As it becomes continually easier, at least technologically, for people to move around the world, so the growing numbers of global tourists, in their search for constantly novel experiences (Urry 2002), travel to destinations which are increasingly exotic and distant to them, not only geographically, but also in economic, social and cultural terms. This, in turn, brings them into contact with people from these very different cultures and societies. This paper examines interactions between tourists and hosts in The Gambia, a ‘winter sun’ package holiday destination in West Africa. To investigate the nature of such interactions, 20 ‘communication diaries’ were completed by a group of British tourism students during their week-long field trip to The Gambia and followed up by small group discussions with some of the participants. The students were asked to record as many individual interactions with Gambians as possible noting the following information: Time; Place; Situation; Interlocutor; Languages spoken; Topics; Result of interaction; Perceptions of interactions. 194 interactions were recorded. Many of the interactions were ‘transactional’ in that tourism workers treat them as potential sources of income. However, their tenor is predominantly ‘personal’ as they were full of phatic communion and chatting. Central to the tourist experience in The Gambia is the role of the ‘bumsters’ due to their mediating function between the tourists and other Gambian people. The omnipresence of the ‘bumsters’ in all tourist areas and their constant ‘pestering’ of tourists is initially annoying to the latter but also acts as a catalyst in encouraging contact with other Gambians by familiarising tourists with local people. We conclude by discussing our findings in the context of the global economies of tourism.
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