Critical Tourism Studies - 3 ECTS

Through the democratization of travel, transport technology developments, ubiquitous internet use and growing global affluence, international tourism is booming despite temporary setbacks. Globetrotting tourists are seen as part of the frictionless flow of capital, information, culture and goods and most places on the planet are meant to be competing in a global marketplace to entice these. As such tourism is generally promoted as a motor for economic growth and regularly cited as the world largest industry, employing one in ten people of the planetary workforce. Under these terms there is a need to tend to the diverse relations through which tourism places and spaces emerge, and thus define tourism development successes from a broader perspective than merely as measurable economic growth.

Organised by Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)

Mon 1 July 2024 until Wed 10 July 2024


The course will enable PhD candidates to unravel the multiple relations surrounding tourism and its development in a range of settings refracted through their own on-going research. The course will equip students with a nuanced appreciation of the social and cultural dimensions of power manifest in tourism destination development, in tandem with an appreciation of the production and material aspects of tourism and mobility. These will be embedded with an understanding of the forces of structural power that characterize twenty-first century capitalism and globalization.

Moreover, this summer school is to engage graduate scholars of tourism in thinking about plurality of tourism futures. The course is organised around theories that move beyond dichotomous understandings of tourism, such as good/bad tourism, global/local, production/consumption and mass/independent. Thereby the course will equip the student with the conceptual tools to transgress highly abstracted and often idealised notions of tourism development. Indeed tourism is mainly constructed through grounded social, cultural, and economic practices. As such the tourism production system constitutes a distinct sphere “of a specific sort of phenomenon variously called ‘society’, ‘social order’, ‘social practice’, ‘social dimension’, or ‘social structure’” (Latour, 2005, p. 3). Tourism is bound together by accepted participants, labelled stakeholders, whose roles are prescribed under the idealised conditions of tourism development and dynamics. In this course we will explore and scrutinise these power geometries and unravel alternative tourism capacities for inducing a positive change to destinations and in the context of individual research projects. Moving beyond tourism defined as an industry based only on a particular economic logic derived from perceived structures and essence of a society sui generis, is the leitmotif of the course. Tourism is life itself. It grows through relations and the act of being-with others, more-than/non-human and the earth itself. Therefore, it is imperative that our conceptual frameworks assist in critically engaging with the realities tourism performs.

The course is organised around theories that link tourism with poststructuralist, relational and political ecology scholarship. The course thus moves beyond theories on tourism as a social construct and industry. It offers students a solid theoretical basis to problematize the relation between tourism and its material and socio-cultural setting. We draw on different disciplines (history, philosophy, political sociology, geography, economics) to rethink the relation between tourism and the world. The various sessions in the course combine the reading of foundational texts with readings of more recent academic work from critical tourism studies.

Learning outcomes

During the course, participants develop a conceptualization of tourism relevant to their research questions and setting. Participants will engage directly with foundational texts on critical tourism studies and link these to the manifold ways in which tourism unfolds in a range of settings. Participants learn to see how tourism development trajectories are created and maintained and what are the impacts on their research projects and on their research population.

After successful completion of this course, participants are expected to be able to:

  • Identify core theoretical frames to rethink the ways in which tourism and development are linked
  • Understand the importance of historical, abstract and theoretical texts and apply them to contemporary debates on critical tourism studies
  • Critically reflect on the implications of different theoretical framings for their research projects
  • Develop a conceptualisation of tourism for his or her own research project.


Being a graduate workshop, more demands will be made around reading, self-study, active pre-class preparation, reflections and development of own research project and in-class dialogue. Tutorial sessions take place every morning, thereafter a lecture and then scope for team work with focus on individual projects. The summer school concludes with a presentation symposium wherein members of the Tourism@WUR cluster and other invited faculty will join and engage with talks/presentations from each of the participants on how their project developed with input from the summer school. Readings will be provided at least two weeks before the start of the course.

Participants are expected to read the literature, and send in questions and points for discussion to the teacher no later than 08.00 am the day of the session!

  • Session one will serve as an introduction into the topic and set-up of the course. We will allow participants to get to know each other, briefly discuss each other’s research projects, set the overall theme, and align expectations.
  • The literature-based lectures will discuss foundational texts and relate these to contemporary work that addresses the relation between tourism and theory. Where appropriate we discuss how the specific literature of that day is applied in empirical research. The sessions will introduce the literature based in engaging lecture format. The active contribution of participants to bring in their observations and reflections is encouraged.
  • The final day of the course is a symposium with tourism scholars of the IGU. Throughout the day participants present their research in relation to the different perspectives discussed in the course. In the afternoon, the school will be rounded off with some drinks and pleasantries.
Session Morning Afternoon After work
1 July, 9.00-17.00 Introduction Collaborative storytelling and thinking
2 July, 9.00-17.00 Lectures Tourism world system analysis and power geometric, and Political consumerism in tourism Group PhD project work Walk around WUR campus
3 July, 9.00-17.00 Lectures Critical gender studies, and Planetary boundaries and steady state economics Reflection session, and Film afternoon: Framing the Other
4 July, 9.00-17.00 Lectures Unpacking sustainability, and Going Green to save the World Reflection session, Group PhD project work
5 July, 9.00-17.00 Joint excursion and talks around 'Making and unmaking The Anti-Tourism Guide' Joint excursion
8 July, 9.00-17.00 Lectures Earth-led priorities in tourism and convivial design, and Exploring actors in sustainable tourism: The power of gaming Reflection session, Group PhD project work Tourism Wolrd cafe
9 July, 9.00-17.00 Lectures Tourism and digitalisation, and The affective turn: Bio-politics in and beyond tourism Reflection session, Group PhD project work Checkpoint board game
10 July, 9.00-17.00 Participant symposium event with Tourism@WUR and beyond Symposium, and Drinks and concluding celebrations


The assessment consist of 1) an evaluation of the student’s participation in the sessions and 2) a short essay (3-5.000 words) in which participants will reflect on the ways in which aspects of critical tourism studies affected their PhD research.

  1. Preparation through reading all required literature in advance, labelled ‘readings’.
  2. The active participation in class is assessed through the submission of at least one question for debate and comments on the reading prior to the class, to be submitted no later than 8.00 am on the day of session to allow for the lecturer to prepare (questions/reflections to be sent to the lecturer by email).
  3. In the final essay, students are asked to work with the theory of one or two sessions and make a connection between the theoretical debates and their own research.

Assumed prior knowledge

This course gives a thorough introduction to important debates in the social and environmental sciences and cultural studies on tourism theory and development. Participants are expected to have a basic level of knowledge about debates in the broader sciences. Please contact the course coordinators in case of doubt about the required entry level.

Course fees

WGS PhDs with TSP €300
a) All other PhD candidates b) Postdocs and staff of the above mentioned Graduate Schools €640
All others €900

Cancellation conditions

Participants can cancel their registration free of charge 1 month before the course starts. A cancellation fee of 100% applies if a participant cancels his/her registration less than 1 month prior to the start of the course.

The organisers have the right to cancel the course no later than one month before the planned course start date in the case that the number of registrations does not reach the minimum.

The participants will be notified of any changes at their e-mail addresses.