Strangers in the city: an assessment of the urban tourist experience

Middleton, Martine Claire (2003) Strangers in the city: an assessment of the urban tourist experience. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This study centres upon Manchester and its spatial understanding as accrued by tourists. The assessment of urban tourist experience embraces three distinct concepts that discern this work from previous approaches to date. Namely, that tourist experience consists of behaviour and meaning, with either part incomplete without the other. This then, incurs the need to quantify elements of place and people whilst embracing subjectivity as both an empirical and perennial problem within qualitative analysis. Lastly, to measure such aspects by 'consensus' by assessing ways of 'doing, seeing and thinking' within a city that is unfamiliar. A central tenet of this study is the belief that the overall tourist experience is dependent upon the personal goals, values and beliefs of the tourist, evaluated from a position of self-reference.
Urban tourism unites the disciplines of physical and human geography into one occurrence, assessed as the ' tourist experience.' Graefe and Vaske (1987) explain this as the culmination of a given experience, influenced by individual, environmental, situational and personality-related factors as forms of communication. As a result, the 'tourist' interacts on two levels; initially, in a physical way as behaviour becomes enacted and assembled. Simultaneously, the stranger accumulates knowledge of somewhere different from home. Reflecting this, the study commences with a traditional behaviourist approach to define the tourist location. Secondly, a phenomenological approach explores the individual sensitivities, associations and values of tourists towards new and unfamiliar surroundings. Both perspectives are incorporated within a sequential and progressive research design conducted within the city of Manchester, U.K. The stages include: the construction of a GIS based tourist map founded upon ordnance survey co-ordinates. The completion of a tourist survey to ascertain the knowledge, mobility and visits conducted during each visit (N=l46). The third stage quantifies the diversity of experience through personal interviews, photo elicitation techniques and factor analysis (Q Sort). The fourth stage implements qualitative software analysis to reveal aspects of social appreciation and cultural diversity (Nudist NVivo). Consequently, the study provides an interpretative assessment to unite both urban behaviour and tourist experience. Thus, the assessment moves beyond the traditional study of behaviour yet regards such an approach to be an essential building block to a study moving from 'maps to meaning.'
A Q methodological design of a non - probability sample includes: interviews (N = 30) and factor analysis techniques in seeking to understand the composition and depth of the urban tourist experience. Subsequent comparison between emergent groups explores the divergence of opinions and personal values between individuals. This triangulation of data seeks to unite quantitative and qualitative data collection methods within an interpretative framework of enquiry. An innovative research design implements the use of a varied range of contemporary software packages.
The results suggest that it is the inherent characteristics of people, and not the places they visit that provide the foundation of experience. To conclude any meaning of place as remaining enmeshed within the cultural context of origin to be individually defined and inherently valued.

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