THE MYTH OF ELITISM IN QUALIFIED TOURISM.THE EXAMPLE OF THE TATRA NATIONAL PARK
Qualified tourism, understood as the highest form of tourism, the most perfect kind of conscious tourism, was introduced and popularised in Poland in the 1950s by the PTTK (Polish Tourism and Sightseeing Society). Combined with a knowledge of the so-called tourism culture, pursued with passion and expertise, today it concerns a relatively small, ambitious group of active tourists having very precise interests and seeking the highest form of tourist specialisation. The considerable demands for the participants means that the term “qualified tourism” is increasingly replaced with the term “active tourism” available to a broader section of society. The phenomenon is associated with socio-economic and cultural transformations, including the postmodern commercialisation of leisure time. Forms of outdoor recreation are becoming more and more accessible, while transformations of lifestyle, amount of free time and ways of spending it influence tourists’ preferences and tourist activities. What is also significant is the fashion for active leisure created in recent years by the media. Such a “simplified”, pop-cultural approach to active tourism contributes to reckless and irresponsible behaviours of tourists, as is perfectly illustrated by what happens in the Tatra National Park. Despite the fact that it is a fairly small part for European standards, it is one of the “busiest” in terms of tourist traffic. In its highest season (July and August) its visitors include both conscious tourists appropriately prepared for mountain hiking (including qualified tourists) and “casual” tourists, motivated mainly by their unreflecting need to “do” the most popular sites in Poland’s highest mountains.
The authors of the article discuss the specificity of qualified tourism and refer to examples of hikers visiting the Tatra National Park in the highest summer season. They demonstrate the elitist nature of the principles of qualified tourism and thus refer to the practice, i.e. behaviour of tourists. In this they point to the lack of boundaries in the exploration of Poland’s highest mountains as well as their demystification.