Intercultural communication in tourism

Intercultural communication in tourism

Communication participates in all social life acts, being an integral factor in the creation and life of cultural processes. Cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue are intensely debated topics in modern society, marked by globalization. Cultural differences are the main subject of research related to intercultural communication. A good knowledge of other cultures is a necessary step to understand the nature of these differences and relate to others through an attitude of understanding and tolerance, which are the conditions for true intercultural dialogue, especially in the tourism industry. While communication is an act of human relations, culture is the motive behind this act. In tourism, the quality of communication is related to the level of culture of the subjects involved.

Tourism is now a phenomenon based on an increased need to restore health and change the environment, as well as for the birth and development of a sense of openness to the beauty of nature. People have always focused on expanding the spatial and temporal horizons of knowledge about their environment. Travel was one of the main means of achieving this goal. Somehow unwittingly, wanderings mark communications in many ways in which this can happen: between a tourist and a travel service provider, among tourists from different cultures, between employees of different nationalities of travel agencies, etc.

Good communication is not only the transfer of information, but also mutual understanding of the desires and needs of each other. Communication can be difficult if one of the parties is dominant and rejects intercultural dialogue, this fact negatively affects tourism, as it rejects its main goals. Sometimes it may seem that there are negative aspects of communication, from the rejection of the idea of ​​dialogue, up to the violent manifestation of their own position. In the tourism industry, this event can be especially poignant when tourists interact with the local population, which, in this case, will view tourists as some kind of intruder into their own culture.

Individuals' communicative behavior is the result of complex interactions between cultural factors, contextual factors, knowledge and emotions. Thus, we communicate and become attached culturally, and in communication, attitudes, values, practices and specific expectations of the ethnic group are formed, which are created and circulated in the process of communication. Communication situations involving persons from different cultures are called intercultural communication situations. In the process of intercultural communication, tourists from different cultures negotiate their cultural identity, the rules of meaning, perception, effects that may arise in the process of communicative interaction.

In intercultural communication situations within tourism, communication barriers, misunderstandings caused by differences in behavior, perceptions or meanings that exist between tourists from different cultures, as well as negative activation of stereotypes can arise. there may be communication barriers between tourists and personnel from a particular tourism enterprise (hotel, restaurant, travel agency, etc.). Misunderstandings, misinterpretations, communication gaps are inherent in intercultural communication. The experience of intercultural communication helps a person to know and appreciate other cultures, but also to better understand their own culture.


In an anthropological sense, culture is “the collective programming of the mind by which members of a group or social category are distinguished from others. Intercultural communication works with this anthropological concept of culture, defined by Hofstede as "software of the mind." If you forget everything you have learned, if all the information you have gathered is erased from memory, there is only this software that represents the culture.

Culture influences communication: the study of intercultural communication focuses not only on the use of language; the study of intercultural communication recognizes how culture describes who we are, how we behave, how we think, how we speak. We recognize and respect the way in which the cultural footprint justifies differences in communication style, vision and individuality.

Cultural traits are often attributed to heredityb because philosophers and other scholars from the past do not know how else to explain the striking stability of differences between the cultural traits of human groups. They underestimated the impact of learning from previous generations and passing on knowledge to the next generation. Ethnic conflicts are often justified by unfounded arguments of “cultural superiority or inferiority”.

Cultural differences operate in different ways. Of the many terms used to describe cultural expressions, the following four types cover the whole concept reasonably well: symbols, heroes, rituals, values, and practices (as shown in Figure 1):

  • symbols are words, gestures, images or objects that have a special meaning that cannot be recognized as such only by those who share this culture. Words of language or slang belong to this category, as well as clothing, hairstyle, flags and symbols that define social status. This is the reason why the symbols were placed on the outer - surface layer.
  • heroes: people, living or dead, real or imaginary, endowed with qualities that are revered in the culture, and therefore serve as models of behavior.
  • rituals: they are collective activities, even if they do not help in practical terms to achieve the desired goals, within the framework of culture it is considered necessary in social terms. Therefore, their implementation matters in itself.
  • values: the core of culture is made up of values: these are general tendencies to favor certain situations over others. The meanings are bipolar feelings: they have a positive and negative dimension.
  • practice: These include symbols, heroes and rituals. This is seen in itself to an outside observer; their cultural significance remains invisible and depends only on how these techniques are interpreted by those within the group.

Figure 1. Hert Hofstede's bulb

Culture offers tourists the opportunity to get in touch with the history, traditions and customs of other nations, which contributes to personal development, to accommodate the lifestyle of the population from a particular tourist destination.

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