ATLAS Special Interest Group
Independent Travel Research Group
- Kevin Hannam
Leeds Metropolitan University
International Centre for Responsible Tourism
Leeds, United Kingdom
- Cody Paris
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In contrast to perceptions in the 1970s when backpacker travel was associated around 'drifters' who conjured up negative and 'poor image' connotations (of drug usage and anarchy), the backpacker phenomenon of today is an important and growing segment of international tourism. This type of travel has become a marketing as opposed to a de-marketing tool due to widespread acknowledgment of the economic merit of this market 'niche'. This transformation resulted in a shift in research, with the new research efforts focusing upon creating a more contemporary definition and means of classifying this type of traveller and in-depth investigations into the internal and external complexities of this market. This research progression was necessary due to the continued increase in the number of long-term budget travellers world-wide and the need for the tourism research to develop simultaneously with industry and market transformations.
In this context, The Backpacker Research Group was established in 2001 following discussions held among delegates at the ATLAS Asia Pacific conference in Hainan, China in October 2000. Many ATLAS members share an interest in backpacker tourism, and the group now has a membership of 35 researchers drawn from 9 countries. The initial activities of the group have concentrated on developing a network of researchers and compiling a bibliography of backpacker literature. A draft research programme 'The Modern Nomad' has been developed, aiming to analyse different aspects of backpacker tourism and its effect on the backpackers themselves and the places they visit. The first expert meeting of group members was held in Bangkok in July of 2002 to report on the existing body of research and discuss future research directions. The keynote speaker at the meeting was Professor Eric Cohen, a sociologist who produced in 1970s seminal works on 'drifters', recognised to be predecessors of contemporary backpackers. A bibliography of backpacker literature has been compiled by group members, and Irena Ateljevic from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand in conjunction with Stephen Doorne from the University of South Pacific, Fiji have compiled a review of research in the field to provide an overview of current work and provide directions for future research. The theoretical review together with other papers presented at the Bangkok symposium have been published in an edited volume by Greg Richards and Julie Wilson (2004), The Global Nomad: Backpacker Travel in Theory and Practice. Clevedon: Channel View Publications. A great range of international research papers based in Israel, UK, Germany, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand reveal the complexity of the phenomenon and have raised many issues that need further investigation.
Support for an international programme of Backpacker research has been gained from the International Student Travel Confederation (ISTC) who in the conjunction with the ATLAS members (Greg Richards and Julie Wilson) conducted major transnational study in 2002/2003 of the global youth and student travel phenomenon. The study investigated the attitudes and habits of 2,300 young independent travellers across four continents and findings have been published in the report 'New Horizons in Youth and Student Travel' (free downloadable from the ATLAS web site). The research reveals that today's young travellers identify themselves as 'independent travellers' more often than backpackers - only 20% of those surveyed identified themselves as a 'tourist'. They are still motivated to explore other cultures, but have a wide range of personal travel ambitions including a desire to become part of the multi-million strong international community of young travellers 'on-the-road'. One of the most important findings of this study has been the recognition that youth and student travel makes up a significant proportion of world tourism - currently around one fifth - and is the fastest growing travel sector. Inspired by a motivation to discover, experience and learn, young travellers take more major trips, stay away longer and spend more than mainstream tourists. Parents, educational institutions and employers are increasingly supportive of the value of travel for young people.
Through the efforts of a global network of academics, ISTC and ATLAS have also published the 20-pages Bibliography of Youth and Student Travel Research (also free downloadable report available for ATLAS members). The bibliography provides an annotated list of research and publications on the psychology, travel patterns, motivations, statistical profiles, spending patterns, booking patterns and characteristics of the young independent traveller.
Following the symposium in Bangkok in 2002 the Backpacker Research Group had a follow-up meeting at the ATLAS annual conference 2003 in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands when members briefly reported on their current research projects and outlined the future plans for the group. Our next symposium is planned to be held in Goa, India in November this year (2004) when we expect most of our members to attend. Similarly, as with the symposium in Bangkok the papers will be published either as an edited volume book or a special issue of an international tourism journal.
Annual review of activities 2013
Leeds Metropolitan University , United Kingdom
The ATLAS Independent Travel Research Group organised a conference held in Beirut, Lebanon, 19th-20th January 2012 on the theme of Independent Travel and Hospitality. The conference was organised with the kind help and assistance of the Lebanese International University (LIU) and was attended by approximately 50 delegates including international speakers from China, Germany, Iran, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the UK. It included a visit to the World Heritage Site at Baalbeck in the Lebanon. Once again, the conference was a great success and following the conference, a special issue of the e-Review of Tourism Research was co-edited by Dr. Cody Morris Paris and Prof. Kevin Hannam. The papers in this special issue illustrate the wide range of topics that were explored and provide a glimpse at some important emerging topics within the study of independent travel and hospitality.
Two of the papers focused on the relationship between travel regulations and independent travel. Accaoui’s paper provides an overview into the role that Lebanese laws and regulations have had in defining and organizing the institutions and professions related to the tourism industry. He argues that there is a need for an updated and modernized regulatory framework for tourism in Lebanon, as many current regulations are more than 40 years old. Louisville’s paper focuses on the external visa regulations and the role that they have for travel to developing destinations. She suggests that while visa policies are important government tools for influencing international tourism, for the most part in developing destinations they are inadequate and inefficient, and thus an obstacle to tourism growth. In her paper, she uses the illustrative case study of Suriname. She concludes that developing destinations might prove more receptive to implementing more facilitating visa policy reform decisions than other, more developed and well known destinations because many developing destinations have few institutionalized policies for destination management and the overall regulation of tourism.
