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This book adopts a collectivist perspective on special interest tourism consumption, bringing together research on ‘special interest tourism’ and ‘niche tourism’ as well as more recent research into the interdisciplinary applications of the sociological concept of neo‐tribes. It promotes a shift in perspective away from special interest tourism understood as a sum of similarly motivated individuals, to a collective view of special interest tourists who share common characteristics (e.g., shared values, beliefs and mutual interests) and group structures. This approach provides a better understanding of groupings that are not unified by a common tourism motivation, but brought together by otherwise conditioned commonalities in actual behavior triggered by supply-side contexts (e.g., Airbnb). The book considers tourism micro‐segments as consumer tribes (i.e., as symbolic communities) in which individuals are embedded and loosely bound together.

As there is limited research on the collectivist perspective on special interest tourism consumption, in the first part the book’s conceptual/theoretical discourse contributes to a better understanding of ‘groupings’ in tourism behavior but also collectives that are not unified by a common tourism motivation. Presenting international examples, the book explores in Part 2 the group culture of a range of tourist tribes by describing emerging tourism micro-segments, identifying shared identities, and analyzing their collective mechanisms.





Chapter 1. Consumer Tribes: A Tourism Perspective on Shared Experiences, Emotions, and the Passion for a Specific Interest

Under the title ‘Consumer tribes in tourism: Contemporary perspectives on special interest tourism’ this book adopts a collective approach to special interest tourism consumption. It brings together research on ‘special interest tourism’, framed primarily as a demand concept, which is experiential in nature and driven by a special interest, and ‘niche tourism’, offering a supply perspective, with more recent research into the interdisciplinary applications of the sociological concept of ‘neo-tribes’.
Christof Pforr, Michael Volgger, Ross Dowling

Chapter 2. Special Interest Travel: Reflections, Rejections and Reassertions

The term special interest tourism (SIT) first appeared in the tourism literature nearly three decades ago and continues to be used as a label by tourism scholars, researchers and educators. Given SIT is most robust as a demand construct, this chapter uses the acronym SIT to refer to special interest travel and special interest travellers. The chapter traces the development of SIT, identifying milestones for both SIT and other closely related terms that have gained traction in the tourism literature in recent decades. The similarities, differences and overlaps between SIT, neo-tribal tourism and serious leisure are discussed and presented as a diagram. The chapter concludes with avenues for further research and implications for marketing.
Betty Weiler, Tracey Firth

Chapter 3. Cross-Disciplinary Applications and Conceptualisations of Theory of Neo-Tribes: An Investigation

The concept of the neo-tribe was first developed in sociological literature in the 1990s but has since been used by scholars in cultural studies, leisure, marketing, consumer behaviour, tourism and recreation. Since its first definition by Maffesoli in 1996, where ephemerality, fluidity, communitas and lifestyles were core concepts, the concept has been unpacked, reconceptualised and debated. This has occurred across a variety of disciplines, most notably cultural studies, tourism, marketing and consumer behaviour. This chapter will explore the conceptual ‘movement’ that has occurred around the concept across the disciplines and in doing so, will explore the implications of these conceptual changes for the future use of neo-tribes.
Anne Hardy

International Case Examples


Chapter 4. Black Travel Tribes: An Exploration of Race and Travel in America

This chapter examines race and leisure travel in America. It explores the impacts of racial inequality, segregation and discrimination on the travel industry. This work aims to examine how the history of Black Travel has led to the existence of Black Travel Tribes. It will also describe the nature of the tribes, why they exist, and what they hope to accomplish for Black travellers around the world. The chapter will begin chronicling the impacts of slavery and segregation on Black Travel, followed by an exploration of Black Travel Tribes, their shared identities and collective mechanisms, concluding with a discussion on growth opportunities and challenges facing the tourism industry regarding Black Travel Tribes.
Alana K. Dillette

Chapter 5. Film Tourist Tribes

Geographic film locations have received much attention in tourism as toured, managed and experienced sites. The emerging societal element however demonstrates that film tourists are not solely geographically bound. Importantly, film tourist tribes have an extended temporal engagement, there is greater involvement (demonstrated by film value and identity), and they are socially interactive (with other tribal members). Definitionally, social interaction and film involvement are central to the film tourist tribe, and consequently level of tribal membership. That is, geographic film locations are simply the physical realisation of the tribe, yet not the full representation of it. Importantly, touring is still crucial, distinguishing film tourist tribes from fan-tribes. Film tourist tribes are populated by the continuum of film tourists. At the core is a small yet highly interactive and intense group, surrounded by the periphery that have a continuing, though more tenuous, bond to the tribe off-site. The tribe is surrounded by a larger territorial community, with no societal connection beyond the film location, which is surrounded by an even larger non-film tourist group. This chapter contributes societal interaction and film involvement dimensions to characterise film tourists, enabling a greater understanding of film tourists and film tourism.
W. Glen Croy, Ina Reichenberger, Stefanie Benjamin

