Paradoxes of “Soft Power” of Tourism

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The concept of "soft power", once used by international relations specialist J. Nai, emerged as an antithesis to the concept of "hard power", i.e. instruments of military and economic pressure. Since the early 2000s, this notion has been actualizing the interest in the communicative resources of power both in academic and media environments, and in political circles. This interest was explained by the urgent need for new concepts of political science to analyze and shape the instruments of political influence of states in a changing international system and global competition, as well as taking into account constitutional constraints and public sensitivity to coercion. Behind "soft power" was the importance of the use of non- violent methods of influence, tools and technologies to solve political problems, the ability of one state to attract other states by demonstrating values and achievements in non-political areas of life. Considering tourism - an activity that seems to be outside the political space - as a resource of "soft power" demonstrated the readiness of researchers and political practitioners to make a contextual shift in understanding the nature of political governance, namely the distance from conscious manipulation technologies, information wars, ideological sabotage and other methods of political influence towards the expansion of communication technologies and skills that lead to better understanding and reduction of tension between the two. Our content analysis of publications in a number of international scientific journals for 2014-2019 on the topic "tourism as a Soft Power resource" showed that for most researchers of tourism soft power context remained problematic. Although the task itself was viewed positively, at the same time "the subject resisted". On the one hand, the political significance of tourism activities in the abovementioned sense of "soft power" seemed to be taken for granted. However, the methodological context in which tourism is assigned the function of a resource of power (even if it is "soft", but power) inevitably reproduced the discourse of request, suggestion, and appeal to the authorities to pay attention to the importance of tourism as a "soft power", which, in our opinion, showed that the cognitive transition was incomplete. An indicative practical consequence of the activity paradigm was a weak interest or formal bureaucratic approach to the development of "soft power" tourism by the executive authorities. In turn, the global economic and social crisis of spring 2020, caused by the pandemic and most devastating impact on the tourism industry, revealed a kind of deadlock in the thinking of tourism activities in the previous paradigm and revealed the paradoxical reproduction of tourism practices in crisis and post-crisis circumstances. We formulated these paradoxes in the following way. -The identity of a tourist is realized only as his or her role marginality, which in an acute form found its expression in the requirement to travelers to respect the temporary and territorial self-isolation when crossing state borders. Residents of specific areas perceive tourists as both desirable and undesirable at the same time, which in sharp form finds its expression in various practices of stigmatization of travelers. - The illusion of freedom for the traveler to choose the destination and the time of his or her journey through the territory remains. The methodological framework of P. Bourdier's theory of the social field and the theory of social constructionalism allow us to look at the described paradoxical practices as strategies of positioning the actors of tourist activity, to discover the power lines and diversity of configurations of tourist communities, and thus to develop the concept of soft power of tourism in a meaningful way to describe the resources of civil society, not strictly connected with territorial boundaries. The available and ongoing collection of empirical data on tourism practices, including Georgian and Russian experience, on the functioning of tourism communities online, on the behavior patterns of expats and repatriates allows us to create a kind of map of tourism space in the modern world.
Tourism, Soft power, Political power, Paradoxes