American Tourist


  This film will tell the astonishing story of how leisure travel started in the U.S. as a pastime for the elite and developed into one of  the largest industries on the planet until the pandemic scaled it way back. AMERICAN TOURIST, a one-hour documentary, will look at some of the implications of  this explosive growth of tourism for host communities, the environment and society, while exploring striking paradoxes at the heart of the practice. 

Directed by Sarah Mondale
Produced by Sarah Patton and Sarah Mondale
Executive Producer —Eric E. G. Zuelow

Development was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Now, we urgently need help to move forward with production.
Want to know more? Contact Us. Making a tax-exempt donation is the most immediate and direct way to support this effort. 


Americans have been among the world’s top travelers for more than a century

Yet few of us pause to think deeply beyond the pleasures of travel. This film will encourage audiences to do just that.  American Tourist comes at at a critical time when people are emerging from the Covid pandemic, having experienced a world without travel. Moreover, this is a moment when many in the media are highlighting the urgent need to rethink tourism in light of climate change and growing inequality.  The goal of the film is to prompt people to think about a taken-for-granted activity, U.S. history and culture, and being American, in new ways.  

How Has Tourism Helped to Define American  Identity?

Travel boosters promised that tourism would make everyone more – happier, healthier, better educated. However, tourism has often done that by making somebody less. Some can travel for pleasure. Some can’t. Some gaze, others are gazed at.  Based on exciting new scholarship, this documentary will pull back the curtain to see how the evolution of tourism has reflected shifting boundaries of identity (including issues of race, ethnicity, class, and gender) that have defined who we are as Americans.


"We all want to be tourists. We love to travel. We need the revenue of tourism and yet that comes with a cost."

"Tourism reflects the inequalities in our society when it comes to race and gender and the economic inequalities in terms of who is doing the work ... who gets to be the ones that serve the tourist..."

" Tourism is the epitome of the new American Dream. It’s really the embodiment of American consumer culture. "

"People are starting to realize that the travel and tourism industry is at the center of a lot of the problems that have created climate change. "

"We now have an opportunity - and when I say we, I mean humanity in general -  to think about ways to do tourism better."


Development funding for this film provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy Demands Wisdom


(Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this {article, book, exhibition, film, program, database, report, Web resource}, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.)

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