Assessing and enhancing humour in the tourism setting

Pabel, Anja (2014) Assessing and enhancing humour in the tourism setting. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Humour has been widely researched in other academic disciplines; however the topic has almost been overlooked within the field of tourism. Key opportunities exist to examine this underexplored topic in more detail and to highlight the tourism-humour relationship. In this thesis a particular focus was given to exploring the multifaceted construct of humour in a naturalistic way and among multiple tourism audiences.

The overall aim of this thesis research is directed at understanding tourists' responses to humour. In particular the role humour plays in creating enjoyable and engaging tourism experiences is of prime interest. To achieve this overall aim, three studies were conducted, each of which addressed more specific aims. The aim of Study 1 was to develop a greater understanding of the humorous experiences that tourists report in their travel blogs. The aim of Study 2 was to examine tourists' perceptions about the use of humour they encountered at four different tourism settings. The aim of Study 3 was to measure the effect that changing humour scenarios had on tourists and to investigate how various humour variables relate to one another.

This PhD thesis is divided into six chapters. The introductory chapter discusses previous studies conducted on the topic of humour and highlights the overall themes guiding this research. Chapter Two identifies the key concepts while focusing on research gaps and opportunities. These key concepts include considerations relating to the multicultural nature of humour, positive psychology and the experience economy, all of which are considered for the value they contribute to tourism studies. The chapter also states that this thesis research takes a multi-method approach guided by the paradigm of pragmatism. Chapters Three, Four and Five deal with each of the studies carried out and explain their specific methods, results and discussions. The tour guide studies in Chapters Four and Five were conducted in Tropical North Queensland (TNQ), Australia.

Study 1, outlined in Chapter Three, consisted of an analysis of humorous episodes in travel blogs. A total sample of 200 travel blogs were sourced from four virtual travel community websites to examine the diverse kinds of humorous travel experiences that tourists report in their blogs. Using thematic content analysis allowed the researcher to identify four broad themes which showed that humour occurring during travel experiences varied greatly according to the context in which they occurred. The findings in this study are also linked back to pre-existing theories found in the literature, namely the three major humour theories and Pearce's (2009) comfort-concentration-connection model. This study of travel blogs was a fruitful approach to gaining initial and in-depth insights into the tourist-humour relationship by being able to build a record of the various humorous sources that tourists wrote about and to provide a descriptive overview of what kinds of humorous experiences tourists encounter during their travels.

Study 2, presented in Chapter Four, involved focus groups to uncover participants' perspectives and opinions about the humour they encountered at four tourism settings. The sample consisted of 103 participants. The focus groups allowed for the collection of rich data which related directly to the experiences that tourists had on-site. The results of this study demonstrate that overall humour had a positive effect on participants' tourism experiences. By selecting four different tourism experiences, it was possible to compare how the use of humour differed in these settings. Pearce's (2009) comfortconcentration- connection model was explored in more detail by individually addressing each category. The results show that humour used by the tour guides increased participants' comfort levels, helped them be more mindful of educational comments made during the tours as well as potentially assisting the creation of pleasant memories to take home. Humour used in tourism presentations also made tourists feel more connected to the tour guides as well as other tourists who were part of the same tour. Moreover, the results show that there are also some tourism settings where participants considered the use of humour as inappropriate. This chapter also highlights the value of humour for tourism operators from the perspectives of the participants and outlines key considerations for tourism businesses who would like to increase their humour efforts. Overall, this study revealed some ways humour can be used to create more entertaining and engaging tourism experiences.

Study 3 is presented in Chapter Five and consisted of a quasi-experiment conducted at two tourism settings. Tourists were exposed to humour manipulation scenarios in order to measure their responses in a questionnaire. Overall, 514 completed questionnaires were collected at the two tourism settings. This third study contributes and builds on the previous two studies by measuring what effect humour had on respondents' comfort, concentration and connection levels. Conducting this study at two tourism settings allowed for a comparative analysis to be undertaken to reveal how humour differed at both tourism settings. The results identified that the most frequently used categories of humour by the two tourism operations were amusing stories and friendly teasing. Overall, the correlational analysis showed that humour used by the tour guides during tourism experiences contributed significantly to the tourists' comfort, connection and concentration levels. The results also suggest that humour has its role to play in influencing the desire to visit other tourism attractions where humour might be used in similar ways.

The concluding chapter provides an overall synthesis which integrates the key findings of the three studies. This chapter also outlines the theoretical and practical implications based on the findings of this thesis research. A new conceptual framework for the use of humour in tourism settings is proposed to advance knowledge in this area. The limitations of this research are addressed and subsequent recommendations for future studies are made.

Item ID: 40751
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: comfort; connection; humor; humour; jokes; sense of humor; sense of humour; tour guides; tourism industry; tourism promotion; tourism; tourist surveys; tourists blogs; travel; Tropical North Queensland
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Pearce, Philip, and Pabel, Anja (2014) Humour, tourism and positive psychology. In: Filep, Sebastian, and Pearce, Philip, (eds.) Tourist Experience and Fulfilment: insights from positive psychology. Routledge Advances in Tourism (31). Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, UK, pp. 17-36.

Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2015 01:59
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 100%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 100%
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