More than sense of place? Exploring the emotional dimension of rural tourism experiences

Jepson, Deborah and Sharpley, Richard A J orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2135-3206 (2014) More than sense of place? Exploring the emotional dimension of rural tourism experiences. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 23 (8 + 9). pp. 1157-1178. ISSN 0966-9582

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It is widely suggested that participation in rural tourism is underpinned by a sense of rural place or “rurality”. However, although nature and the countryside have long been recognised as a source of spiritual or emotional fulfilment, few have explored the extent to which tourism, itself often claimed to be a sacred experience, offers an emotional/spiritual dimension in the rural context. This paper addresses that literature gap. Using in-depth interviews with rural tourists in the English Lake District, it explores the extent to which, within respondents’ individual understanding of spirituality, a relationship exists between sense of place and deeper, emotional experiences and, especially, whether participation in rural tourism may induce spiritual or emotional responses. The research revealed that all respondents felt a strong attachment to the Lake District; similarly, and irrespective of their openness to spirituality, engaging in rural tourism activities resulted in highly emotive experiences for all respondents, the description/interpretation of such experiences being determined by individual “beliefs”. However, sense of place was not a prerequisite to emotional or spiritual experiences. Being in and engaging with the landscape � effectively becoming part of it � especially through physical activity is fundamental to emotional responses.

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