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  ABSTRACT This paper seeks to provide a framework that will help us identify and better understand the major challenges we face in consumer/tourist experience research. These challenges have both theoretical and managerial dimensions. Based on an extensive and comprehensive review of the current literature in the field, we have categorised extant knowledge into six main streams of theoretical thinking and empirical research. These streams were identified as the fundamentals of the experience, experience-seeking behaviours, methodologies used in experience research, the nature of specific tourism experiences, managerial issues in the design and delivery of experiences, and the evolutionary trail of experience thinking. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Keywords:  understanding challenges; consumer/tourist experience research.INTRODUCTION  ‘Tourism is all about Experiences’ — Canadian Tourism Commission (2007) I t has been nearly a decade since Pine and Gilmore (1999) published their popularis-ing treatise on ‘The Experience Economy’, and over a decade since the appearance of one of the earliest scholarly journal research arti-cles on the tourism experience: ‘The Service Experience in Tourism’ (Otto and Ritchie, 1996). This paper sought to provide some initial insights into the critical dimensions of ‘the experience’ in tourism — and served to launch us on our quest to better understand what many have argued is the central chal-lenge facing tourism planners, namely, the design of effective touristic experiences.In preparing this review, we first undertook to thoroughly examine material on ‘the experi-ence’ so as to provide an overview of existing research. We then proceeded to sort the docu-mentation into six broad categories or ‘streams’, each of which appeared to reflect a stream of thinking and related research. The streams identified were as follows:Stream 1 — the ‘fundamental stream’ involves conceptual work and/or research that sought to define and understand ‘the essence ’ of ‘the tourism experience’. This includes a sub-stream in which research-ers use specific theoretical frameworks as their point of departure;Stream 2 — a stream of thinking/research that sought to understand the tourist’s experience-seeking behaviour ;Stream 3 — material/research related to the specific methodologies  used in tourism experience research;Stream 4 — those studies that sought to explore and understand the nature of spe-cific kinds of tourism/attraction experiences ;Stream 5 — involves the managerial  con-cerns related to designing and develop-ing the tourism supply systems required Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH Int. J. Tourism Res.   11 , 111–126 (2009)Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI : 10.1002/jtr.721 Understanding and Meeting the Challenges of Consumer/Tourist Experience Research  J. R. Brent Ritchie 1, * and Simon Hudson 2 1 World Tourism Education & Research Centre, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4 2  Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4 *Correspondence to: J. R. Brent Ritchie, World Tourism Education & Research Centre, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4.E-mail: britchie@ucalgary.ca  112  J. R. B. Ritchie and S. Hudson Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11 , 111–126 (2009)  DOI : 10.1002/jtr to manage the delivery of a basic/satis-factory/quality/extraordinary/memora- ble experience;Stream 6 — focussed on efforts to distin-guish among the various levels/types of experiences that conceptually seemed to form  an evolutionary trail of experience thinking. This trail involves the basic experience, the satisfactory experience, the quality experience, the extraordinary expe-rience and the memorable experience;Each of these streams of thinking/research presents us with a defined set of research chal-lenges. In what follows, we will examine the nature of each of these research streams and present a selection of papers/studies that are representative of each stream. The greatest emphasis will be on Stream 1, whose contents seek to provide an understanding of the ‘essence of the experience’. Unfortunately, space limitations prevent us from reviewing the material from each stream to the extent we would have liked. Hopefully, what we have  been able to present, and the conceptual frame-work within which it is presented, will be helpful to readers.STREAM 1: UNDERSTANDING THE ESSENCE OF THE CONSUMER/TOURIST EXPERIENCE The beginnings of consumer experience research As we reviewed the theoretical srcins of the consumer/tourist experience, the single most important person in giving birth to the concept appeared to be Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, who first studied ‘the experience’ in the context of Leisure/Play (Csikszentmih-alyi, 1975). However, it was the publication in 1990 of Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience which gave him a wide international audience. In it, he describes the importance of experiences in providing a sense of exhilara-tion, a deep sense of enjoyment that is long cherished and that becomes a landmark in memory for what life should be like. This he termed, the ‘optimal experience’. Csikszentmi-halyi later applied his psychological insights to consumer behaviour and marketing (Csik-szentmihalyi, 2000, p. 268) observing ‘that con-suming is behavior whereby entropy (disorder in the universe) is increased in exchange for existential or experiential  rewards’. The Anthropology of Experience: Victor W. Turner and Edward M. Bruner (1986).  