Is Tourism a culprit in commodifying cultures and traditions?

Signs of commodification of culture and traditions are everywhere. Referring to my previous posts, it can be found in, staged performances, handicrafts creations, and historic architectural buildings-turned-into-tourist-accommodation. Although tourism does result in commodification of culture, tourism has positive impacts. 

Besides economic benefits, it encourages the “host-guest” relationship which could create “revitalisation” reaction (helps to increase local and foreign awareness of valuable culture) among Saudi artisans, such as potters, woodworkers and weavers who demonstrate their traditional crafts in small shops during the Al Janadriyah Heritage and Cultural FestivalEven though tourism encourages locals to preserve, display and boast its incredible cultural resources to tourists, this display of culture and traditions has resulted in the cost of authenticity due to tourist demands.

Local handicrafts for sale at the Janadriyah Heritage Village.

Developments of heritage villages like the one in Riyadh, houses exhibits to entertain tourists and allow them to purchase local-made products like traditional brass and copper coffee pot made by a metal smith, basket makers weave palm fronds and straw into hats, baskets and containers decorated with colourful designs, leather is cut and shaped into sandals, pouches and bags. Traditionally, these arts and crafts are authentic but now, it has evolved to incorporate tourism needs, creating more products which were not traditionally used before. In this case, local culture which consists of the customs, traditions, rituals, feasts, ethnic/folk art are produced and performed for consumption by tourists.

Even historical fortresses like the ones in Al-Baha province, are converted to resorts/hotels for tourist accommodation. On top of that, the Committee for the Promotion of Tourism came up with religious, cultural and social schemes with activities to allow tourists to spend the best time possible.

Thus, relating back to the question, such tourist facilities and activities introduced are in a way adaptation tourists demands, from the all-inclusive resorts, religious performances/ cultural dances to the selling of handmade arts and crafts made by locals, these are signs of Disneyization which can lead to the commodification and standardization in the culture industry. Therefore, to a certain extent, tourism is a culprit in commodifying cultures and traditions. However, it is not the only culprit guilty of the commodification of culture and traditions, as tourism will not be possible without the driving forces of globalisation such as technological advancements & innovation, media and communications.