Chapter 6. The Coalescence of the LGBTQI+ Neo-Tribes During the Pride Events

Pride events have transformed from being protests to becoming celebrations of diversity. As a social phenomenon, such events represent the collective interests of the LGBTQI+ communities and the individual agendas of the gender and sexually diverse groups that are part of the LGBTQI+ acronym. This chapter examines pride events by applying a neo-tribal theory perspective based on the four characteristics of neo-tribes being: fluidity in membership; shared sentiment; rituals and symbols; and space. It is argued that while the LGBTQI+ communities together represent a neo-tribe with a unified purpose, the individual communities form sub-tribes and provide a unique interpretation based on their sexual and gender identity. Using a participant observation approach, this chapter presents a discussion on the interplay between sub-tribes and the overall neo-tribe that coalesce together to construct a pride event, its holistic message and the experiences therein.
Oscar Vorobjovas-Pinta, Clifford Lewis

Chapter 7. Dark Tourism Tribes: Social Capital as a Variable

There is a recent morbid tendency to consume (gaze) sites of mass death, mourning and suffering. This tendency was baptized in different forms such as dark tourism, thana-tourism or mourning tourism to name only a few. To date, no matter the multiplication of theories and studies, two great tendencies coexist. On one hand, some voices allude to the dark tourism as a mechanism of reisilience which helps community to recover after a disaster takes hit. The other signals to the pedagogical functions of dark tourism as a fertile ground to develop empathy with the Other’s pain. The present chapter reviews the strengths and weaknesses of both position with strong focus on the cultures of neo-tribes. Based on the previous publications on Maffesoli, as well as the theory of social capital, we lay the foundations towards a new understanding of dark tourism which is helpful not only for academicians but by practitioners and policy-makers.
Hugues Seraphin, Maximiliano E. Korstanje

Chapter 8. Avitourism Tribes: As Diverse as the Birds They Watch

There is a temptation to consider birders, or more specifically, avitourists, as a homogenous group of individuals that single-mindedly seek to add new and exotic species to their personal list of conquest birds. To make this generalisation under-appreciates the diversity of this niche tourism market as well as their drivers and motivators. Avitourists do indeed vary in terms of what tourism experience they seek and how the level of dedication to the act of birding is related to these experiential expectations. In this chapter, we will explore this diversity, but also the themes that unite avitourists. One of the most important unifying themes is the fact that almost all avitourists expect to see wild birds, as opposed to captive species. This underlines the need for effective management of the tourism product in natural areas and wild bird conservation, to ensure the avitourism industry can continue to provide the suite of benefits afforded to its participants and the communities avitourists visit.
Rochelle Steven, Nicolas Rakotopare, David Newsome

Chapter 9. Geological Tourist Tribes

Geological tourism has a long history. Certain groups of people have long been attracted to landscapes or landforms to see geomorphic features such as hills, mountains, plateaus, plains, deserts, canyons or glaciers. In addition, many are attracted to the earth surface processes which either build up the earth (such as tectonic or mountain building processes, volcanic activity or sedimentary processes) or tear it down (e.g. wind [aeolian], river or glacial erosion). These geological tourists are often regarded as being ‘geo-experts’ or ‘geo-specialists’ and often comprise professional or amateur geologists who have a good understanding of geology and a strong desire to place it at the center of their travels. At the extreme edge of geological tourist tribes are those who search or fossick for minerals, gems or fossils. Today these geological tourists form one segment of a wider group called ‘geotourists’. Geotourists with a focus on ‘geological’ features form one end of a spectrum of geotourists with those having a more ‘geographical’ focus at the opposite end. Whilst starting with an interest in geology these geographical tourists are now much more interested in learning about the connections between geology, habitats and people. Their focus is on gaining a more holistic understanding of their travel destinations. A number of types of geotourists have been identified including incidental, accidental, serendipitous, intentional and purposeful geotourists. The last two types are emerging as tribes of geotourists having a keen focus on travelling to see and learn about landforms or geological phenomena. Thus, there is emerging a spectrum of geotourists which range from ‘geological’ to ‘geographical’ in orientation, and may be passive to active in their travels. This chapter contextualizes geotourism, geotourists and geological tourist tribes.
Ross Dowling, Mamoon Allan, Nicole Grünert

Chapter 10. Freedom Campers: A New Neo-Crowd (-Tribe) Breaking Tradition with Planning Boundaries

