Fullagar, S, Markwell K, & Wilson, E (eds)(2012) Slow Tourism: Experiences and
Mobilities, Channel View: Bristol.
Starting Slow: Thinking Through Slow Mobilities and Experiences
SIMONE FULLAGAR, ERICA WILSON AND KEVIN MARKWELL
Slow food, slow cities, slow living, slow money, slow media, slow parenting,
slow scholarship and…slow travel. It seems that wherever we look, the prefix ‘slow’
is being added to another sector, phenomenon or industry. Being slow was once an
entirely derogatory term that signified one’s inability to ‘keep up’ in the competitive
spheres of work and leisure. Yet curiously, the meaning of slow is now starting to
shift, as slowness today is invoked as a credible metaphor for stepping off the
treadmill, seeking work-life balance or refusing the dominant logic of speed. Slowing
down has become an antidote to the fast paced imperatives of global capitalism that
urge the entrepreneurial self to speed up, become mobile and work harder in order to
be valued as successful, productive and conspicuous consumers (Humphrey,
2010;Rose, 1999;Schor, 2010).
One only has to glance at recent television programming to note the increased
interest in slow and alternative forms of travel. In addition to programmes detailing
travellers trekking over vast landscapes, there has also been a proliferation of shows
documenting intercontinental travels via vehicle. The most popular perhaps are ‘Long
Way Down’ and ‘Long Way Around’, which follow celebrities Ewan McGregor and
Charlie Boorman as they motorcycle over multiple continents engaging the locals at
Another indication of consolidation of this phenomenon is observed through
the products and the services that are now available under the banner of slow tourism.
Several websites make claim to the phenomenon offering ‘slow travel’ experiences,
ranging from fully booked tours to long stay accommodation. In addition, there is a
range of full length slow travel guide books titled for difference cities around the
world, which state ‘The Slow Guides are for anybody who wants to slow down and
live it up. They celebrate all that's local, natural, traditional, sensory and most of all
gratifying about living in each of these corners of the world’ (The Slow Guides, n.d.).
Clearly, for those fed up with fast, the goals of slow are to explore the possibilities of
being different, working differently, playing differently and, in the context of travel in
particular, moving differently.
In this book, we ask: what do slow mobilities mean for tourism? What effects
do slow mobilities have and how do they evoke different ways of engaging with
people and place? And, how are we also ‘moved’ by slow travel experiences in ways
that lead us to question, connect with and desire to know the world differently? This
book arose from our shared interest in thinking ‘through’ the multiplicity of
experiences and representations of slow travel. In both our personal and professional
lives, each of us has strived – and continues to strive - to maintain a sense of slow,
whether it be through a choice of rural and alternative lifestyles, installing solar
panels, growing our own vegetable gardens, going part-time to look after young
children, or trying to eat and travel in a more sustainable manner. We also yearn for a
sense of slow scholarship, as we continue to question our roles and privileges in the
knowledge production system that has become higher education. We wanted to
embrace a critical ethos that questioned the unsustainable pace of consumerism, the
demands of work and the desire for alternative mobilities (Fullagar, 2003;Humphrey,
2010;Sheller & Urry, 2006;Urry, 2002).
In this introductory chapter, we consider how ‘slow mobilities’ figure within
the historical emergence of the slow living movement as a constellation of diverse
ideas and cultural forms relating to food, cities, money, media and travel (Cresswell,
2010;Dickinson & Lumsdon, 2010;Honore, 2005;Parkins & Craig, 2006;Tasch,
2008). With our focus on the experiences of travel and tourism we understand slow
mobilities in Cresswell’s sense as ‘particular patterns of movement, representations of
movement, and ways of practising movement that make sense together’ (2010: 18).
Slow ideas are permeating the contemporary tourism imaginary, eliciting a range of
nostalgic and future oriented desires for local/global connectedness, low carbon
options and journeys that value embodied experiences of time. A plethora of slow
travel narratives, images and discourses now circulate globally through the popular
press, travel blogs and magazines as well as guidebooks, marketing for tours and
destinations (see Funnell, 2010;Germann Molz, 2009;Sawday, 2009; 2010).
Slow tourism has been the focus of recent discussion in the tourism literature
about how to conceptualise ‘slow’ in relation to the principles of sustainable tourism,
as well as how to identify the range of slow practices, motivations and supply issues
(infrastructure, regulation and markets) for tourism development (Dickinson &
Lumsdon, 2010;Dickinson et al., 2010;Hall, 2009;Lumsdon & McGrath, 2010).
Lumsdon and McGrath’s research has identified some parameters around slow
tourism in terms of ‘slowness and the value of time; locality and activities at the
destination; mode of transport and travel experiences; and environmental
consciousness’ (2010: 2). A number of typologies has emerged to categorise the
environmental practices of slow tourists through metaphors of ‘hard or soft’ and
‘heavy or light’ (Dickinson & Lumsdon, 2010). Yet there is there is little consensus
on what ‘slow’ actually means, and how it is practiced or interpreted in relation to
different tourism contexts, cultures and mobilities.
