An interest in social constructions of identity led one academic to immerse herself for nine months among predominately British tourists in the resorts of Magaluf and Palmanova, on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.
Spending the better part of a year in a holiday destination sounds, perhaps, like the ideal research location but, for Dr Hazel Andrews, Reader in Tourism, Culture and Society at LJMU, Magaluf in particular provided some challenges in negotiating the field. The resort has a reputation for the hedonistic, partying culture associated with many places where young British tourists holiday abroad. In the past year Magaluf has been subjected to much media coverage due to the by-now infamous 'mamading' incident in the summer of 2014.
It would be easy to be side-tracked by the sensationalist excesses that make-up the negative press that the resort receives and dismiss the tourists involved, but, without denying the existence of such activities, Dr Andrews' research was aimed at understanding touristic practices in more depth. Interested in questions pertaining to national identity, her engagement in both Magaluf and Palmanova revealed an 'effervescent Britishness' in which tourists felt more able to express themselves as British in Mallorca than they did in the UK.
At the same time the significance of more localised and regional identities came to the fore. An important theme to emerge was that of gender. Her research and some of her subsequent publications have shown how conventional ideas of gendered identities are played out and reinforced in the resorts. Of particular concern is the level of violence associated with 'playing' with notions of what it means to be a woman or man. All of the ideas of identity referred to are used by the mediators – tour operators, hotel entertainers, bar DJs and so on – of tourists’ experiences in the pursuit of profit. There is an idea that what happens on holiday stays on holiday - this has never been the case - but in a world that appears to give increasing importance to social media, as the young woman in the 'mamading' incident found out, what happens on holiday is even less likely to stay there than before.
Dr Andrews added:
"Another idea is that tourism is based on difference. This is also a myth. What happens on holiday reflects who we are, it tells us something about the social world we inhabit at home, as well as on holiday. Sadly, for many women the violence on holiday, in its actual or symbolic form, is a reality of the world they reside in wherever they are."
Dr Andrews' research has featured in the THE and the Independent.