The ephemerality of freedom camping presents complex problems at community and policy scales. Freedom camping’s mobility impacts planning and policy settings for local communities (some becoming very popular though not always welcoming) as places of tourism and recreational vehicle (RV) consumption. Research on planning and policy-making around freedom camping, and further, freedom campers as a ‘neo-crowd’ in residential communities, requires escalation in anticipation of freedom camping’s increasing and future consumption. This chapter presents freedom campers as a particular case example of an emerging tourism micro segment. The specific research objective of this Australian case study is to explore the variation in camper characteristics and campsite preferences, and the effect of this variance on the future management of freedom camping in local communities. It explores the group culture of freedom camper tribes by describing the niche segment and identify shared identities as well as analysing their collective mechanisms. Through this neo-tribal lens, and framed within conceptualisations of gaze theory and social interactionism, 41 interview informants were contacted through gatekeepers of the caravanning sector and further theoretical sampling. Each shared their perception, experiences and understandings of the main factors influencing developments in freedom camping, and camper segmentation. The findings reveal: first, freedom campers often seek to set themselves apart from the wider tourism cohort and define themselves in opposition to the mainstream caravanners. Second, campers self and peer identify through a spectrum of neo-tribes, of commercial through to freedom campers with an emerging sub-tribe as ‘swingers’ that alternate in between. Third, in acknowledging the macro to micro identifying determinants that help to shape the neo-tribes, caravanning site selection (camping consumption) is likewise bounded from fully ‘hooked-up’ to totally ‘laissez faire’ environments. The chapter’s originality lays in the author’s liminality within RVing neo-tribes, between insider and outsider, to bring a perspective that others may not see. The narrative takes a deliberate route to acknowledge the heterogeneity of freedom campers while still exposing examples of ‘common’ identifying determinants and behaviours of various sub-tribes. It seeks to bring enlightenment to ‘others’ in caravan and camping management, to move the freedom camping debate towards enriched and workable solutions and increase camping production through regenerative and creative planning and policy environments. Hence, the chapter’s focus is not solely on any one neo-tribe at the public-policy-level, and conceivably, others may see different narratives. However, as a forerunner, the chapter paves the way for others to continue the story of freedom camper tribes, to tease out, expand, critique or reject numerous threads, and/or to take the neo-tribe conversation across to other disciplinary areas of research.
Rodney W. Caldicott

Chapter 11. Enjoying Sunset: Successful Ageing and the Grey Nomad Community

Grey nomads, an Australian term for older recreation vehicle travellers, are bound together by a set of common characteristics. This chapter initially identifies a number of issues associated with successful ageing; this discussion provides a somewhat novel perspective on the group’s commonalities and mobility. Next, and as a basis for providing insights at a group level, the authors briefly review both social representations theory and social practice theory as ways to explore the value and significance of the grey nomads’ extended holiday journeys. Studies of the behaviours and attitudes of members of the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA), and its magazine, are used as the empirical basis for the commentary. From multiple data sources, the researchers examine the common concerns of grey nomads, and the language and normative behaviours which build in-group belonging. Both social practice theory and social representation theory, with their power to focus on the commonalities and key guiding metaphors of interacting parties, are employed to help finesse the discussion. Findings support the elements of the positive psychology framework known as PERMA –the acronym summarising the psychological elements of ageing successfully.
Philip L. Pearce, Hera Oktadiana, John R. Pearce, Tingzhen Chen

Chapter 12. The Cycling Tourism Tribe

Cycling has a 200-year long history with ups and downs but since more than a decade it is experiencing exceptional growth arguably because it gained in importance as a means for identity construction, bonding and signalling of social status. Some maintain that cycling has occupied the role of golf, others see the recent boom rooted in middle-aged body image crises. Whatever the root causes may be, cycling has become strongly embedded in a web of values and meanings up to the point of representing a lifestyle. This evolution affects cycling tourism as well, whose actors have realised growing numbers but have often been struggling to fully understand symbols and values of the cyclist tribe. This chapters adopts a perspective rooted in consumer sociology and explores commonalities in the cycling tourism tribe to differentiate it subsequently into its sub-tribes. While differentiation has indeed flourished, we concentrate on the three main segments of road cyclists, mountain bikers and trekking cyclists and eclectically unveil some of their status symbols, communication mechanisms and group dynamics.
Michael Volgger, Manuel Demetz

