Astronomy tourism: exploring an emerging market: group culture, individual experience, and industry future

Wen, Junjie (2017) Astronomy tourism: exploring an emerging market: group culture, individual experience, and industry future. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Astronomy tourism, a novel research topic and the basis for an emerging market, is the central concern of this thesis. Astronomy, or the simple contemplation of starry skies, has always been of profound interest to humans and world civilizations. Travelling for astronomy-related purposes as a significant tourist phenomenon, though a rising trend, has not been studied in the tourism literature. The principal aim of this thesis was to explore the group culture of astronomy tourists, their individual travel experience and the prospects for the future development of the industry. To tackle these new issues concerning astronomy tourism, this thesis attempts to address three key questions:

1. Who are astronomy tourists and what is astronomy tourism?

2. What travel experiences do they have and why do they travel?

3. What are the industry stakeholders' perspectives towards the future development of astronomy tourism?

To answer these questions, the first chapter of the thesis started by reviewing the research context. The details about astronomy tourism, the neglected assets of dark skies, and the knowledge gaps were observed. Historical cases of interest and contemporary activity underlined the significance of the research. Multiple perspectives from three areas, built the foundation literature. Three pillars - emerging tourism markets, special interest tourism and tourism future studies – were developed as the basis for research attention.

The second chapter designed the research at two levels. At the theoretical level, the conceptual schemes for the research were specified by four components: The neo-tribe theory, the phase-based multidimensional model of tourist experience, the leisure involvement theory, and the travel career pattern (TCP) approach concerning tourist motivation, were reviewed and integrated as the theoretical bases for the research. At the methodological level, the paradigms and researcher positions were considered before reviewing three research methods. Netnography, a questionnaire-based survey and the key informant interviews were selected, in turn, as primary approaches to conduct the studies of group culture, individual experience and views of the future by industry future.

Chapter 3 described the study of the group culture of the astronomy tourists' neo-tribes. It delivered qualitative findings based on 244 travel blogs and 14 interviews. By employing a data mining technique, the market of astronomy tourism was outlined and the profile of astronomy tourists was documented. The elements of group culture were revealed by portraying symbolic and behavioural characteristics of astronomy tourists' neo-tribes. Preliminary considerations of tourist motivation and the tracking of the astronomy travel career provided guidelines for further similar concerns in the subsequent questionnaire development.

Chapter 4 gazed into the individual travel experience of astronomy tourists through a questionnaire-based study which involved a quantitative analysis of 866 respondents from a world-wide sample. An array of findings were reported by assessing tourists' general travel experience, determinants in decision making, tourist motivation, leisure involvement, on-site activity participation, tourist satisfaction, recollection behaviour and learning outcomes. A key conclusion was drawn that travel career patterns vary significantly with rising levels of serious leisure involvement in the astronomy tourism context.

Chapter 5, concerning the industry future of astronomy tourism, encompassed two focus groups and 28 in-depth, semi-structured interviews which were conducted by the key informant technique. This qualitative study assessed the industry stakeholders' perceptions of the current status of astronomy tourism and their attitudes towards future development. Using the IPA (importance and expected-performance analysis) approach, three key solutions were proposed and which addressed the sustainable development issues for the future of astronomy tourism.

Chapter 6 highlighted a synthesis of the overall researching findings. The connection between Pearce's (2005b, 2011a, 2011b) TCP model and Stebbins' (1982, 2014) leisure involvement theory was established as the major conceptual contribution of the thesis. In the context of special interest tourism, this link suggested a clear variation of tourist motivation patterns among the casual leisure, project-based leisure and serious leisure pursuers. A growth in leisure involvement is significantly reflected in higher-level motivations pertaining to self-actualization or self-development needs.

In the practical field, the thesis outlined several implications for the stakeholders of astronomy tourism industry at a managerial level. The empirical findings with a large sample and primary data constitute a substantial reference resource for developing desirable astronomy tourism products to meet the multiple needs of customers in the future. Additionally and to complete the work, the limitations of the research and the directions for further studies were indicated.

Item ID: 51929
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: astronomy tourism, astronomy tourists, tourist motivation, travel experiences
Additional Information:

For this thesis, Junjie Wen received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2018.

Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2018 23:51
FoR Codes: 15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150605 Tourism Resource Appraisal @ 20%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150606 Tourist Behaviour and Visitor Experience @ 60%
15 COMMERCE, MANAGEMENT, TOURISM AND SERVICES > 1506 Tourism > 150602 Tourism Forecasting @ 20%
SEO Codes: 90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900302 Socio-Cultural Issues in Tourism @ 80%
90 COMMERCIAL SERVICES AND TOURISM > 9003 Tourism > 900399 Tourism not elsewhere classified @ 20%
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