Evaluative Dimensions of Urban Tourism in Capital Cities by First-Time Visitors

Evaluative Dimensions of Urban Tourism in Capital Cities by First-Time Visitors

Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch352
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This chapter is dedicated to evaluative component of the social representations of historic European capital cities, comparing it before and after the first-time visit that took place in the period from 2011 to 2013. Based on the set of empirical data, it presents and discusses the integrative framework for evaluation of a city conceived as a resource in responsible urban tourism. In particular, the social representations of Madrid, London and Warsaw by 420 visitors from seven different EU and non-EU countries (France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom and United States) are examined according to the modelling approach to the theory of social representations, focusing on the evaluative dimension present in an implicit and explicit way. Understanding how tourists assess the resource that they access, based on previous knowledge as opposed to direct experience, shall lay ground for enabling the policy makers and city planners to take into account the expectations of visitors while pursuing urban tourism development in the geo-cultural locations of European capital cities.
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Information science and technology have a tremendous impact concerning a place, given the fact that online resources, such as websites, portals and engine searches shape the potential and future visitors’ expectations. Numerous factors converge when it comes to evaluating such a complex scenario, yet most often tourists are asked to rate their experience on a scale or a series of scales. Although such data appears as fairly easy to gather and analyze, it does not reflect various dimensions of the encounter with the city, including aspects mediated by technology. In order to provide a deeper, social psychological view of the evaluative dimensions of urban tourism, the theory of social representations (Moscovici, 2000) offers a sound epistemological foundation. It has a long tradition, after its birth more than a half a century ago (Moscovici, 1961), of focusing on how people perceive places and cities in particular (Milgram, 1984). However, the theoretical construct of social representation in tourism from a geographic perspective (considering geo-cultural differences between urban locations) has not yet been fully developed, in spite of the fact that various scholars have been applying it to guide empirical research (D'Hauteserre, 2010; Monterrubio & Androtis, 2014). For example: de Rosa and colleagues for decades have worked on social representations of European capital cities and place-identity among first-visitors from different nationalities (de Rosa, 1995, 1997,2013; de Rosa, Bocci, & Dryjanska, in press; de Rosa, Bocci & Picone, 2013; de Rosa, & D’Ambrosio, 2011). Moscardo (2011) has concentrated on social representations of tourism planning; Lai and colleagues have applied the construct of social representations of services in context of a national park (Lai, Hsu, & Nepal, 2013), while Dickinson and Dickinson (2006) considered the social representations of transport in tourism.

The strength of the theory of social representations applied to urban tourism lies in its interdisciplinary approach that bridges sociology and psychology, based on the premise that social reality is being continuously constructed (Wagner, 1996). Technology has certainly transformed urban tourism, not only concerning online sources of information, but also when it comes to using smartphones for photographs and video-conversations that add a new dimension to interpersonal virtual communication about the city. In such a dynamic scenario, social representations undergo transformations and as a consequence their evaluative components change.

The online tourism domain integrates a number of theoretical perspectives, including: the industry perspective; (2) the symbolic representation perspective; (3) the travel behavior perspective; and, (4) the travel information search perspective (Xiang et al., 2008). Their research demonstrated that the representations change through technological interfaces, i.e., a search engine, reflecting the idiosyncratic nature of destinations and travelers' heterogeneous information needs when considering IT applied to urban tourism (Xiang, & Gretzel, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Urban Tourism: A form of tourism aimed at visiting a city while traveling for recreational purposes.

Place-Identity: A construct created by H.M. Proshansky (1978) that links both spatial and temporal dimensions of identity, reflecting social aspects of built and natural environment.

Social Representations: A complex construct created by Serge Moscovici (1961) , which – according to de Rosa (1994) can be operationalized on three different levels: a) social representations as phenomenon ; b) theory of social representations; c) meta-theory of social representations.

European Capitals: Capital cities in Europe, containing an area that can be identified as a historic center (sometimes called “Old Town”, like in the case of Warsaw).

First-Time Visitors: People who visit a given place (for example a city) for the first time in their lives (sometimes also called first-time visitors).

Modeling Approach: A paradigmatic approach to social representations developed by A.S. de Rosa (2013a , 2014 ) that integrates different methods and techniques coherently with the articulation of different theoretical constructs and dimensions.

Geo-Cultural Context: Specific geographic location that takes into account the cultural characteristics of inhabitants, such as common language, history, customs or art; for example, insular, Mediterranean or North-European geo-cultural contexts.

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