?Never short of a smile?: A Content Analysis of Travel Guidebooks
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Guidebooks are argued to be significant elements of the tourism infrastructure (Koshar, 1998), influencing the perception of destinations and the travel practices of millions of tourists (Gilbert, 1999). Guidebooks have been depicted as mediators, interpreters, and communicators of place and people, yet the examination of these texts as part of tourism has received little attention in the academic literature. There are few studies focusing on what information guidebooks are presenting to tourists (Bhattacharyya, 1997; Lew, 1991; McGregor, 2000). <br /><br /> In pursuit of cultural, environmental, and leisure experiences, tourists are going all over the world and there is increasing concern over the economic, socio-cultural, and environmental impacts of this activity. Information on these impacts can be found in academic literature and government reports, but rarely is it presented to tourists. <br /><br /> The purpose of this study is to analyse and describe how travel guidebooks communicate information on socio-cultural, environmental, and other destination specific issues. The republic of Peru was the case study area for this research. <br /><br /> Destination data was collected through interviews with tourism representatives in Perú, Destination Management Organisation (DMO) website analysis, and participant observation. This data was analysed to provide a coding scheme for the current issues and impacts in Peru relating to tourism. This coding scheme was used to analyse the content of the most commonly used commercial guidebooks for Peru (Lonely Planet, South American Handbook, Rough Guide) to understand if and how guidebooks are addressing current issues in Peru tourism. <br /><br /> Qualitative content analysis of destination data resulted in 29 emergent categories which were evaluated based on theme distributions (socio-cultural, environmental, and other) and source information. Categories were grouped based on importance values to allow for further examination of the main issues and impacts involved in Peru tourism. <br /><br /> Qualitative analysis of guidebook content resulted in 4 additional categories for a total of 33 items. This was followed by quantitative analysis of guidebook content to better understand theme distributions, statement types, marketing communication types, and relationships with original category intentions. Guidebook content was organised into groups based on importance values and compared with the importance groups found in the destination data to determine differences in category relevance. <br /><br /> The implications of this research in presenting information to tourists are discussed in terms of their relevance to socio-cultural and environmental interpretation, marketing and communication theory, and responsible tourism. Similarities and differences found in comparing destination and guidebook data are examined. Findings and discussions based on this research indicate that the role of the guidebook is multi-dimensional. These texts, juxtaposed between host and guest, mediate and interpret ecological, cultural, and social information. Findings of this research suggest that though guidebooks are involved in persuasive messaging which raises issues of power and representation, guidebooks are the only popular tourist information source in Peru attempting to influence tourists to reduce cultural and environmental impacts. This discussion is followed by suggestions for future research in this area.