Introduction


The Tour of All Tours is a guided tour like no other: it is a performance that takes the form of a guided tour the subject of which is the other tours (guided and otherwise) available locally. It provides an engaged alternative to the conventional tour that can be of interest to the local and visitor alike. It looks at the tourism industry itself and also at the other forms of tours (political/historical/religious etc) and in doing so, opens up questions of globalisation and the meaning of these exchanges between local and visitor. At the same time, it really does provide an effective summary of the tours on offer and so does fulfil a touristic role, albeit in a novel way.


Rationale


Conventional tourism typically attempts to imagine itself as invisible, the local sites, stories and characters being the objects of attention. By shifting attention onto the tours themselves this brings into focus the ‘elephant in the room’ placing the tourist and tourism industry that surrounds them into the spotlight. One reason this may be of interest is that contemporary tourism can have a complicated relationship to its host cities. Some people, but not all, will economically benefit from the tourist economy but the character and identity of the city changes for everyone as a result of mass tourism. City centres can, at worst, become kitsch museums, a parody of a meaningful place of cultural and economic exchange for the local population. This can in turn lead to a passive aggressive relationship towards the tourist. From the other perspective, tourism always promises a taste of authenticity yet is often unable to provide it except when things go wrong. The mass tourist experience is therefore all too typically frustrating, boring and superficial. The Tour of All Tours remedies this.


conceptual tour guide Bill Aitchison in Stuttgart 2013


The Tour


The Tour Of All Tours brings tourists and local residents into the same frame as equals. It achieves this by focusing upon something both are familiar with: the mechanics of the tourism industry. In this way The Tour Of All Tours can function as a conventional tour for tourists, who will be only too familiar with the mechanics of tourism as they will be in the middle of it, and at the same time also engage local residents in order to destabilise both groups and create a meaningful encounter between them. It makes a playful and highly self-referential commentary upon contemporary tourism that extends its gaze to the wider society. It is given in a engaging and simple manner, an approach Aitchison has championed as site-sensitive.


Resources


Bill regularly updates the blog Tour of All Tours which features ongoing reviews of tours around the world, updates on projects, calls for work, publications, and much more on critical tourism and performance.


A review (in German) of the Stuttgart tour can be read HERE.


Production History


The first tour was made in Stuttgart, capital of Baden Württemberg, in April 2013 supported by British Council Germany and presented by Arttours who continue to present a German language version of this tour. Subsequent tours have been given in various forms in London, Beijing and Cambridge with a presentation of the project at On Hosting and Displacing a symposium on Critical Tourism hosted at Nida Artists Colony Lithuania with a subsequent publication now available.


The Beijing Tour of All Tours is now available for private group bookings upon request. The East London Tour of All Tours will be available for private group bookings following the premiere performances in July. Email for availability and rates. 



The Tour of All Tours in Beijing as part of The Bookworm International Literary Festival


Commissioning a Tour


Further Tours of All Tours are under negotiation and being prepared for other locations in 2014 and if you are interested in having a tour created in your destination then you should consult the brochure Commission a Tour. Tours are made very specifically for each location and the host then has the right to present the tour themselves with their own guides, making it a cost-effective way to bring together the often separate worlds of art and tourism.