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The role of personal authenticity orientation in achieving existential authenticity of tourism experience

Authors: Svetlana Stepchenkova*, , Veronika Belyaeva, University of Nizhni Novgorod
Topics: Tourism Geography, Quantitative Methods, Russia
Keywords: Constructionist, Existential authenticity, Museum, Object-based authenticity, Postmodernist, Realist, Tourist behavior
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Authenticity has been of great interest for tourism scholars for many years, arguably, since MacCannell (1973) presented the concept, together with its counterpart “staged authenticity”. What underpins all discussions of authenticity is the idea of “genuineness”, “originality”, or “truth” that is related to the object, artifact, or exposition that tourists are presented with at a site or event. However, how individuals define “truth” and what is “genuine” and “original” for them might differ depending on how they read and interpret signifiers of those qualities via object presentation, the nature of the site, information communicated by the attraction’s management, and, most importantly, the individual’s overall attitude toward the importance of an objects’ heritage.
The study operationalized attitudes toward object-based authenticity and found that people can side with one of the three main authenticity orientations theorized in the sociology and tourism literature as realist, constructivist, or postmodernist (Reisinger & Steiner, 2006), in practically meaningful proportions. Two hypotheses about the relationship between authenticity orientation of an individual and existential authenticity of tourist experience (Wang, 1999) were formulated. They were tested in two tourist settings in Russia: a “traditional” museum with genuine historical artifacts (201 respondents) and an interactive museum created in a style of wooden Russian architecture, where the majority of artifacts were authentic replications (223 respondents). It was found that existential authenticity of tourist experience depends on the nature of the toured site and visitors’ authenticity orientation. Realists and postmodernists have the largest differences in recreated setting.

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