A socio-cultural analysis of the traditional seaside resort and its contemporary meaning to tourists with specific reference to Morecambe, U.K.

Jarratt, David orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7244-428X (2013) A socio-cultural analysis of the traditional seaside resort and its contemporary meaning to tourists with specific reference to Morecambe, U.K. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The original contribution of this thesis to knowledge is the concept of seasideness. That is, this thesis presents an in-depth exploration and analysis of the contemporary sense of place at a traditional British seaside resort. Due to the research focussing on issues of place, the study has been framed within human geography.

Coastal resorts were amongst the earliest and remain the most important tourism destinations in Britain. However, many medium-sized traditional seaside resorts have in recent decades faced a number of significant challenges, not least Morecambe, a resort located on the Lancashire coast in north-west England. Indeed, few resorts have suffered a greater loss in terms of infrastructure, visitor numbers and reputation than Morecambe. Nevertheless, the resort has benefitted recently from a new promenade adorned with statues and a restored art deco hotel, and has staged a modest recovery from the lows of the late-twentieth century.

In the context of its turbulent history, this study considers present day tourists’ experience of Morecambe, a place that has been on the margins for some time. More specifically, the purpose of this study is to establish if a seaside-specific sense of place exists for these visitors and, indeed, for visitors to the seaside more generally. Following a review of the ‘rise and fall’ of the British seaside resort and specifically Morecambe, the thesis explores the factors that may contribute to a sense of place at the seaside, in so doing establishing a conceptual framework for the subsequent research which deliberately employs a mixed methods approach. Firstly, a questionnaire survey amongst visitors to Morecambe establishes a foundation for identifying and understanding touristic behaviour and views. Building on these results, the second stage of the research comprises in-depth interviews with a small purposive sample of older Northern visitors –the largest market as identified at the first stage. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) is employed to offer a rigorous and systematic analysis of these interviews. This approach aims to represent a perspective rather than a population and is considered an appropriate method to understand the visitor experience of place and to generate theory.

This thesis reveals how space, specifically blue space, informs the touristic reaction to place through a variety of perceived characteristics. Most of these reactions can be grouped into the broad themes of identity, wellness, spirituality and nostalgia for childhood. A seasideness model is proposed which clarifies these inter-related findings. Taken together, these themes and findings paint a picture of a place which holds significant meaning for these visitors. First and foremost, this ‘place’ is the seaside, rather than Morecambe specifically; that is, people visit Morecambe for the natural coastal environment and the enduring socio-cultural construction that is the British Seaside. The thesis concludes by exploring the implications of this research for the future of Morecambe and, implicitly, other resorts.

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