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Authenticity and Visitor Engagement

Autor:   •  March 10, 2019  •  Coursework  •  2,292 Words (10 Pages)  •  22 Views

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Leisure marketing C10 LM

Authenticity and visitor engagement

DUE DATE: 15 / 12 / 2017

The following paper aims to explore the literature surrounding authenticity in the context of tourism, along with relative tourists’ engagement. This involves a full investigation of authenticity theories, accompanied with examples from cultural/heritage tourism sector. Additionally, this work examines the role of authenticity in tourist’s behaviour in relation to heritage sites. On other hand, the paper addresses the issues of lack of consensus about what the concept of authenticity represents to scholars and tourists, with evidence from different disciplines. The researched literature was carried out through the lens of Heriot-Watt Discovery platform and Google Scholar. Keyword searched included terms such as authenticity, tourism experience, heritage tourism, tourist’s engagement and existential authenticity.

Authenticity is a substantial theme in tourism literature. It has gained increasing attention, and has generated a growing diverse and various contemporary debates over decades (Boorstin, 1961; Bruner, 1989; McCannell, 1973; Salamone 1997; Wang, 1999; Steiner and Reisinger, 2006). According to Trilling (1972), authenticity in tourism was originally used in museums where experts wanted to test” whether objects of art are what they appear to be or are claimed to be, and therefore worth the price that is asked for them- or worth admiration they are given”. This museum-linked usage has been extended to cover different products of tourism, including: rituals, housing, festivals and so forth. These products can be perceived as authentic or inauthentic depending on the tradition and origin behind making or performing by locals. Sharpley (1994) describes authenticity in tourism as anything that is associated with sense of the genuine, traditional culture and its origin, and the real unique. However, authenticity in recent tourism literature is much more unstable concept in tourist experiences, and it means far more than this assumption.  Wang (1999) states that the complexity of authenticity in tourism context can be differentiated into two distinct parameters: tourists’ authentic experiences and toured objects. These two elements are often misunderstood as one tied aspect of authenticity. An authentic experience is one in which people are freely self-expressed in both with a real world and real selves (Handler and Saxton, 1988). Selwyn (1996) related the experience of a real world to “authenticity as knowledge”, and associated the experience of real self to “authenticity as feeling”. On other hand, toured objects involve the recognition of originality by tourists as authentic, using absolute and objective criterion to measure objects authenticity. This segregation of the authenticity of experiences from the authenticity of toured objects is pivotal for introducing an alternative source of authentic experiences, referred as “existential authenticity” (Wang, 1999). This authenticity involves individual’s personal feeling activated when performing activities to feel a potential existential state of themselves, and search for more authentic selves than in everyday life (Wang, 1999). For example, when tourists engage in activities such as ocean cruising or camping, they feel more of themselves and stress-free from daily life routine, not because they admire the tour objects as authentic. The long term academic discussion on the complex nature of authenticity in tourism is exhibited in three major approaches: objectivism, constructivism and existentialism. It should be noted that both objective and constructive authenticity are object-related, whereas existentialism is an activity-related authenticity.


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