Academic journal article Journal of Travel and Tourism Research (Online)

Place Image during Transition: The Case of Rijeka, Croatia

Academic journal article Journal of Travel and Tourism Research (Online)

Place Image during Transition: The Case of Rijeka, Croatia

Article excerpt

Abstract

Medium sized cities and cities in transition from industrial to post-industrial economies have sought to capitalize on changing travel patterns as tourists take more frequent trips of shorter duration. However, to attract tourists, these cities must first create a new, recognizable image or change an existing, potentially unfavorable, image. Yet, in this age of information, it can be difficult for a place to project its desired image uncontested. The induced images of place promotion must compete with any lingering images as well as organic images produced simultaneously by various external sources. As such, potential tourists will be confronted with multiple, possibly contradictory, images of the same place. While many previous case studies have examined post-industrial cities that have been able to change their image, few studies have considered a city caught in the middle of transition. The purpose of this paper is to examine the conflicting images of Rijeka, Croatia that potential tourists would encounter in their information search. Twenty tourism information sources containing 247 photographs were examined using a combined content-semiotic analysis. Findings show that, across these sources, Rijeka is represented in three categories that range from not being a tourism destination to being an authentic Croatian destination. For the former category, sources rely on text-based descriptions to shape potential tourists' perceptions. For the latter, visual images are widely used to support ideas of an authentic place with a vibrant atmosphere.

Keywords: Place image, industrial cities, urban tourism, tourism information, content-semiotic analysis

Introduction

Places all over the world today are looking to tourism as an economic development strategy. In particular changing travel patterns, such as more frequent trips and trips of shorter duration, have created new opportunities for places to undertake tourism development. For example, small and medium sized cities without major attractions, and cities that are in the process of transitioning from an industrial economy to a post-industrial one, have seized upon these opportunities (Kolb, 2006). To attract tourists, one of the first steps these cities must take is to either create a new, recognizable image or change an existing, potentially unfavorable, image. Yet, in this age of information, it can be difficult for a place to project its desired image uncontested. Certainly there are many well-cited examples of former industrial cities, such as those in the United Kingdom (e.g. Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester), that have redeveloped their image and created a foundation for various urban tourism products (Bradly et al. 2002; Bramwell and Rawding, 1996; Spirou, 2010). However, few studies have examined cities during the process of transition, when traditional images of industry exist along with new images of leisure. This paper examines the conflicting images of a city in transition that are found in tourism information sources.

From the geographic perspective, image is used to refer to the various ways in which people perceive a place (Özdemir, 2010). The creation and promotion of place images are a part of the modem world. Places may be considered substitutable; therefore, a distinct image becomes vital as places around the globe compete for investment, residents, and especially tourists (Bramwell and Rawding, 1996). Places must create and communicate a distinct and coherent image that resonates with target audiences (Smith, 2005). Place image is widely recognized for its role in tourism and its influence over the destination decision-making process (Bramwell and Rawding, 1996; Choi et al. 2007; Frías et al., 2008; Hughes, 2008; Konecnik, 2004; Lepp et al., 2011; Özdemir, 2010; Stepchenkova and Zhan, 2012). This is particularly applicable in the case of tourists who have not previously visited the destination. For these tourists, the risk associated with destination choice is high (Özdemir, 2010). …

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