Understanding experiences, memories and emotions in tourism and events

How do we relive our tourism and event experiences? Four separate studies look at this from different angles and challenge our perceptions.

Understanding experiences, memories and emotions in tourism and events

The challenge

Professor Emma Wood and Dr Davide Sterchele continue to undertake research into tourist and event attendee experiences using a variety of theoretical frameworks. Their work is significantly advancing issues that are fundamental to tourism and event studies, which probably accounts for the growing number of academics internationally citing their work. The four separate but related studies highlighted here illustrate the quality of work being undertaken.  Taken collectively, they also begin to challenge practitioners and policymakers to reconceptualise their work for greater effect.


Perceived emotional synchrony through tourist memory sharing

Durkheim’s theory of collective emotion and the concept of perceived emotional synchrony are used to explore tourism memories, and to create a conceptual model explaining how and why we come to agree on how we felt when reliving past tourism experiences. This process is dependent on the malleability of memory, which allows emotional synchrony to happen in retrospect, regardless of actual feelings at the time. There is an argument that the innate motivations behind this post-consumption merging is a stronger sense of community and of belonging to a social group. For tourism practitioners, this highlights where the true value lies for the consumer, the belief in a shared emotional experience. This value develops through the synchronization of memories creating the basis for a shared memory economy. The implications for tourism marketers are discussed, and suggestions for further research into memory and travel experience are identified.

Memorable tourism experiences and their consequences

Tourism experiences, memories thereof, and their consequences tend to be analysed separately, often focusing on the individual's perspective. This paper introduces Collins' (2004) interaction ritual (IR) theory to develop a micro-sociological interpretation of these phenomena as interconnected elements of IR chains. A longitudinal qualitative study of a multi-cultural festival held in Italy, the Mondiali Antirazzisti (Anti-racist World Cup), is used to show how emotional experiences and patterns of collective action are reproduced by the returning attendees in their home communities through the trans-local appropriation of the event's format. Findings lead to a revised model of IR chains to explain the trans-local dimension of transformational event tourism. The implications for wider application of IR theory within tourism are discussed.

Shared festival experiences

This study aims to explore how emotionally rich collective experiences create lasting, shareable memories, which influence future behaviours. In particular, the role of others and of music in creating value through memories is considered using the concept of socially extended emotions.

Liminality and festivals

This research extends our knowledge of liminality through investigating how the liminal experiences of festival-goers are constructed in a Chinese music festival context. The research employs a multi-site data collection approach undertaking field observations and 68 in-depth semi-structured interviews at seven music festivals across three years. The study contributes to the theoretical development of a liminality framework by providing empirical evidence of the nature of liminality. It extends our understanding of event tourist experiences by highlighting the development and role of three types of communitas and identifying six stages within a rite of passage. The resulting multifaceted coexistence of liminal behaviours and identity with everyday routine life provides a new approach to the critical understanding of the role of liminality.

outputs and recognition

  1. Wood, E. H. (2019). I remember how we all felt: Perceived emotional synchrony through tourist memory sharing. Journal of Travel Research, 59(8), 1339-1352. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0047287519888290
  2. Davide Sterchele (2020) Memorable tourism experiences and their consequences: An interaction ritual (IR) theory approach. Annals of Tourism Research, 81:102847  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2019.102847
  3. Emma Harriet Wood & Maarit Kinnunen (2020). Emotion, Memory and Re-collective Value: Shared Festival Experiences. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 32 (3): 1275-1298.  https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJCHM-05-2019-0488/full/html
  4. Shaofeng Wu, Yanning Li, Emma H. Wood, Benoît Senaux & Guangquan Dai (2020). Liminality and festivals - insights from the East. Annals of Tourism Research, 80: 102810. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2019.102810

Contact Professor Emma Wood

contact dr davide sterchele

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