Visitor attitudes to authenticity at a literary tourist destination
Cultural tourism is assuming ever greater significance, and this study examines one particular form of this tourism whose main resource is the literary work of authors. Literary tourist destinations are places visited because of their associations with books or other literary outputs and with their authors. Such destinations are becoming increasingly popular as visitor attractions. This research examines the visitors to one well-known literary tourist destination. It examines the motivations, experiences and attitudes of the visitors as they relate to the authenticity of the destination. Although literary tourism is a significant part of both the cultural and tourism industries, it is very largely under-researched. Most concentrates on the historical emergence of literary tourist destinations. The present examination uses a case study of tourists visiting the literary tourism area of Haworth, West Yorkshire, England which was home to the literary Bronte family. The nature of the links specifically between literature, authenticity and tourism remain under-researched, with little sustained attention given to questions surrounding the authenticity of literary tourist destinations. Hence, the case study investigates visitor attitudes to the character of authenticity at the destination. Authenticity is evaluated explicitly as a social construct, and the research also questions how tourists respond to the signs or markers of literary connections. In this way, the research adds to the understanding of literary tourist destinations, visitor attitudes to authenticity, and their perceptions of, and responses to, signs as markers of authenticity. The case study is based on a social survey which comprises three different semi-structured questionnaires. While these surveys shared standard questions on motivations and authenticity, each had a distinct focus, which facilitated the assessment of visitor attitudes to a wide range of potential tourism products in the literary tourist destination. This research adds to methodological sophistication in tourism research by its innovative use of visual stimuli as a projection technique, with this method rarely being used in tourism studies. Verbal stimuli were less likely to be appropriate to explore the signs that visitors use as markers of authenticity. Consequently, photographs including key potential signs were used as a stimulus to gain insights into visitor responses. The results indicate that the literary tourist destination of Haworth attracts a broad range of visitor types, and that the different types of visitors differed in their motivations and experiences. It was found that different visitors were motivated to visit Haworth by the desire to learn and by the desire to have fun to varying degrees. Such motivations affected the extent to which they were concerned about the authenticity of the various aspects of the literary tourism product. In a similar vein, the empirical data suggests that visitors varied in the extent to which they considered their experience of the destination had been authentic, and differences also emerged between the features of the literary place that visitors used as markers of authenticity or of inauthenticity.