Sense making and sense giving: using visitor narratives to understand the impact of visitor interactions on destination image.
Guthrie, Catherine M.
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GUTHRIE, C.M. 2007. Sense making and sense giving: using visitor narratives to understand the impact of visitor interactions on destination image. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, The Robert Gordon University.
Destination image is acknowledged as a key factor in destination choice and visitor satisfaction. However, despite thirty years’ research from a variety of perspectives into destination image and image formation, the impact of actual visitation has been largely neglected and understanding of the processes involved in that change is therefore limited. Visitor experience is increasingly recognised as being unique to the individual, leading to calls for research strategies taking into account the visitor’s perspective. This study uses a phenomenological approach to investigate visitor-destination interactions, capturing visitors’ lived experience as expressed in their holiday narratives. Applying a double hermeneutic approach to analysing interview data, this study outlines the elements of destination experience and shows how the meaning encapsulated in the individual’s destination image is mediated by his/her stock of knowledge, the particular combination of predispositions, motivations and characteristics, as well as by their in-destination interactions and encounters with people and place. It develops the ideal typifications of Gourmet, Grazer and Gourmand to help explain the complex and dynamic interaction between visitor characteristics and behaviour and extends our understanding of the role of other tourists in destination experience by illuminating tourist-tourist interactions and revealing the compromises necessitated by the presence of other tourists. By generating insight into the complex and dynamic interaction between anticipations, motivations and predispositions, and the way in which this interaction affects the visitor’s experience of people and place in a destination, the study has demonstrated the utility of the phenomenological approach in understanding visitor interactions. It has also resulted in a model which explains the processes whereby the visitor makes sense of his/her experience and transmits that experience to others. This can be used by academics and practitioners to further understand the benefits and attractions of existing destinations and to predict the attraction of potential destinations, as well as to promote greater understanding of tourist-host interactions among destination industry providers.