Theme Park Experiences in the Tourism Industry

Theme Park Experiences in the Tourism Industry

Begum Dilara Emiroglu (Sirnak University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4380-4.ch013
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Today, high product and service quality is no longer valid for consumers to choose them. Consumers look for unique experiences beyond services and products. Customer experiences are highly related to the tourism industry. Tourism is a service sector with intense experience. Customers not only buy products but also gain experience. Theme parks are star players in the tourism industry. In the tourism industry context, theme parks are places of entertainment where visitors experience mostly hedonic goods and services and thus are characterized as real pioneers of the experience economy. Therefore, theme park experiences are of great importance to the tourism industry. Therefore, in this chapter, the concept of experience, its importance in the tourism industry, and theme park experiences will be included, and some suggestions will be made for future research by giving solutions and recommendations in terms of managerial implications.
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Today, price and functionality alone are not enough (Barners et al., 2009: 67). High product and service quality is no longer valid for consumers to choose them. Consumers look for one-of-a-kind experiences beyond services and products (Oh et al., 2007: 119). Experiences create unique value for customers, make it harder for competitors to imitate the firm, and can also heavily affect consumer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and word-of-mouth (WOM). By focusing on this aspect of customer experience, many businesses have started to design experiences to differentiate themselves from their other competitors (Ali & Omar, 2014: 176).

The word experience comes from nous, which is the Greek word that means mind or understanding, and it means knowledge directly experienced with a feeling of certainty (Lindgreen et al., 2009: 180). Various authors have defined the concept of experience in various ways (Pine & Gilmore, 1999; Schmitt, 1999; Mossberg, 2007; Oh et al., 2007). Pine and Gilmore (1999: 12) stated that experience is a state that affects the individual emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. Oh et al. (2007: 120) defined experiences as “enjoyable, engaging and memorable encounters for those consuming these events”.

Experiences are part of customer behaviour associated with consumer emotions, different perceptions of customers and fantasies (Cetin & Dincer, 2014: 183). An experience is extraordinary, under one's control, enjoyable, and a spontaneous process. The experience can be easily remembered even years later (Arnould & Price, 1993: 25). Also, experiences are personal. They include customer participation and perception, mobilize customers emotionally, are shared with other persons and are kept in memory for a while (Ali & Omar, 2014: 177). An experience dimension(s) or experience is a mixture of numerous personal dimensions that get together in the individual which can engage the customer, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally and remain in the consumer's mind. Since the experience dimensions are interpreted individually, two people do not have a similar experience. Dimension(s) of experience or experiences may involve the social environment (interaction with other consumers and employees) and physical environment (Walls et al., 2011a: 168). Customer experience includes each contact point in which the customer interacts with the service, product, and business (Grewal et al., 2009: 1).

Many authors have stated that customer experiences are closely related and important to the tourism industry (Ali & Omar, 2014: 176; Cetin & Dincer, 2014: 182-183). Tourism is a service sector with intense experience. Therefore, tourists are more active and open to new experiences during their travels. Tourism product is an experience in general. Customers not only buy products but also gain experience (Cetin & Dincer, 2014: 182-183).

The experiences of people in touristic environments can be directly affected by the social environment (e.g., other customers and personnel) as well as the physical environment (Mossberg, 2007: 64). In the hospitality and tourism industry, since services are inseparable, heterogeneous, and intangible, both social interactions and the physical environment gain more importance than products (Cetin & Dincer, 2014: 183). The most effective customer experiences in the hospitality industry are formed when physical cues (mechanical) are supported by desirable social interactions (Cetin & Walls, 2016: 417). Researchers state that high customer satisfaction will lead to high customer loyalty, purchase intention, WOM marketing, and market share (Yuan & Wu, 2008: 388). Therefore, companies operating in the tourism and hospitality industry need to effectively manage elements of physical and human interaction to increase their consumers' experience (Walls et al., 2011b: 18).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Extraordinary Experiences: Experiences that disrupt routines, go beyond the confines of everyday life, and are characterized by a high level of emotional intensity.

Customer Loyalty: A customer's deeply held commitment to rebuy or repatronize a preferred product/service by a customer consistently in the future.

Hedonism: Very emotional, fun, and emotional aspects of the consumers' product and service experience. It refers to the consumption of pleasure and gratification obtained from a pleasant experience.

WOM: Communication ocurring between customers about products, services, or companies.

Customer Satisfaction: The feeling of pleasure or disappointment that results from the consumer comparing the actual/perceived performance of a product or service with their expectations before using the product.

Other Customers: People who are not familiar with each other and who are in the service facility at the same time.

Experiences: States or events that stimulate the senses of individuals and affect and occupy them emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally.

COVID-19 Pandemic: An infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which started in China in December 2019 and spread worldwide and was declared a pandemic by the world health organization on March 12, 2020.

Ordinary Experiences: Common and frequent experiences that take place in everyday life.

Theme Park: A park with a dominant theme around which architecture, landscape, rides, shows, catering, costumed personnel, and retailing activities are organized.

Memorable Experience: An experience that the tourist stored in his/her mind in long term and positively remembered after experiencing a service or visiting any destination.

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