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Title: Understanding the flow experiences of heritage tourists
Author: Kanagasapapathy, Gayathri
ISNI:       0000 0004 6423 7760
Awarding Body: Bournemouth University
Current Institution: Bournemouth University
Date of Award: 2017
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No two tourists receive the same experience which are unique to the individual (Lounsburya and Polik 1999; Walls et al. 2011; Sharpley and Stone 2012; Nguyen and Cheung 2014). Therefore, understanding experiences from the perspective of tourists has become an arena of growing interest to researchers. How tourists evolve across a heritage visit and construct their experience is an aspect that needs further development. Tourists are moving from passively gazing at built heritage and landscapes to wanting to participate in, and engage with, the destination (Urry 2002). Engaging in tourism is considered to be a “potential source of happiness and well-being” (Sharpley and Stone 2012, p.1). The best experiences are when a tourist takes an active part and is completely immersed in the situation that they are experiencing (Csikszentmihalyi 1992). Given the importance of creating an experience in a heritage destination and the increasing annual growth in tourists to such places, research into this area is important and timely. Researchers have recently proposed Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory as a useful framework for understanding the enjoyment experienced by tourists. The term flow refers to a state of consciousness that is experienced by individuals who are deeply involved in an enjoyable activity. The existing literature in the fields of heritage tourism and tourist experience demonstrates that although heritage experiences have been analysed, there is still a lack of research incorporating the flow experience perspective. Therefore, this study explores the field of heritage tourism and centres on experiences from the perspective of flow with the four realms (absorption, immersion, active participation, and passive participation) of the experience economy (Pine and Gilmore 1998). Using flow and experience economy, this study brings a detailed analysis of the processes at the very heart of the experience as tourists want to engage fully with the destination during their experiential process, thus enabling them to create and enjoy a highly personalised and flexible experience. A quantitative research approach is adopted using a self-completion survey to obtain the required data. The selected study area is Greenwich, London due to its rich maritime heritage and all-year-around appeal to tourists. Responses from a total of 648 respondents were analysed. An experience model was proposed and tested using structural equation modelling. An adapted scale of the experience economy’s 4Es (educational, esthetics, entertainment and escapist experiences) was fitted into flow theory and proved reliable and valid for measuring tourist experience for a heritage destination. This study indicated a strong presence of flow experience was linked to enjoyment, telepresence, engagement and esthetics. First, when heritage visitors are in a state of flow they tend to be in an extremely enjoyable experience. Second, the increased enjoyment in their heritage visit has significantly and positively influenced tourist flow experience that leads to happiness and satisfaction. Third, it is noted that more well-educated and mature tourists seek heritage experiences. Fourth, the increased level of entertainment only leads to satisfaction rather than the tourists experiencing flow. Finally, it is demonstrated that a flow state happens in moments throughout their visit. The results of this study provide baseline data on the existence of the flow phenomenon in the heritage environment. It also provides knowledge about the factors associated with the flow experience and tourists’ feelings and enjoyment in a heritage visit. This research, therefore, contributes to knowledge by providing an understanding of the important factors that contribute in creating a unique and personalised experience for tourists and, thus, informing destination management, marketing, positioning and branding.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available