People, place and consumption: conceptualising and researching urban tourist experience, with particular reference to Cardiff, Wales
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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The thesis addresses ways of both conceptualising and researching the experience of urban tourists. A framework for conceptualising urban tourist experience is developed, and an experiential methodology is applied to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. A range of theoretical contributions and research is reviewed, drawing upon tourism, marketing, and geographical perspectives. It is argued that whilst dominant epistemologies are incapable of an adequate conceptualisation of urban tourist experience, important insights are provided by three different areas of literature. Substantive contributions from within the tourism and marketing literature include the application of service quality models to urban tourism, and the conceptualisation and measurement of place images according to the different stages of the consumer decision-making process. Cultural studies offers a more sophisticated conceptualisation of place image, enabling tourism representations and landscapes to be read as cultural texts. An understanding of place consumers, and the concept of place is provided by a humanistic perspective, drawing upon the work of phenomenologist Alfred Schutz. The experiential framework enables the design of an exploratory methodology. Combining qualitative and quantitative techniques, the methodology is applied to urban tourism in the city of Cardiff. The results reveal interesting discrepancies between the first-hand experiences of tourists, and images of Cardiff from outside. The application of factor analysis enables groups of consumers with particular images and experiences to be identified, along with particularly salient representations or experiences of the urban landscape. The results are discussed in the context of theoretical, methodological, and tourism policy implications.
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