A second seminal work is this series of papers exploring the con-cepts of experience. The first chapter attempts an etymology of the English word for ‘experi-ence’. Turner and Bruner elaborate on Dilthey’s (1976 [1914], p. 210) distinction between ‘mere experience’ and ‘an experience’ (Turner and Bruner, 1986, p. 35). Mere experience is simply the passive endurance and acceptance of events. ‘An’ experience, like a rock in a Zen sand garden stands out from the evenness of passing hours and years and forms what Dilthey called a ‘structuring of experience’. Turner and Bruner saw as significant Dilthey’s view that, such experiences have temporal or processual struc-tures — they ‘proceeded’ through distinguish-able stages. In Dilthey’s view, ‘experience’ urges towards expression, or communication with others. We are social beings, and we want to tell what we have learned from our experiences.In his contribution to the same book, Abrahams (1986) explores in great depth the evolution of the concept of experiences, and the distinction between the ordinary and extraordinary experience. To summarise, Abra-hams asserts that there seems to be in essence two kinds of ‘an experience’. Those arising directly out of the flow of daily life, with little or no explicit preparations; and those for which we plan, and to which we look forward, where the parts are precast and each role has its set of lines. He further notes that in our desire to opti-mise what he terms ‘authenticating’ acts, at the expense of ‘authoritative’ ones, we seem to appreciate most, those moments we can say afterward were big — but which stole up on us and took us unawares. And then, quite interest-ingly, he subsequently points out that ‘To encourage such moments, however, we must expend a good part of our energies secretly pre-paring for these breakthroughs, for those spon-taneous times in which we are overcome by the fulfilment of the expectations we hardly could  The Challenges of Consumer/Tourist Experience Research  113 Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res.   11 , 111–126 (2009)  DOI : 10.1002/jtr admit to having — like those “first time experi-ences” which, when successful are so surpris-ing because we hear about them, and even talk about them, but they seem to sneak up on us anyway. We are surprised only by the fulfil-ment of expectations’ (Abrahams, 1986, p. 64). ‘The Experiential Aspects of Consumption’    —     Morris Holbrook and Elizabeth Hirschman (1982); ‘Play as a Consumption Experience: The Role of Emotions, Performance, and Personality in the Enjoyment of Games’    —     Morris B. Holbrook, Robert W. Chestnut, Terence A. Oliva, and Eric A. Greenleaf (1984).  These articles by Professor Holbrook and his colleagues (notably Hirschmann) represent a crusade to move the marketing community away from the ‘world of products’ into the ‘world of experience’. Holbrook and Hirschman contrasted the view, popular at the time, of consumer behaviour as essentially one of information processing, with that of consumer behaviour as being essen-tially experiential. They argued that previous research, based on the information processing perspective, tended to ignore the playful nature of leisure activities and the importance of sensory pleasures, daydreams, aesthetic enjoy-ment, and emotional responses. They pro-ceeded to argue that consumption behaviour should acknowledge the importance of fanta-sies and feelings, all encompassed by what they called (in 1982), the ‘experiential view’. Nevertheless, it should be emphasized that Holbrook and Hirschman did not advocate the abandoning of the information processing approach, but rather supplementing it with the experiential perspective.It is important to point out, that Holbrook and Hirschman accorded recognition to Alder-son (1957), who had drawn a sharp distinction  between buying and consuming, and to Boyd and Levy’s (1963) discussion of the consump-tion system with its emphasis on brand-usage  behaviour. By focussing on the configuration of activities involved in consumption, the Boyd and Levy viewpoint calls attention to the expe-riences  with a product that one actually gains  by consuming it. Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) pointed out that few consumer research-ers had followed this lead.In a follow-up study by Havlena and Hol- brook (1986, p. 402), of the emotional compo-nents of experiential consumption, the authors emphasized that in their study, ‘the actual unit of analysis is the individual consumption expe-rience, not the respondent’. Thus their work  began to consolidate the role of ‘the experi-ence’ in consumer research and confirm its legitimacy. ‘River Magic: Extraordinary Experiences and the Extended Service Encounter’    —    Eric J. Arnould and Linda L. Price (1993).  