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Title: Exploring the Conflicting Demands of Backpacking: Case Study of a Singapore Hostel
Authors: Tan Kia Hin
Keywords: Backpacking tourism, suspension, mundane practices, interactions, inter-guest relations, hostel
Issue Date: 2015
Citation: Tan Kia Hin (2015). Exploring the Conflicting Demands of Backpacking: Case Study of a Singapore Hostel. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: One of the distinct characteristics of backpacking tourism is the emphasis on gaining exotic experiences through interactions with other cultures. However, recent debates underline the mundane nature of backpacking, arguing that backpacking tourism is not as exotic or different from mass tourism. Instead, backpackers carry out routine performances to familiarize the process of travel and seek comfort. Amidst these debates, this research aims to show that backpacking tourism does not exist in a binary. Backpackers may simultaneously demand for interactions and a familiar environment. The act of balancing these conflicting demands is termed as suspension (Wilson and Richards, 2008), and backpackers tend to retreat into familiar spaces such as hostels to escape from the stress of interacting with unfamiliar local cultures. Nevertheless, this research demonstrates that the hostel is not entirely a familiar environment. Due to the communal nature of hostels, there is a need to account for inter-guests relations and the blurred boundary between public and private spaces within hostels. Extending the concept of suspension into hostels, this study reveals the tensions that backpackers experience between the two conflicting desires in hostel spaces. Responses gathered through semi-structured interviews with backpackers staying in a Singapore hostel has uncovered how suspension is presented within the hostel space. To balance the conflicting desire for comfort and interactions, backpackers have chosen to stay in small dormitories, travel in groups and adapt to the hostel environment. While these responses have shown the presence of conflicting desires and III suspension in the hostel space, it also introduces new perspectives on suspension. Not only can suspension be achieved despite an unequal distribution between the two desires, suspension also varies temporally. Further research on these observations and how the contradicting demands and suspension differs between racial and gender identities will contribute greatly towards tourism literature.
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