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Visitor narratives: researching and illuminating actual destination experience.

Guthrie, Cathy; Anderson, Alistair


Cathy Guthrie

Alistair Anderson


Purpose: This paper aims to argue that, while destination benchmarking and visitor surveys seek to measure the visitor experience, they privilege the destination manager or researcher rather than taking the visitor's viewpoint. It seeks to suggest that capturing and analysing visitor stories while in the destination can facilitate understanding of how destination image changes with actual experience, and what factors or attributes are important, thereby offering a deeper insight into the process through which destination experience is transformed (sense making) and transmitted (sense giving) via those stories, that all important word of mouth publicity. Design/methodology/approach: Unstructured interviews were recorded with visitors in Edinburgh and Greenwich. An interpretive approach was employed in analysing the interview data to uncover facets of visitor experience affecting the image conveyed through the narrative. Findings: The research reveals three elements involved in the sense making and sense giving process and sets out the three categories of visitor consumption characteristics which are implicated in the process. Research limitations/implications: Although the outcomes of the sense making and sense giving process are mediated by the incidents, interactions and characteristics of the individual visitor, the process itself is common to all visitors. Analysing visitor narratives to uncover the mediating factors illuminates the visitor's actual destination experience and its impact on their understanding or image of a destination. Narratives proved to be a useful research tool. Practical implications: The interview and analysis techniques used could be readily adapted for use alongside existing standardised visitor survey tools to provide destination managers and marketers a greater understanding of the impact of customer care and visitor management programmes and how narrative may be useful in tailoring destination marketing to meet the requirements of specific visitor groups. Originality/value: The paper demonstrates the utility of capturing and analysing visitor narratives at the point of destination consumption for understanding actual destination experience and the way in which it is transmitted as word of mouth information to others.


GUTHRIE, C. and ANDERSON, A.R. 2010. Visitor narratives: researching and illuminating actual destination experience. Qualitative market research: an international journal [online], 13(2), pages 110-129. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 6, 2010
Online Publication Date Apr 6, 2010
Publication Date Jun 30, 2010
Deposit Date Jan 6, 2011
Publicly Available Date Jan 6, 2011
Journal Qualitative market research: an international journal
Print ISSN 1352-2752
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 2
Pages 110-129
Keywords Communication; Consumer behaviour; Customer satisfaction; Social interaction; Tourism management; United Kingdom; Narrative; Destination image; Visitor experience; Word of mouth publicity; Interview research
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