Tourism is a highly complex phenomenon. As a productive activity encompasses a huge number of stakeholders and processes: customers and/or tourists, companies and businessmen, workers, intermediaries, laws and regulations, technology, territory, resources, etc. All of them constitute a network, sometimes highly diffused, that has become, currently, one of the main industries worldwide.
From their beginning, human sciences have been interested in social processes, trying to link apparently individual acts with those regularities or patterns that underlie behaviors and relationships established among people. Thus, human social life is full of total social facts, that is, those that «express, at the same time and at once, all kinds of institutions: religious, legal, moral -in these both policies and family- and economic, which adopt special forms of production and consumption, or better provision and distribution, and to which we must add the aesthetic phenomena to which these events give rise, as well as the morphological phenomena that these institutions produce» (Mauss, 2013 ). In this way, tourism, as a collective human action, could to be considered as a total social fact, and this consideration lead us to make an effort to understand its holistic nature. Let see a couple of examples.
When an old and traditional market in the center of any city becomes a tourist attraction, we do not only have to observe and analyze the consequences that this action has for the balance of payments of local companies, but we must also take into account the effects on the consumption of the social fabric of the area, the aesthetic changes that are generated, often directed at the tourists, the regulatory modifications to which, sometimes, the competent administrations introduce, the new political struggles, the transformations in the behavior of the families, when seeing their patterns of daily supply altered, and many other variables.
Or, when a popular festival begins to appear in the brochures of tourist promotion agencies and escapes from the hands of its traditional target audience: the local community. In this case, we are not only valuing a resource of the so-called underutilized, but also playing with traditional dynamics of renewal of local identity, with individual and collective religious practices, renewals of social solidarity, etc.
In short, tourism is a phenomenon that has embedded a wide range of institutions and social practices that, like a gigantic mechano, see its structure altered, its actions and human relationships modified. This does not have to be initially negative or positive, the changes are inherent to all the societies and we are witnesses of this just by looking back. But any transformation has its consequences and that is something we should never forget.
Mauss, M. (2013 ) Sociologie et anthropologie. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.