Chapter 13. Cruising and Clanning: The Motorcycle Tourism Tribal Experience

The motorcycle lifestyle is best conceived as a subculture, and there are a vast number of riding groups and clubs within that subculture that have formed around specific interests. Motorcycle tourists are a neo-tribe within the larger subculture that may or may not be affiliated with clubs or other neo-tribes. Motorcyclists share values, beliefs, symbols, narrative, and common lifestyle aspects. They also engage in common rituals. Among motorcycle tourists, members who form smaller tribal groups enjoy a shared passion and the desire to affiliate with like-minded people. Since all members of such a sub-tribe remain members of more comprehensive neo-tribes, the concept of clan formation is a more apt application. As motorcycle tourists travel, they may ride with their neo-tribe or they may form a new mobile clan for a particular trip or occasion. Furthermore, new clans may form on a temporary basis at a particular event or activity such as the annual ‘Pig Roast’ at Steel Steeds Motorcycle Campground in Pennsylvania (USA). This article challenges traditional notions of clan formation in a mobile society and argues that stability and continuity can be achieved at a temporal event that occurs annually and serves as the nexus for clan formation. Trust forms within the mobile communal relationship where members share experiences and rituals. Members may self-identify and self-segment joining different clans creating a multi-level communal experience. This clanning and neo-tribal behaviour is explored within the context of a motorcycle campground. Businesses that can provide spatial locations and activities for motorcycle tourism sub-tribes can form clan-like relationships within this community.
Diane Sykes

Chapter 14. Water-Sport Tribes in Multi-Sport Destinations: The Case of the Lake Garda, Italy

Lifestyle water-sports share a common escapist aim and were traditionally characterized by very specific—and sometimes closed—community groups. Initially framed within the discourse on adventure tourism, they are increasingly assessed in literature as forms of nature tourism, where the risk-taking attitude is combined with the desire to learn, achieve individual goals, and improve skills. Moreover, water-sports are also suitable to be analysed using the novel theoretical framework of consumer tribes, since they are constituted by heterogeneous groups of persons sharing a common passion and similar social practices, independently of a demographic- or class-based segmentation. The practice of multiple water-sports during one holiday for purposes of multifaceted experiences, the development of multiple water sports practices across a lifetime as well as a the co-existence of multi-optional and singular sporting practices are the main phenomena analysed in this chapter on water-sports neotribes. To analyse these phenomena, this case study focuses on the well-known destination Lake Garda, Italy. Based on semi-structured interviews to local and international stakeholders and a sample survey to local tourists, this work aims at analysing the tribes of water-sport practitioners of the Lake Garda. Results show that water-sport tribes are micro-tribes with blurring boundaries and transient memberships. They develop at destination level embedded in bigger outdoor sports tribes, having a common attitude towards eudaimonic experiences. Multi-sports destinations work both as ‘tribe generators’ and as ‘anchoring places’, because they evolve in a never ending dialogue with tribe members, that in turn improve their skills and challenge themselves in multiple sport adventures.
Anna Scuttari, Giulia Isetti, Philipp Corradini

Chapter 15. Searching the Seven Seas: Investigating Western Australia’s Cape Naturaliste Surfing Tribe as a Surf-Tourism Paradigm

A byzantine phenomenon, surfing has escalated from a countercultural lifestyle into mainstream. Surfing populations exist as tribes, isolated by time and space, distinguishable by beliefs, values, history and ecology. These subsets operate as idiosyncratic subdivisions of the wider parent surfing culture. Western Australia’s Cape Naturaliste surfing tribe is an example of this paradigm. Motivated by fun and driven by the search, the Cape Crusaders travel the planet to consume surfing. Surf tourism is big business, and like most surfing tribes, the Cape Naturaliste crew visit diverse destinations to supress their appetite for riding the cliché perfect wave. Using ethnography and autoethnography methodology as the basis of socio-cultural investigation, this chapter explores the Cape Naturaliste wave riders as a surf-tourism tribe, identifying and examining the motives and mechanisms for their travel predilection.
Robert A. Holt

Chapter 16. Offshore Sailing: Subcultures and Neotribes

Offshore ocean sailing is not for everyone, not even for every sailor! I will take you sailing through ethnography and published research then consider these sailors in the context of neotribes, consumer tribes, brand communities and subcultures. My interest here is epitomized by sailing in the open ocean, offshore, out of sight of land and overnight(s). Some people race around the world, some sail between islands or follow the coast, others take their time sailing from country to country, living life on the ocean full time, a lifestyle. I focus on ocean cruising and ocean racing, both of which I will restrict to offshore. Sociological concepts used to understand our social world are always contested, with tribes, neo-tribes, consumer tribes, brand communities and subcultures being no different. This chapter explores aspects of these concepts as lenses with which to steady our gaze on offshore ocean sailors. I argue that offshore sailors can’t be fully understood using the concepts of tribes or neotribes.
Jim Macbeth



Chapter 17. Tribes in Tourism: A Socio-Cultural Perspective on Special Interest Tourism Consumption

This chapter discusses benefits of adopting a sociological angle to better understand social processes and structures that underpin tourism consumption. It more specifically argues that the study of special interest tourism can benefit from a perspective that embraces collectives as units of analysis. The chapter concludes by suggesting advantages of examining special interest tourism from the perspective of consumer tribes or neo-tribes.
Michael Volgger, Christof Pforr, Ross Dowling
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