Narratives of tourism experiences: An interpretative approach to understanding tourist-brand relationships
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This study is a reflection of the journey that I have taken as a tourism marketing researcher. Based on emergent design, it is a two phase interpretative, autoethnographic study of the relationships between tourism consumers and brands. Through the adoption of qualitative, systematic methods and projective techniques, phase one highlights the lack of consumer brand awareness and commitment to tourism products, the diversity of contemporary tourism behaviour, and reveals the necessity to adopt a far more individualistic approach to understanding tourism consumption behaviour. Phase two thus considers tourism within the context of postmodernism, focusing on the experiences of individual tourism consumers and their functional, emotional and symbolic relationships with brands. Paramount here are the concepts of reflexivity, positionality and voice, hence I actively involved the participants throughout the research process (including during the data interpretation and presentation) and foregrounded my own involvement and experiences- aspects that all contribute significantly to the richness and depth of the study. The study highlights the complexity of tourism consumption behaviour and influences. Tourism experiences are subjective, inconsistent and are influenced and informed by a range of relationships, narratives and discourses. Complex and individual expectations, aspirations, desires and insecurities are underpinned by a far greater awareness of time compression, a sense of self and intrinsic fulfilment. The study illustrates the participants' awareness of the fragility and temporality of their myriad micro-experiences, and highlights how tourism consumers interpret and infer meaning from brands, products, images and associations in the creation and preservation of the overall holiday experience. It supports the need to reach out and step beyond the safety zone of tried and tested, conventional research approaches and further develop ontological and epistemological perspectives that value consumer-centred, diverse, flexible, reflexive and participatory approaches - and judgement criteria - for tourism research.
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