Ethical agency within the responsible tourism experience: a PARTicipative inquiry

Ingram, Claire (2018) Ethical agency within the responsible tourism experience: a PARTicipative inquiry. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines consumers’ ethical agency within the responsible tourism experience. It aligns with a post-structuralist, (late) Foucauldian position, adopting the theoretical constructs of ‘power struggles’ (1982), ‘problematisations’ (1984a) and ‘self-care practices’ (1984c) to engender a more fluid view of the market-consumer interface. It investigates (i) how consumers conform to, critique or resist market-promulgated ways of being a ‘responsible tourist’; (ii) how consumers (re)negotiate alternative meanings of how to be ethical and act ethically; (iii) what this reveals about the ways in which consumers retain, apportion or relinquish a sense of autonomy over their ethicality; and (iv) the tensions, struggles and dilemmas that consumers concurrently face.

The thesis adopts a participative methodology in order to foster the involvement of participants across the total tourism experience. More specifically, the thesis conducts a PARTicipative inquiry in order to facilitate data collection before, during and after the holiday; enabling ‘prospective’, ‘active’ and ‘reflective’ triangulation (Ingram et al, 2017). To this end, the thesis presents data from participants’ pre-holiday and post-holiday interviews, as well as their (on-holiday) diaries and photographs.

The findings of this thesis suggest that consumers’ ethical agency manifests in three main ways. Agency is represented through a critical awareness of the rhetorical construction of ‘responsibility’ within three types of market-consumer interface, namely ethical tourism spaces, ethical policies and market materials. Agency is also represented through consumers’ resistance towards three key areas of the organised tourism industry, specifically large corporations (e.g. chain hotels, international franchises), the tourism ‘package’, and tourism ‘hotspots’. Further, agency is represented through consumers’ self-reflexivity. Tourists are highly introspective of the ways in which they transform personal ethical reflection into action (‘walk the talk’); the ways in which they reflect on ethics but are unwilling to make any material alterations to their behaviour (‘reflexive inertia’); and the personal, product, and destination level considerations that impede their engagement in certain ethical practices (‘pragmatic utility’).

Overall, this thesis aims to contribute to existing literature by fulfilling four research gaps. First, it focusses on the practices and narratives of responsible tourists, as opposed to the ‘responsibility’ discourses of travel companies (e.g. Caruana & Crane, 2008; Hanna, 2013). Second, it attends to the current lack of Foucauldian ethics within the consumer responsibility and responsible tourism literatures (Crane et al, 2008). Third, it progresses from studying the ethical consumption of commodity goods to focus on experiential consumption; specifically, highly performative experiential consumption in a potentially environmentally and socio-culturally disparate context to the ‘home’ setting (e.g. Jamal, 2004). Finally, it focusses on the total responsible experience by triangulating tourists’ prospective, active and reflective data.

This thesis also has important practical implications. A stronger awareness of how tourists experience responsible tourism will better enable the tourism industry to tailor their products, services and spaces in a way which more effectively matches consumer demand. Further, an improved understanding of how consumers evaluate discourses on ‘responsibility’ will inform the tourism industry as to how responsible policies, guidebooks and other marketing messages are interpreted, and thereby constructed and communicated.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Caruana, Robert
McCabe, A. Scott
Keywords: Consumers, Attitudes; Tourism, Moral and ethical aspects
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 52284
Depositing User: Ingram, Claire
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2018 13:49
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 17:47

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