Only shameful?

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Cruise ships at St. Thomas

While tourism looked squarely in the eye is less attractive, almost shameful, to the principled and the actively curious, we are all addicted to it. The compulsion to travel--to look, to perceive, to absorb and perhaps even understand something that will alter one's preconceptions--is deeply ingrained in Western culture.

But must cultural tourism be a downer? Are tourists only interested in the sensational, the spectacular, and the superficial? Or are some of us seeking something else, something undefinable called "cultural authenticity" -- our own as well as that of "the other"? Would we know it if we fell on it? If we fall on it are we likely to disrespect it? Lippard 1999, 87