Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

The Relationship between Tourist Nationality, Cultural Orientation and Nature-Based Tourism Experiences

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

The Relationship between Tourist Nationality, Cultural Orientation and Nature-Based Tourism Experiences

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Internationally, tourism can make an essential contribution to economic recovery, and is acknowledged as playing a vital role in the transformation into a green economy (World Tourism Organization, 2010). In this respect, nature-based tourism experiences evidently can become a significant feature of sustainable development. Nature-related tourism might also initiate funding for conservation as well as raise environmental awareness (Balmford, et al., 2009). Countries promote nature as their primary asset as tourist destinations (e.g. New Zealand, Norway and Scotland), especially by calling attention to the experience aspect of travel. Nature-based experiences have moreover received increased attention from researchers.

From a research perspective, the interest in nature-based experiences is escalating (e.g. Mehmetoglu, 2007a, 2007b; Waitt, Lane, & Head, 2003). The focus on cross-cultural differences in tourism experience consumption, however, is for the most part neglected. In an international tourism context competition is rising, and knowledge of the different markets could be a precondition for success. To create a memorable nature-based experience for international visitors, awareness of how nationality might influence the perception of such experiences is argued essential. In the international tourism arena, the experiential component of holidays is emphasized in promotion material as well as social media. As a result it is essential to know the customers and the national traits that might somehow characterize them.

Providers and marketers of experiences are stakeholders in an international market, and from a managerial point of view the challenge is therefore to know the guests' preferences. Nevertheless, adapting to the guests' needs and wants might not be easy, as experiences are individually perceived and socially consumed. In practice, knowledge of naturebased tourists' national characteristics can result in managerial tools that guide adaptation of nature-based experiences to international tourist demands. Furthermore, knowledge of tourists' experience valuation can provide managers with the opportunity to organize experiences in a way that allows tourists, who are likely to have similar values, to participate at the same time. This could lead to a more coherent nature-based tourism experience from a cross-cultural tourism perspective.

For the purpose of this article, nature-based tourism can be defined as travel to nature areas or destinations (Lang & O'Leary, 1997). Nature-based tourism experiences are thus defined as those experiences participated in by tourists involved in nature-based tourism. It includes tourism activities with a varying degree of absorption, immersion and participation (e.g. Pine & Gilmore, 1999). Tourists in nature-based tourism then, move along a continuum in terms of absorption/ immersion and active/passive participation. The study applies a relatively broad definition of nature-based experiences, as it can be argued appropriate in a cross-cultural context, to allow for various understandings of such experiences. This is essential in a crosscultural study, as it requires candour for the differing views on nature, not only those employed by Western frames of reference.

This article attempts to clarify certain aspects of the relationship between national cultural orientation of tourists and nature-based tourism experiences in Norway. The purpose of this study is to segment tourist nationality, based on cultural orientation and then compare the resulting segments in terms of the perception of nature-based tourism experiences.

2. Literature review

When people from different countries meet in international tourism, nationality becomes a central issue of interest. The characteristics of tourists from different countries also become evident when tourists come together in naturebased experience production and consumption. Cultural values held by tourists from different nations hence affect tourist behavior and perception, and can furthermore impact experience creation. …

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