- What is the start of your project?
My project is called the ‘School for Tourists’. The School for Tourists was initiated during a one year residency at Grizedale Arts in the Lake Distict, UK, in 2011. Held at the Coniston Institute, a historic building created by John Ruskin in the 19th Century, for education, the arts and social cohesion, the School for Tourists examined existing tourism, as well as the historical and sociological impact of the tourist. Through a week long course that brought together local residents, workers, council members, conservationists, service industry professionals and tourists the project aimed to consider and propose new models of relationship that might offer more to host and guest, to pilot and test new forms of tourism that are reciprocal and contributive.
The School for Tourists II in Casares follows on as a development of this project. Having traced the history of tourism from the Grand Tour, to the package holiday, the modernist quest for authenticity to the post-modern quest for the in-authentic the School for Tourists II asks how we might shape a tourist model that begins in the muddy broken middle ground of relationship. What are the tactics for exchange and human relation that can result in benefit beyond the financial myth of tourist development?
- When you arrived in Casares, how have you organized your work?
My residency in Casares is divided into two parts, a research visit and a production visit. The first trip was to learn and understand more about the situation in Casares. Working with translator Rosario Loring, I set up a number of meetings with residents, workers and visitors in Casares, including people who were born there, Spanish nationals who are now living in Casares, British nationals who have emigrated there, tourist visitors and professional working in the tourist industry. Through these meetings I was able to get a better understanding of how tourism currently operates in Casares, the various attitudes towards tourism and the skills and knowledge of residents of the village.
- Did you know Casares before?
No this was my first time in Casares. That is why the research trip was important as part of my working process.
- What have you found out about Casares and the tourism there in your project?
Tourism in Casares is often in the form of day trippers. There is one hotel and a number of rentable houses within the village but most visitors go for the day. For some residents who do not want the village spoiled by too many visitors it is seen as a good think that the tourists don’t stay long, for others seeking to make a living from them it is seen as bad. The location of Casares plays a big part in the number of tourist visitors to the village. A large number of tourist visitors associate holidaying in the Costa del Sol area with beach holidays and it is for this reason that most people do not stay in Casares over night as most prefer to stay along the coast. What Casares has to offer as a historic rural village is much more similar to its neighboring villages in the mountains and not necessarily associated with the Costa del Sol.
The average number of visitors per year, over the last 5 years, is 4000 people. About 58% of these are Spanish, 28% British, 8% French, 4% German and 2% of other nationality.
- Do you think another tourism in Costa del Sol is possible?
Casares is at an exciting point in terms of thinking about tourist development. It has a lot to offer the tourist visitor, it has an existing tourist audience, but it has not yet reached the number of visitors found along the coast that has resulted in the engulfment and domination by tourist development. Casares is primarily lived in by Casareños – it is a place more than a destination. It has witnessed what has happened along the coast, both in terms of the impact of mass tourism but also the financial fall out as the market has collapsed. Casares is well positioned to learn from what has happened around it and to consider alternative and sustainable models.
- What is your best experience during this time in Casares?
During my research time I wanted to get an understanding of the skills particular to the residents of Casares which could be considered in a tourist model that looks at the exchange of knowledge. Everyone I met was extremely generous with their time but I was particularly touched by my meeting with Eieuteria, a resident of Casares, who is an expert at crochet. Visiting her at home to see her handwork, she demonstrated the very thing I am most keen to explore throughout the whole project – how to consider tourism from the starting point of personal relationship. Welcoming me into her home, repeatedly kissing me and making me feel more like a long lost family member than a stranger her kindness and warmth was extraordinary. She demonstrated the perfect example of what can be gained when people come together with mutual interest and friendship and treat each other with the love you would normally only afford to people you know. In this instance the tourist relationship is changed from visitor and service provider, beyond host and guest, to friendship, a healthier model and one which is reciprocal.