Our aim in this book is not to attempt to pin down the mobile meaning of slow
travel experiences, but rather to explore from different vantage points the dimensions
of slow that draw out the complexities of local-global, time-space, nature-culture,
self-other and personal-political relationships. Crucial to developing different insights
the contributors to this book have also employed a range of research methods to
explore questions of slow mobility and the mobility of meaning in tourism (Watts &
Experiencing Slow Mobilities
The notion of slow mobilities emphasises more than movement, or transport,
between places. Rather, the term ‘mobilities’ encapsulates a range of spatio-temporal
practices, immersive modes of travel and ethical relations that are premised on the
desire to connect in particular ways and to disconnect in others. Slowness is more
than anti-speed, however. Rather, slow is embodied in the qualities of rhythm, pace,
tempo and velocity that are produced in the sensory and affective relationship
between the traveller and the world (Cresswell, 2010). A slow relation to the world
has been shaped by a number of social movements in specific parts of the world that
have become mobile and virtual forms of social connection and identification.
In particular, the concept of slow travel has emerged from the Slow Food and
Slow Cities (CittaSlow) movements that both originated in Italy in the 1980s and 90s.
The Slow Food movement was initiated in the 1986 by Carlo Petrini as a response to
the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in an area of cultural significance in Rome.
As can be assumed, Slow Food was a collective retaliation against the phenomenon of
increased global consumption of fast food. Officially constituted three years later in
1989, the movement has now expanded to 132 countries with 100,000 members of
Slow Food International organisation (Slow Food, 2010a). Slow Food International’s
Mission Statement is ‘to defend biodiversity in our food supply, spread taste
education and connect producers of excellent foods with co-producers through events
and initiatives’ (Slow Food, 2010b). As with Slow Food, Slow Cities focus on ‘the
development of places that enjoy a robust vitality based on good food, healthy
environments, sustainable economies and the seasonality and traditional rhythms of
community life’ (Knox, 2005: 6). ‘Slow Cities’ has also become institutionalised as a
movement (CittaSlow) and progressed into a topic of academic inquiry ((Knox,
2005;Parkins & Craig, 2006;Tasch, 2008). As Pink (2008: 97) explains, ‘CittaSlow
emphasises local distinctiveness in a context of globalisation and seeks to improve
quality of life locally’.
Like the Slow Food and CittaSlow movements, slow forms of tourism
embrace this emphasis on the local consumption of food that draws upon culinary
heritage or organic principles, as well as the sensory embodiment of the journey (taste
becomes as important as sight). Slow travellers are often distinguished by a desire to
experience a different temporality to that of the ‘bucket list’ of places to stop over and
move on from. Slow immersion in the particularity of place can evoke and incite
different ways of being and moving, as well as different logics of desire that value
travel experiences as forms of lived knowledge. Against the high environmental
impact of the aeroplane and car, a range of s/low carbon modalities figure as
alternatives (walking pilgrimages, canoeing, leisurely cycling, place based
experiences) that value nature and cultural traditions.
The multiple desires for slow travel often play out in complex and
contradictory ways through discourses and narratives of travel. Slow travel is
marketed in the representations of high status travel magazines (for example, the
Australian Gourmet Traveller) to signify the accumulation of cultural capital. The
glamorous ‘gourmet slow’ traveller consumes high quality food and wine as a
reflection of cultural taste achieved through commodified experiences that are
distinguished from mass tourism. While commodified forms of slow constitute a
niche market, it is not surprising that the slow movement has come under criticism as
an elitist preoccupation of the harried middle classes (Heldke, 2003; Wilson, 2010).
Yet slow importantly signifies anti-consumerist displeasures associated with
unsustainable lifestyles and eco-desires for different kinds of identities (Schor,
2010;Soper, 2008). In his book Go Slow Italy, Alistair Sawday (2009: 13) describes
the shift towards slow politics as ‘a bridge from panic to pleasure’. In this sense slow
mobilities can be understood as part of a broader ‘life politics’ (Rojek, 2010;Rose,
1999) where negotiations occur around values of freedom and responsibility,
behaviours that are sustainable or consumerist, and social relationships that enable
engagement rather than observation, respect rather than exploitation, and reflexivity
rather than status seeking identities. Slow travel practices are informed by a diverse
range of ethical sensibilities that bring together pleasurable modes of engaging with
nature, or culture, and a politically reflexive sense of identity that is critically aware of
the impact of one’s own tourist behaviour. As Dickinson and Lumsdon (2010) have
identified in their research, however, there exist many tensions between an individual
tourist’s concerns about environmental impact and the desire for slow experiences in
the context of a global tourism system premised upon economic growth. While slow
travel practices reflect a range of ethical-political positions, they are yet to be fully
explored in the academic literature despite the growth of industry and popular
The slow movement aims to revalue quality leisure time, sociality and non-
consumerist experiences that aim to minimise environmental footprint (Dawson et al.,
2008;Honore, 2005;Mair et al., 2008). Yet there is a tension that is not easily resolved
within slow philosophies about the carbon footprint created by air or car travel that is
generated (especially if one travels anywhere from Australia or New Zealand). Slow
travel can contribute to debates about sustainable tourism and the search for
alternative mobilities in relation to the pressing issues of peak oil, food security and
transnational flows. However, it would be naïve to see slow as a simple answer to the
broader issue of predicted growth in global travel and middle class consumption in
emerging economies such as India and China. The constellation of ideas that connect
through the principles, philosophies and practices of slow mobility potentially offer
creative and culturally diverse ways of moving in the world – both at home and away.
