Exploring the selfie and distracted gaze of the tourist experience through the lens of online photo-sharing: Where to from here?
Journal of Vacation Marketing
School of Business and Law
The advancement of technology and social networking sites has popularised online photo-sharing, allowing tourists to seamlessly share travel encounters with those who are physically absent. At the same time, focus channelled to cameras and mobile screens limits immersion in the tourist experience and detracts from engagement with various destination elements. As the tourist attention becomes divided into physical and virtual spaces, implications on the on-site experience need to be considered. This has challenged existing definitions of the tourist experience through the selfie and distracted gaze coined in contemporary research. As such, this study aims to revisit existing definitions by exploring the experience sought by present-day tourists, with attention paid to their online photo-sharing endeavours. Given the exploratory nature of this study, a qualitative approach was utilised through 17 in-depth interviews conducted with tourists from eleven countries. The findings revealed new meanings to the notion of the present-day tourist experience. While leisure travel has traditionally been regarded as one’s detachment from the mundane environment, such detachment was found to exist only at a physical level. Subsequently, this study proposed the reconceptualisation of the tourist experience, incorporating values derived from both on-site and online interactions. The theoretical contribution to the body of knowledge is seen in the development of the dual realm tourist experience framework which extends past delineations of the tourist experience. This study also sheds light on the kind of services tourism providers could offer to cater to the needs of present-day tourists.