Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Human Geography


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Carmichael, Barbara

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Doherty, Sean

Advisor Role

Committee Member


Tourist experiences offer anomalous and complex interactions between tourists and tourism places. The study of these experiences is the focus of this doctoral dissertation, which aims to explore subjective aspects of the tourist experience. This exploration involves the conceptualisation of tourist experiences and the development of a multi-phased research design that captures the perceptions of momentary in situ experiences and examines how these perceptions change over time.

The dissertation addresses under studied areas in tourism and answers calls for research into immediate conscious experiences and tourist centred methodology. This investigation into tourist experiences involves 21 participants who took an educational trip to Peru, capturing experiential data using both in situ research methods and recollection methods. The findings and discussion focus on three areas: The mechanics of the primary research method, the experience of a World Heritage Site, and mobile tourist experiences along the Inca Trail.

The first empirical study investigates the use of the Experience Sampling Method (ESM) in capturing momentary data on tourist experiences. This doctoral research involves the adaptation of ESM to be both a predominantly qualitative method and a mobile digital method on smartphones. The analysis of the operational aspects of ESM looks specifically at issues of participant burden, reactivity, and the use of smartphones as a research tool. Findings reveal complicated relationships between the research process and the data collected. In sampling participants throughout the trip, there is limited evidence of participant burden. There is also evidence of reactivity in momentary data, but this is argued to be beneficial in capturing subjective perceptions due to improved self-awareness in participants. The use of smartphones in data collection presents challenges and opportunities in ESM design. Evidence that participants humanize this data collection tool emerges from the momentary data and is discussed.

The second empirical study examines the experience of the World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu, addressing gaps in research on tourist experiences at protected sites of global significance. The data reveal that, though this site is protected for its cultural, architectural, and natural significance, social relationships emerge as a strong memorable element of the site visit. Analysis of the photographic data, capturing visual in situ experiences, demonstrates a relationship between the number of photographs taken and memories of the site. The momentary and memorable experiences of Machu Picchu are found to be influenced by the method of site arrival, where those who arrive via the Inca Trail show a more intimate connection with the World Heritage Site.

Stemming from the findings related to site arrival, the final empirical study examines the experience of hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu within the context of mobility and mobile practices in tourism. In the momentary and memorable data on the hiking experience, what emerges is an emphasis on self-identity and the encounter of corporeal self through pain and physical struggle. This is prominent in momentary perceptions and short term memory but fades in the long term memory data, where the destination of the hike is emphasized. The importance of pain within this mobile hiking experience is highlighted.

Overall, this doctoral thesis advances knowledge on the complexities involved in subjective tourist experiences through the examination of educational tourists in Peru. The major contributions of this thesis to the tourist experience knowledge base are in the capture and examination of momentary in situ experiences. The design and adaptation of ESM advances theory on experience sampling procedures and addresses issues of mobility in tourism research designs. The multi-phased research approach to data collection captures detailed and dynamic meanings in the moment, which become more generalized over time. This research highlights the challenges and importance in capturing momentary data to better understand holistic tourist experiences and provides future research recommendations related to tourist experience theory and methodology.

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