Tourism place and space: British stag tourism in Poland

Thomas Thurnell-Read

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Thurnell-Read, T. (1). Tourism place and space. Annals of Tourism Research, 39(2), 801–819.

collective , Masculinity , place , space , urban tourism

The British premarital stag tour to Central and Eastern European destinations is commonly associated with drunk and unruly behaviour. This link frequently focuses on the inappropriate use of public spaces by stag tour groups. Drawing on participant observation with British stag tourists Krakow, Poland, it is suggested that the meanings attributed to stag tour destinations are collectively defined within the group. A distinction is made between place, which is how the destination is anticipated and imagined, and space, which is how the city is engaged with physically and socially on the ground. Within this the definition of place and space created by stag tour participants is antagonistic and both directly and indirectly contested by other actors within the spatial setting.

Main finding
By exploring British stag tourism to Krakow, Poland, this article adds to the understanding of collective tourism practices and how tourists interact with tourism spaces. The stag tour groups' ideas about Poland and Eastern Europe as potentially backward, exciting, and unique, informed their transgressive and unruly behavior in streets, squares, bars, and clubs. The tourists seemed to take joy in ironically subverting the public spaces they were in, interrupting and mocking demonstrations, social spaces, etc. to the amusement of other tourist groups. These kinds of behaviors contribute to these tourists’ general practice of dominating spaces and being loud, large and visible in ways that others are not. This behavior is purposefully boundary-pushing and is seen as desirable by the tourists as part of the premarital ritual of stag tourism. The groups' use of the city is contested in confrontations with local residents and business owners who deem their behavior inappropriate, with nightclub staff routinely acting as gatekeepers. The tour guides frame the tourists' interactions as they travel the city, often attempting to keep the unruly groups moving when tension is brewing.

Description of method used in the article
Between September 2007 and June 2008, the author contacted eight stag tour groups through a Polish tour company, making ethnographic covert observations of other non-participant tour groups throughout their travels. These tour groups ranged in size from eight to nineteen. The primary fieldwork consisted of informal interviews and observations of the different groups' behaviors and interactions with others in various public and semi-public spaces. Additionally, four of the tour guides participated in semi-structured interviews lasting roughly one hour.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Interviews Participant Observation
Physical types
Cafés/Restaurants Streets
Geographic locations