Altered images? : the case of the cultural tour route
Organised tours are one of the main ways that tourists experience cultural destinations.
They are often described as `a destination bubble', conveying a sense of isolation rather
than involvement. The extent to which tour participants interact with and learn about
destinations is not well understood, although the acquisition of knowledge is frequently
cited as significant in peoples' decisions to travel by this mode. This research investigates
cultural tour participants' experiences, and specifically addresses the extent to which
participants' images of their destinations change or remain unaltered after their visit, and
whether satisfaction from a tour can be linked to the degree of informal learning gained
about the route.
The concepts of tourism and cultural tourism are explored; definitions of `culture' and
theories on how culture is used, transformed and `consumed' by tourists, are presented.
The nature of the `cultural route' is examined and two principal types are distinguished:
those from antiquity, and tour routes operating in cultural destinations. The organised
cultural tour, its origins and development are explored.
The empirical research was developed from environmental psychology, employing route
mapping to elicit information about tour members' knowledge before and after touring.
Judgement and convenience-based sampling were used to select a cultural destination and
Ireland was chosen because it presented elements common to many non-specialised tour
itineraries in Europe. A multi-method approach combined qualitative and quantitative
techniques in the analyses of cognitive maps, and triangulated the findings with those from
focused interviews and participant observation.
The study successfully accomplished its objectives in finding that tourists' images changed
in magnitude as the tour had enforced already well-defined images. In particular, tour
members' knowledge of places positioned sequentially along a route tended to increase.
The research has contributed significantly to the understanding of tourists' map formation
processes and it was found that information sources are particularly important, although
information about a destination may be stored in people's memories regardless of whether
they have actually visited that dessupplemented by new sources acquired at tour destinations. The thesis concludes by
exploring the implications of the primary findings for academic study and the management
of the cultural tours sectortination. Indirect sources of information were not usually