In the field of leisure and tourism one of the first to recognise the importance of studying in the experience rather than the product was Arnould and Price (1993) in their thorough and rigorous studies of an extraordinary adventure tourism experience namely river rafting. As well as focussing on the hedonic and symbolic aspects of ex-perience, they questioned the conventional approach to measuring tourist satisfaction through quantitative studies of the perfor-mance of discrete attributes of the vacation. Typology of experiences Another pioneer of experience research was Cohen (1979), who proposed a phenomeno-logical typology of tourist experiences. Those which he identified and defined were: the Recreational Mode, the Diversionary Mode, the Experiential Mode, the Experimental Mode and the Existential Mode.Other attempts to define the modes or components of leisure and tourism experiences included Unger and Kernan (1983), who iden-tify five major subjective components of intrin-sic satisfaction in leisure: perceived freedom, involvement, arousal, mastery, and spontane-ity. Hirschman (1984) asserts that there are  basically three stages of experience seeking: (i) cognitive; (ii) sensation; and (iii) novelty.Otto and Ritchie (1996) built on earlier studies by Havlena and Holbrook (1986), Holbrook and Hirschman (1982), and Bello and Etzel (1985), among others, by using an empirical study of 339 tourists to identify six fundamental dimensions of the experience construct: a Hedonic Dimension, an Interactive or Social Dimension, a Novelty Seeking or Escape Dimension, a Comfort Dimension, a Safety Dimension, and a Stimulating or Chal-lenge Seeking Dimension. It argues those  114  J. R. B. Ritchie and S. Hudson Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Int. J. Tourism Res. 11 , 111–126 (2009)  DOI : 10.1002/jtr seeking to provide tourists with a quality expe-rience should consider the merits of providing visitors with each and/or all of these six com-ponents of ‘the tourism experience’. The distinctive nature of tourism experience ‘Psychological Nature of Leisure and Tourism Experience’    —    Roger C. Mannell and Seppo E. Iso- Ahola (1987).  This paper examined the leisure and tourist experience from three perspectives: the ‘Definitional’ perspective; but also the ‘Post-Hoc Satisfaction’ standpoint; and the ‘Immediate Conscious’ approach. What is most significant is that their work attempts to examine whether tourist experiences are just a subset of leisure experiences or whether differ-ent needs are satisfied by involvements in tourism, as compared to other leisure involve-ments. They discuss the relationship between the way tourists think and feel at the time of the experience, how it will be recalled in the future, and how will it contribute to overall satisfaction with the total activity or trip. The Tourist Experience    —    Chris Ryan, ed. (1997).  Ryan’s book was one of the earliest in the field to explore the experience from a strictly ‘tourism’ perspective. A major theme of the  book is that the way people perceive leisure and holidays is determined by the social fabric that surrounds them — and that society has changed significantly over the decades and centuries. Ryan also focuses on ‘holidays’ as important periods in people’s lives — having the potential for cathartic experiences. He then proceeds to examine what is it about holidays that can make them the opportunity for life-changing experiences. ‘Towards a General Theory of Tourism Experi-ence’    —    Seppo K. Aho (2001).  Aho’s work also seeks to clarify the main characteristics of experiences in tourism. Aho asserts that tourism can be characterised as a combination of those processes that are voluntary and pur-posely intended for producing experiences by means of moving people between places. These experiences may have various dominant com-ponents, for example: amusement, emotions, learning, relaxation and various types of activities.Aho distinguishes among four essential core elements of the touristic experience: emotional experiences; learning; practical experiences; and transformational experiences. Aho also notes that tourism experiences may be indi-vidual or collective phenomena.Aho further asserts that people vary a lot in their personal ability and resources to obtain and enjoy experiences. Their resources may be classified as: time; money; knowledge; skills; attitudes; and social. Aho stresses the interde-pendency of these resources within the follow-ing process model of the tourism experience.  A process model of the tourism experience.  Aho has developed the process model (Figure 1) of the tourism experience; one that we believe merits review. This model contains the following stages: orientation; attachment; visiting; evaluation; storing; reflection; and enrichment.The seven stages of the experience process in the model are linked into a dynamic sys-tem — where previous stages are necessary  but not sufficient conditions of later stages. New experiences can emerge and old ones may be modified at each stage. The experience Figure 1. The stages of the experience process: a process model of the tourism experience.Source: Aho (2001).
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