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Quenching the Thirst for Local Knowledge: Hotel Bartenders as Cultural Intermediaries of Place

Abstract
Using a phenomenological, constructivist approach, this study explores the commonly overlooked roles of hotel bartenders in the travel and tourism economy. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews with bartenders in downtown Phoenix, Arizona provide insight regarding how bartenders might act as “cultural intermediaries” (Bourdieu, 1984) by serving as representatives of (and conduits to) local culture and the experiential product of place within tourism spaces. Findings suggest that hotel bartenders assume roles similar to concierges, and tourists often specifically seek their knowledge because of their distinct perspectives and reputations. Most bartenders interviewed displayed high degrees of sociability and openness with patrons. In their self-perceptions, many considered themselves to be apt representatives of local culture, but others were highly cognizant of the ways in which they may be insufficient in this regard, perhaps still indicative of a heightened understanding of a place’s cultural components.
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