Two of the articles focus on the impacts of the internet on independent travel. Ibrahim’s article explores the increasing trend of the use of online booking systems in Lebanon. He suggests that rather than perceiving the online booking systems as simply a threat, travel agents should seize the opportunity to invest in online booking technology as a means of overcoming the threat of direct reservations on their businesses. Berger and Paris, meanwhile, explore the influence of Facebook on backpacker’s social experiences in hostels. Their findings suggest that Facebook has shaped the social, behavioural, and communicative norms within the hostel environment.
O’Reagan’s study also explores independent travellers through an analysis of the ‘tactical practices’ of independent travelers, including backpackers and hitchhikers, which allow them to navigate and negotiate space differently from convention, expectation or habit. By employing these creative tactics, independent travellers can take possession of the travelerscapes, and produce temporary and experiential forms of social interaction and connectivity. Abdallah and Hannam’s paper provides a critical perspective of hospitality and the Lebanese diaspora. They discuss the conditional and absolute notions of hospitality in relation to western and non-western cultural norms, and they explore the ways in which early traditional Lebanese migrants and modern recent Lebanese migrants interact in terms of hospitality. In the final paper, Al-Hamarneh provides an overview of his keynote lecture at the conference during which he discussed the rise of intraregional mobility in the Arab World and the development of new tourism trends in the post-‘Arab Spring’ uprisings.
The ATLAS ITRG SIG looks forward to the next conference. We are currently working with partners in Suriname, and plan on holding the next conference in January 2015 with a Call for Papers forthcoming.
Annual review of activities 2010
University of Sunderland, United Kingdom
It has been a busy year for the BRG and we have just had the fourth ATLAS Backpacker Research Group conference in the beautiful surroundings of Hermanus, Western Cape, South Africa. This delivered 16 high quality papers and featured 16 original papers presented over three days by 9 different nationalities. The theme of the conference was Independent Travel in Uncertain Times and we had a good mix of papers but overall the key points evaluated the importance of comparative studies of independent travel behaviour as well as the importance of the mundane, familiar and everyday experiences of independent travel. In terms of the former, highlights were Marko Gam’s insights into comparisons of backpackers in the Baltic states, Cody Paris’ expert analysis of western and Asian backpackers and Joern Fricke’s comparisons between of Mexican and Malaysian backpackers. In terms of the latter, Professor Flavia Swann analysed the regulation of independent travel in the Napoleonic period, Emily falconer examined the familiarity of food in India, while Gareth Butler took us into the hostels of Norway.
Thanks must go to Professor Chris Rogerson and Jayne Rogerson for organising this conference and for providing the wine tour, penguin tour and indeed the daily whale performances. An outstanding location, with exceptional hospitality; highly recommended. Looking forward, we will be examining further publications that build on the last one Beyond Backpacker Tourism published by Channel View. A future conference is now being planned with the destination being in the Middle East region. One very important outcome of the present conference, however, was a change of name to become more inclusive, thus the Backpacker Research Group will now be known as the Independent Travel Research Group.
Annual review of activities 2006
Wageningen University, the Netherlands
Annual review of activities 2005
Wageningen University, the Netherlands
The Backpacker Research Group has grown from only a few members in 2001 (since it was established) to more than 35 researchers across 15 countries in 2005. The first expert meeting of group members was held in Bangkok, at the Kasetsart University in July of 2002 to report on existing body of research and discuss future research directions. The keynote speaker at the meeting was Professor Eric Cohen, a sociologist who produced in 1970s seminal works on 'drifters', recognised to be predecessors of contemporary backpackers. A great range of around 15 international research papers based in Israel, UK, Germany, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand revealed the complexity of phenomenon and raised many issues that need further investigation. The meeting has resulted in an edited volume by Greg Richards and Julie Wilson (2004), The Global Nomad: Backpacker Travel in Theory and Practice. Clevedon: Channel View Publications.
>The second expert meeting was held in September 2005 in the same venue of the Kasetsart University, Bangkok, gathering almost double number of more than 30 delegates. The keynote speaker was Professor Phillip Pearce, a social psychologist who in early 1990s introduced the term backpacker to tourism studies literature. In comparison to the first meeting which mostly served to scope the existing body of dispersed backpacker literature, this symposium has revealed a significant move in terms of recognising two distinctive theoretical trajectories in backpacker studies: 1) industry driven and business oriented approaches; and 2) social science and critical theory informed studies. Whilst many gaps identified at 2002 meeting have been addressed, the Eurocentric perspective and the empirical dominance of Asia and Australasia remain strong. Two key outputs will be produced out of this meeting.
One is special issue of Tourism Recreation Research, edited by Cohen, E. and Pearce, P. Backpacker Tourism. Another one will be an edited volume of Global Nomad II, by Hannam, K. Ateljevic, I. and Jarvis, J. (Channel View Publications).
The contact person for this research group is: Irena Ateljevic, Assistant Professor in Socio-Spatial Analysis, Wageningen University, the Netherlands
N.B. At the last meeting it was also agreed that the coordinating role of Irena Ateljevic would pass in 2006 to Kevin Hannam, form University of Sunderland, United Kingdom (he has kindly volunteered to take over).