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Performance and Visitors' Perception of Authenticity in Eco-cultural Tourism

By G. Tiberghien, H. Bremner and S. Milne


The search for authenticity remains a primary motivation behind modern tourist behaviour\ud since tourism allows releasing more ‘authentic’ selves. With the increasing commodification\ud of cultural heritage induced by tourism development, the perception of a ‘real’ travel\ud experience raises the issue of what is defined as authentic, original and local. Visitors are,\ud therefore, becoming increasingly concerned about the authenticity of eco-cultural tourism\ud practices when they visit culturally and environmentally remote regions. The purpose of this\ud study is to understand the role performance plays in visitors’ perception of authenticity of\ud eco-cultural tourism experiences. Various theoretical foundations and aspects of visitors’\ud perceptions of authenticity in cultural heritage tourism are considered. A grounded theory\ud approach based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with several categories of visitors\ud including 25 clients from two eco-tours in South and Central Kazakhstan and 29 Free\ud Independent Travellers (FITs) is used to identify visitors’ authentication positions of various\ud aspects of their tourism experiences and the attributes of the visitors’ performative aspects of\ud their travels. The distinct social processes associated with each mode of visitors’ perceptions\ud of authenticity and the performative practices of authentications that affect the host–guest\ud relationship are detailed. Results reveal that the performative aspects contributing to\ud augmenting the perceived authenticity of the visitors’ eco-cultural experiences are\ud spontaneous, existential and reciprocal relationships with their hosts in intimate tourism\ud encounters. Findings contribute to authenticity and cultural heritage tourism literature by\ud exploring new directions in which to apply the concept of authenticity in eco-cultural tourism\ud experiences and by theorising the link between performance-based touristic space and the\ud perception of authenticity as a basis for interaction and social exchange within the host–\ud guest relationship

Year: 2016
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Provided by: Enlighten
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