VOLUME III – December 2022
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Opinion paper: The Ethics of AI in the Age of Hypertourism

Constructing the imaginary through AI

We have for some time now moved out of history and into hyper history, where information is at its core creating and shaping our environment and forcing us to reinterpret it[1] (Floridi, 2012). According to Craig-Smith & French (1994), the complex experience of a journey can be reduced to three macro phases. 1) The preparatory phase of the trip, which can last up to many years, in which the tourist decides on the destination of his or her holiday. 2) The experiential phase in which the tourist projects his expectations onto the chosen destination (although in reality the phase starts the moment the tourist closes the door of his house and ends when he returns). 3) The reflective phase, in which the tourist reinforces his experience through telling, sharing or simply remembering. The first and third phases are those in which the tourist is in a direct relationship with the imagery of the experience and not with direct experience. In these phases, the tourist’s own image of the destination is built up before the trip and reinforced afterwards.

These two phases are now mediated by communication technologies (and in particular by social networks) which, in the act of mediation, store the user’s data and preferences. The data are then used by marketing companies to build ad hoc advertising campaigns for the same user.

For example, if one day in her life Alice[2]  is interested in India, then she will enter the ‘filter bubble’ of search engines and social platforms that show her content and advertisements related to India. In this case, the AI underlying the marketing systems will reinforce every little preference of Alice, hiding from her all the rest of the reality related to India. In this way, it builds a strong imaginary that is consistent with her expectations. During the trip, her geolocation in India through GPS or connections to local IPs will consolidate her profiling with labelling such as ‘person passionate about India’.  Upon her return, all of Alice’s India-related information will be exploited by AI systems to reinforce her India-centric imagery.

In short, the data produced by Alice (with her research, travels and shares) is used to infer a narrow profile of Alice herself. The risks of this process could be twofold: the creation of a monothematic imaginary of the tourist and, in parallel, the risk of a radicalisation of tourism destinations.

Imaginary Tourist Bubble (ITB)

If a tourist’s communication is mediated by information technologies, social networks and search engines, then the risk is to enclose the tourist’s imagination within an information bubble that limits his ability to explore. There is an extensive literature on the ‘filter bubble’ created by the Internet through the use of users’ personal information (Parisier, 2011). In this paper, by increasing the granularity of the reflection, we image the possibility of extending the concept to the level of the tourist.  Is it possible that a tourist’s imagination can be shaped by the information available to them? What is the ethical relevance of limiting the tourist’s ability to explore? Are we not in danger of producing single-issue tourists with little curiosity about the rest of the world? In short, there is a risk of enclosing tourists in an “imaginary tourist bubble”.

Tourism Destination Radicalization (TDR)

If hundreds of people around the world are fed with the same information, there is probably a risk of finding very similar tourists in the same destination, who have similar imagery and expectations for the destination. There is a literature on single-issue destinations, which highlights how some resorts have lost their original features in order to respond to visitors’ needs, such as for example Mykonos in Greece (Kavallinis & Pizam, 1994) or Ibiza in Spain (Serra-Cantallops & Ramon-Cardona, 2017). As supply adapts to demand, is there a risk of transforming the originality of the destination by flattening it to tourists’ expectations and imagery? In short, is there a risk of a “Tourism Destination Radicalization” that threatens the cultural originality of the destination?


These two risks could be just some of the possible harms generated by AI. We know that the advent of AI is irreversible, yet we think it is appropriate to think now about the ethical risks generated by its uncontrolled use. According to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform our world before 2030 (UN, 2019), adopted by all members of the United Nations, Goal 11 (for sustainable cities and communities) includes inclusion, accessibility and diversity as inalienable values for sustainability. The two risks outlined above undermine these three values. Tourism research must therefore understand the importance of information ethics (Floridi, 2013) to avoid disasters tomorrow. In short, to achieve the goals defined by the United Nations, we need to reflect on how today’s technologies are reshaping the imagery of tourists’ holidays.


Craig-Smith, S., & French, C. (1994). Learning to live with tourism. Melbourne: Pitman.

Kavallinis, I., & Pizam, A. (1994). The Environmental Impacts of Tourism— Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway? The Case Study of Mykonos. Journal of Travel Research, 33(2), 26–32. https://doi.org/10.1177/004728759403300205

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, 57(2nd Quarter), 96–101. https://doi.org/doi.org/10.5840/tpm20125756

Floridi, L. (2013). The Ethics of Information. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: What the Internet is hiding from you. London: Viking/Penguin Press.

Serra-Cantallops, A., & Ramon-Cardona, J. (2017) Host community resignation to nightclub tourism, Current Issues in Tourism, 20:6, 566-579, DOI: 10.1080/13683500.2016.1161604

United Nations (2019), The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019, https://doi.org/10.18356/55eb9109-en

Cite this article

Panai E. (2021) Opinion paper: The Ethics of AI in the Age of Hypertourism. EATSJ - Euro-Asia Tourism Studies Journal, Vol.2, ( November 2021 ). https://doi.org/10.58345/NIKG6534.

Received: 25/08/2021 | Accepted: 29/08/2021 | Published online: 15/11/2021
Volume: 2 | Issue: November 2021 |

DOI: https://doi.org/10.58345/NIKG6534

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Enrico Panai (Corresponding author)
University of Sassari

Opinion paper: The Ethics of AI in the Age of Hypertourism by Enrico Panai is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International