Kincaid’s A Small Place and Gmelch’s Behind the Smile present two different views on the tourist industry and the relationship between tourists and their hosts. Jamaica Kincaid, who comes from Antigua, is ironic about tourism and underlines moral ugliness of being a tourist. George Gmelch, professor of anthropology from the USA, examines the issue from the viewpoint of an impartial researcher. The difference in origin and background of the authors partly explains the difference in their views. To make a position on the relationships between tourists and their hosts, it is helpful to compare the views of both authors on two major points: attitude of tourists to hosts and of locals to tourists, and cultural impact of tourists on their hosts and vice versa.
As for the attitude of tourists to locals, both Kincaid and Gmelch note tourists’ ignorance; however, their tones are slightly different. Kincaid explains it as a half-conscious desire to turn the blind eye to the real conditions of life of local people in order not to spoil the vacation with discomfort caused by such thoughts (10). As a result, Kincaid concludes that an ordinary tourist is an ugly human being – both physically and morally. Thus, the attitude of locals to tourists is negative, judging from Kincaid’s work. At the same time, Gmelch reports that hosts “generally hold favorable opinions of visitors” (190). They do experience some unpleasant emotions when they notice total unawareness of tourists about the culture of the country they came in, but locals tend to excuse them for their desire to relax. Thus, ignorance of tourists is noted by both authors though explained differently.
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As for the cultural interaction, both authors note the prevalence of English, or Western, culture in places like Antigua or Barbados. Kincaid underlines locals’ reverence for English culture and complains about the necessity to speak the language of oppressors. Gmelch also reports that “changes in language […] may be the most pervasive impact of working in tourism” (195). In addition, tourists do not usually have to accommodate to the local traditions; locals often complain that tourists show disregard by walking in bathing suits. At the same time, hosts must comply with the traditions of their guests in order to provide better service. Therefore, mutual cultural impact is highly uneven: hosts are much more influenced by their guests that guests by their hosts.
Thus, examination of mutual attitudes and cultural impact reveals that tourists and their hosts live in essentially different worlds and have distorted perceptions of each other. Tourists tend to ignore everyday reality of locals, which is often unpleasant, noting mainly the beauty of the place and comfort of their hotels. On the contrary, locals tend to view tourists as ignorant people who simply don’t care about anything more serious than entertainments. Needless to say that both views are far from reality.
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