Colonial historic geographic heritage in Puducherry in tourist information
Leeuw, Aldo de
MetadataShow full item record
Puducherry is a city in the south of India, a few hours from Chennai. The city is an old French colony and even though the French have left over half a century ago, the city still holds many relics of the French occupation. This has made the city a tourist attraction (the tourist industry is one of the biggest industries of the city (Indian Bank, 2007)). The remains of the French occupation are worth protecting, because they can tell a lot about the history of the area and the way colonial cities have developed. Tourism can be considered one of the most effective ways to protect this, because tourists visit this destination specifically to look at this heritage, if the heritage would go away, so would the tourists (Li, 2003). Urry (2003) and other researchers argue that tourists are led by the tourist information that they collect before or during their trip. Tourist information leads the gaze of tourists during their trip: they pay attention to the elements that have been described and will visit these elements. It is interesting to consider what image is created of Puducherry, because it is telling of the reasons why tourists will visit the city. This information can be used to develop heritage. Prior research on tourist information by – among others – Van der Vaart (1998) and Van Gorp (2003) shows that it only focuses on details and fragments and does not provide any context. The information focuses almost exclusively on one core area and only pays sporadic attention to the rest of the city. To learn to what extent tourist information pays attention to the historic-geographic story of Puducherry, this story will first describe this story and will then describe to what extent this is still visible in the city centre. The second part will describe the tourist information and will discuss the extent to which this pays attention to the history and geography of Puducherry and in what ways this information is provided. Previous research shows that tourist information is often authoritarian in tone, leaves no room for doubt and only pays attention to the positive aspects of town, this is done to attract tourists (Lew, 1991) The following main question will be answered: to what extent does tourist information pay attention to the colonial historic-geographic heritage of Puducherry and to what extent does it pay attention to these historical and geographical dimensions? To answer the above question first the historic-geographic history of Puducherry has been described based on secondary sources, after which an inventory of all colonial heritage in the city centre has been conducted (see map 1.5.1). Based on this inventory it can be concluded that large parts of the historic-geographic story can still be observed in the city centre, the town can be considered a typical example of French colonial city. Tourist information has been analysed by way of a content analysis, 18 sources have been collected and analysed. The following data has been collected: what parts of town are named, what extra information is provided about these, what is the writing style and what is the general tone of the information? It can be concluded that tourist information does not provide enough information for a tourist to learn about the colonial historic-geographic story. The information mostly focuses on details and fragments and does not provide context with these. It mostly focuses on one small tourist core area (see map 2.5.1) and only pays sporadic attention to objects and areas outside the core. The writing style of tourist information is authoritarian and leaves no room for doubt and other interpretations, attention is almost exclusively given to the positive aspects of the town. These conclusions are not surprising, most information is developed with the implicit goal to attract tourists, if there had been too much information for the negative aspects, tourists would have been scared away. The information mostly focuses on what makes the city different from the rest of India, this is a form of double othering: India is described as different and Puducherry is described as different from India. Puducherry is described as quiet and clean, while the rest of India is mostly described as busy and dirty. Again: this is not surprising, by describing the city as a kind of safe haven it will attract tourists who want to get away from busy and dirty India for a short while The conclusion of this research is that the colonial historic-geographic story of Puducherry plays no role of importance in tourist information. Fragments of this story do play a role in the information, but these are not placed in a larger context. Tourist information mostly focuses on attracting tourists by describing the quiet and clean image of the town. Heritage tourists will not be able to learn about the history and geography of Puducherry if they only read tourist information.