Conspicuous non-consumption in tourism: Non-innovation or the innovation of nothing?

Elin Brandi Sørensen, Anne-Mette Hjalager*


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Referring to current phenomena and consumer behaviour in tourism, this article develops the concept of conspicuous non-consumption. It addresses the deliberate avoidance of (over)spending during holidays and states that this behaviour may be just as conspicuous and provide social signals that are just as strong as those connected to the consumption of expensive luxury goods. The conceptual development is based on a combination of the two dichotomies of ‘consumption versus non-consumption’ and ‘conspicuous versus inconspicuous’, resulting in four conceptually distinctive categories of behaviour: conspicuous consumption, conspicuous non-consumption, inconspicuous non-consumption and conspicuous non-consumption. The latter, conspicuous non-consumption, is of special interest in this article, exemplified through personal vignettes. Explorative readings of travel blogs lead to the identification of five themes that characterize conspicuous non-consumption in tourism: ‘identity building’, ‘recycling, upcycling and repurposing’, ‘spiritualizing’, ‘retreating and detoxing’ and ‘slowing down’. Usually, tourism innovation policies are characterized by a ritual growth compulsion, and do not celebrate non-consumption, which is found to be synonymous with non-innovation. This is a paradox for the timely modernizing of tourist services and destinations. Increasingly, there is a need to reorient innovation and to give consideration to how the innovation of ‘nothing’ can also undergo a distinctive progression and even contribute positively to tourism economies. This article highlights the entry points for innovation at the tourism business and destination levels.
TidsskriftTourist Studies
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)222-247
StatusUdgivet - 2020


  • conceptual model, conspicuousness, innovation, innovation orientation, non-consumption