|Title||Tourist experiences of urban historic areas: Valletta as a case study|
The purpose of this research is to take a closer look at the tourism experience, with special reference to the experience of historic areas. The basis for the research is an urban design model based on three elements of urban spaces, namely form, activity and meaning. The model is often used and discussed in urban design literature to explain sense of place and also to explain how urban spaces can be made more interesting and enjoyable.
The form-activity-meaning model refers primarily to the intrinsic qualities of the urban space. This thesis contends that the urban design model is useful but inadequate for a proper understanding of the tourist experience of urban spaces and urban areas. For a better understanding, it is considered useful to develop a model variant whereby the tourist, and not the urban space, is the focus. The variant, referred to as the tourist interaction model, is a representation of the tourist experience of historic areas. The variant refers to interactions of the tourist with different aspects or elements of the space. The model speaks of interaction of the tourist with self, an interaction that primarily results from the meaning that is associated with a place. The model also refers to interactions with others; interactions that are mostly non-verbal. The third element of the model is interaction with the surroundings. This involves using the senses, especially vision, to engage with buildings, sites and artefacts.
This research uses Valletta as a case study because it is a city that is characterised by numerous and diverse urban spaces and also because it contains significant tourism activity. A qualitative methodology based on face-to-face interviews was deemed the most appropriate to attain the research aims. A total of 32 interviews with tourists were conducted. The objective of the interview was to obtain the essence of the experience including feelings and emotions.
The research findings provide useful insights on the tourist experience. No two tourist experiences are the same. There are countless factors that make each
Issues relating to self and identity of the tourist have a significant role in tourist motivation and behaviour and hence also on the tourist’s experience. Compared to a repeat visitor, the experience of first-time tourists is more likely to involve emotion and feelings than that of a repeat visitor, because the novelty of exploration and discovery of a first time visit is stronger. On the other hand, repeat tourists are more able to satisfy the need of affiliation by befriending local people. The research also suggests that the boundaries that have traditionally separated ‘tourists’ from ‘locals’ are becoming more blurred as residents consume the city in ways that are similar to tourists.
This research notes the relevance of ‘layers of experience’ to the tourist experience. ‘Layers of experience’ signify that the area offers many different ways how the tourist can engage with it. With more layers of experience offered, the tourist will have more possibility of interaction with self/meaning, with others and with surroundings, and hence the tourist’s expectations are more likely to be met. It is suggested that Valletta is enjoyable to most tourists because it offers many layers of experience.