The Tour of All Tours


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 guided tours. It provides an engaging alternative to the conventional tour that can be of interest to the local and visitor alike as it draws attention to both the tourism industry great and small and upon the tourist gaze itself. In doing so opens up questions of globalisation and the meaning of these exchanges between local and visitor.

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 the industry that surrounds them in the spotlight. One reason this may be of interest is that contemporary tourism can have a complicated relationship to host cities. Some people, but not all, will make money 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 then lead to a passive aggressive relationship towards the tourist. From the other perspective, tourism always promises a taste of authenticity yet is usually unable to provide it except when things go wrong. The mass tourist experience is therefore usually somewhat frustrating, boring and superficial. 

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 be presented as a conventional tour for tourists and at the same time also prove meaningful to locals and in doing so can 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 beyond the industry to the phenomenon that fuels it more generally: globalisation.

The content of the tour is tours understood in the widest meaning of the word: naturally it covers heritage tours but so too does it cover sex tours, religious tours (pilgrimage), audio tours, protest marches, artist projects and so on. The presentation of this content varies from tour to tour with some tours derived wholly from local content whilst others mix local and global tours together with the public not being told which are the genuine ones and which are the tours from elsewhere. In this way these mixed tours can become tours of the tourist imagination and not only tours of the site itself.