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A realist agenda for tourist studies, or why destination areas really rise and fall in popularity

Gale, Tim; Botterill, David


Tim Gale

David Botterill


This article proposes a (critical) realist agenda for tourist studies, centred around the question, ‘What makes tourism possible?’. In asserting realism as the philosophy of social science most likely to advance tourism theory, it offers a critique of prevailing epistemologies, notably positivism and constructivism (and critical theory), with a view to provoking engagement by the tourism research community with ontological and epistemological arguments, which we would contend is the hallmark of a mature subject area that is not derivative of disciplines. In the furtherance of this cause a critical assessment is made of the ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions underpinning an idea or assemblage of ideas within tourist studies that might be construed as ‘orthodox’, here represented by the tourist-area life cycle and subsequent applications, and also of radical reactions to that orthodoxy. We follow this with a case study of seaside resort decline (Rhyl, North Wales), which demonstrates how a realist philosophy of social science may permit a more satisfactory understanding of, in this instance, tourism destination development than that afforded by actualism or non-realism. © 2005, SAGE PUBLICATIONS. All rights reserved.


Gale, T., & Botterill, D. (2005). A realist agenda for tourist studies, or why destination areas really rise and fall in popularity. Tourist Studies, 5(2), 151-174.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2005
Journal Tourist Studies
Print ISSN 1468-7976
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue 2
Pages 151-174
Keywords constructivism, destinations, positivism, realism, Rhyl seaside resort decline, tourism research epistemology, tourist-area life cycle
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Lead author. This article was based on Gale's Ph.D research. Gale was responsible for much of the text and the empirical material. Botterill, in his role as Director of Studies, contributed to the introduction.

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