rays of the sun, white sand, and the sound of crashing waves made it all feel like a dream. It was quite a challenge to not get lost in the moment.

After a day passed I started to notice that just seeing a photogenic view was not good enough. I wanted to explore The Dominican Republic, outside of the beaches. On day five of the trip we took a tour to the middle of the island. Although the view was nowhere as close to the one from my hotel room, I enjoyed it ten times more. The common city smell, and the locals made it more real for me. I got to try local food and get indulged in the culture. This is one of the main things that I took from the vacation, it’s not always about the scenic views or getting the perfect picture. It was more about learning about the traditions of the place and truly getting the full experience.

John Urry advises us to not only go to the known locations but we should enjoy every aspect of travel, and all the little things that come with it. One of the things that stood out from Urry’s writing is that he advises us to take the time to just enjoy where we are, scenic or not. I chose to write a narrative on how I related to some of Urry’s points For instance, Urry covers what is “suitable” for the “tourist gaze.” My personal answer to that would be everything, from the nature of the destination to the more urban section. The “tourist gaze” is a matter of perspective, it differs for each person depending on what they find intriguing.

Samuel E Evans

The Tourist Gaze “Revisited” by Urry

Progym: Commonplace

Many people like to describe tourism as “going out to see the world,” or going abroad to “see things.” In this way, travel is considered a purely visual exercise, and the “tour” in tourism is taken very literally as if at all times you are following a guide, going where he goes, in line, and looking where he points. You go to a place to see the thing that you are told you should see: go to Paris for the Eiffel Tower and the café patrons, go to Berlin for the Brandenburg Gate and to see people eat currywurst outside a U-Bahn station. You go to the place to look, idly, at the view you have been told will be there, and so you have experienced tourism at that location.

This, of course, is a terrible way of looking at travel. Instead, you should enjoy travel in its entirety, along with every sunburn, aching foot, crowded train car, and noisy hostel room. After immersing yourself in a rough-and-ready American road trip or European train vacation, the cliché “it’s about the destination, not the journey,” really rings true. More often than not, the best vacation you will have will be the wild, backcountry, 3-star one over the transport-provided, tour-included, 5-star one. You go to Jamaica or Johannesburg to see things, sure, but also to experience whatever happens along the way, to appreciate the act of travel.

The person who goes on the first type of vacation, the one to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, is not inherently wrong, nor are they doing anything we haven’t all been guilty of at some point in time. But rather, they are missing something. Urry writes that “experiences are only of importance to the tourist because they are located within a distinctive visual environment” (Urry 1). Hence, it is not necessarily seeing the Eiffel Tower that will make your trip to Paris so great, but that you can have a glass of champagne, eat a pain au chocolat, or simply have a nice conversation while surrounded by the beautiful and novel visual scenery of Paris. As Urry says, “sometimes, tourism indeed appears to be understood as little more than a collection of a range of often disparate and relative unconnected sights,” when in fact we should be equally appreciating those moments in between the photo-worthy ones (Urry 6).

Generally, when we head into a vacation destined to be like our Eiffel Tower example, it is because we have over-planned. We are following the guidebook, which as we know from de Botton’s piece, often makes us unable to truly see and appreciate what is around us. The argument here is then obviously not to look at our surroundings when on vacation, but to not focus too much on planning and following the sightseeing list. We should avoid being the blind, bumbling tourist, but not because this is some terrible crime, but because in doing so we would miss half of the value of travel.