Structure of the Book
This book is organised in four major parts. Each chapter contributes
conceptually, or empirically, to thinking through the multiplicity of slow tourism and
travel (we use these terms interchangeably rather than perpetuate a dualistic
conceptualisation). Contributors to the first part, ‘Positioning Slow Tourism’, consider
questions about temporality and how time is experienced differently through slow
mobilities. In their respective Chapters 2 and 3, both Chris Howard and Kevin Moore
reflect critically on theories of time in relation to issues of wellbeing and pleasure that
are evoked by travel desires for the good life and slow journeys such as secular
pilgrimage. In Chapter 4 Stephen and Michael Wearing and Matthew McDonald
contribute to a critical analysis of the commodification of the time-space of travel
within global capitalism. They point towards the potential of eco-tourism to generate
sustainable and pleasurable experiences that connect tourists and host communities.
The second part of the book, ‘Slow Food and Sustainable Tourism’, is
organised around the emergence of slow food tourism and its connections to
sustainability and ecogastronomy. In Chapter 5 Michael Hall provides a succinct
summary of the Slow Food movement, critically examining its paradoxes and
contradictions in relation to sustainable tourism. That is, how do we continue to
emphasise the local, regional and environmental within the context of an ever-
globalising and mobile world? As Hall warns us quite bluntly, we must ensure that
‘slow’ does not become merely another institutionalised method of ‘screwing the
Earth’. Turning to a more micro, nation-specific context, Fabio Parasecoli and Paulo
de Abreu e Lima in Chapter 6 present a case study of how a group of local food
producers, restaurateurs, and media professionals in the Brazilian town of Paraty have
launched a sustainable gastronomy program. The Paraty chapter demonstrates how
slow tourism can allow visitors to enjoy and participate in food production and
culinary traditions ‘as embedded and embodied performances of living cultures’.
Moving to Australia, Margo Lipman and Laurie Murphy in Chapter 7 explore the
growth of WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) in terms of the potential
to connect sustainable food production with more environmentally-friendly ways of
The final part of the book, ‘Slow Tourism Places’, is organised around the
theme of tourist destinations and places that represent some of the concerns identified
by the Slow Cities movement. Taking readers to a very particular climate and culture
in Chapter 12, Suzanne de la Barre writes about the marketing of ‘Yukon time’ as a
destination value in northern Canada. Questions about the process of Othering
Indigenous peoples are raised in this analysis of how slow travel values are used in
marketing discourses to reformulate potentially negative infrastructural deficiencies or
cultural idiosyncrasies as quaint and charming aspects of life or travel in the territory.
In Chapter 13, the theme of bridging traditional and contemporary cultures is also
addressed by Meiko Murayama and Gavin Parker in their analysis of fast and slow
Japan. Tourism authorities have begun to realise the potential of slow travel in
marketing rural tourism as a part of a regeneration strategy.
In Chapter 14, Dawn Gibson, Stephen Pratt and Apisalome Movono explore
how sustainable practices are experienced by tourists taking part in the ‘Tribewanted’
project on the island of Vorovoro in Fiji. Learning about traditional Indigenous
customs, food production and consumption practices, Tribe members express a
deeply felt and memorable connection to place and people through ‘slow’
community-building activities. Slow travel experiences are also recreated through a
virtual tourist community on-line where the immediacy of time and space are
transcended. Exploring a cross-cultural context in Chapter 15, Esther Groenendaal
examines why Dutch tourism lifestyle entrepreneurs have moved to France to open
B’n’B accommodation that reflects a slower pace of life. She considers how these
personal choices about working in tourism are also shaped by broader socio-political
movements that value culture, creativity and environment. As the final contribution to
the book in Chapter 16, Sagar Singh explores the significance of traditional and more
modern forms of slow tourism (pilgrimage, yoga tourism) within Indian culture and
history. Western misconceptions of Eastern practices, such as yoga, are also explored
in ways that question ethnocentric assumptions about what slow means and how it
figures in a globalised tourism market.
In conclusion, the collection of chapters in this book broaden and deepen the
academic research on slow tourism, demonstrating the connections, contradictions
and complexities inherent in the concept of ‘slow’ as it relates to travel. Drawing on a
range of disciplines including sociology, anthropology, history, food studies, cultural
geography and cultural studies and tourism/hospitality management, the contributors
to this book also reveal the diverse and multidisciplinary nature of slow travel. We
hope that this collection will add to the body of knowledge concerning this emerging
tourism phenomenon which, we believe, has the potential to challenge the ways that
tourism is performed and organised.
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