Authenticity in Tourism in Small Island Destinations: the Residents’ Perspective

Robertico Croes, University of Central Florida
Seung Hyun Lee
Eric D. Olson


This study explored the meaning of authenticity in the context of a small island destination from the residents' perspective, departing from the main stream literature which predominantly focuses on the demand side of the equation. Photo-elicitation was used to investigate the conception of authenticity. The finding from the focus group is that the notions of authenticity are unique, vast, and individualistic and that an encompassing definition of authenticity is difficult to concur. While the focus group provided clarity in terms of authenticity being embedded in the cultural lifestyle, an empirical study was conducted to further understand what cultural resources could be derived from the specific meaning of authenticity. Two themes emerged: (1) when residents interact with tourists, cultural attributes are more important than tradition; and (2) tourists are involved in creating an authentic process for residents. The younger generation appears to be frustrated with the impact of tourism on the cultural identity of the island. In conclusion, the concept and practice of authenticity are not static, but rather evolving practices that embrace new cultural forms. Cultural tourism could become a potent vehicle enhancing the quality of life of residents and the essence of the distinctiveness of Aruba contributing to a sense of place, pride, and culture.