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LOCAL FOOD EXPERIENCES AND TOURIST WELLBEING: THE ROLE OF SOCIABILITY AND AUTHENTICITY
Tourism is typically a hedonic product, and its consumption promotes positive psychology and wellbeing. Industry practitioners and academics have long been advocating sustainable practices and experiences that promote the health and wellness benefits of tourism. Indeed, studies that support designing tourism experiences with positive social and wellness outcomes are needed to better leverage design factors in delivering, communicating, and sustaining the health-related benefits of the tourism experiences. Food is an integral part of the overall tourism experience and has important implications for tourists’ pleasure and wellbeing. Thus, it is important to identify the factors that contribute to a better wellness value of the tourist food experience.
Using a multi-qualitative method, the first study explored the communal dining experiences of solo travelers. The results indicate that solo traveler communal dining is affected by many motivations (e.g., socialization and authenticity seeking) and constraints (e.g., safety and health concerns). Other factors that were found to affect communal dining include socio-demographic factors (age, gender, cultural background, previous experiences, and extroversion); other diners’ factors (e.g., attitudes and behaviors, perceived similarity, and cultural barriers); dining place-related factors (e.g., social environment, entertainment, and employees openness); and situation-related factors (food quality, environment safety, group composition, communal dining vibes, and dining time). This study found that communal dining triggers four experiential domains: sensory, intellectual, affective, and behavioral which could result in a transformative and wellness value for solo travelers. Under the right circumstances, communal dining triggers a process of self-change that results in personal and social transformations.
Continuing to examine the social experiences of solo travelers, the second study empirically examined the impact of the emotional display of fellow diners on solo travelers’ affect and perceived interpersonal relations during communal dining. The scenario-based experiment showed that other diners' display of emotions influenced solo traveler's affect and rapport perceptions in communal dining. Additionally, fellow communal table diners’ characteristics including their ingroup status and perceived similarity can play a role in impacting solo travelers’ communal dining experience. The perceived similarity was found to act as a trigger or “catalyst” for communal dining experience formation for solo travelers. Further, a positive influence of affect and rapport on solo travelers’ subjective wellbeing was noted.
The third study examined the phenomenon of tourist food sharing. The study used experimental design to empirically examine the impact of food sharing on tourists’ interpersonal relationship development, sense of authenticity, and subjective wellbeing. The two experiments showed that tourist food sharing improves interpersonal relationships, tourist perceptions of experience authenticity, and wellbeing. Two culturally divergent tourist groups were compared: U.S. tourists and Chinese tourists. The results showed that U.S. tourists evaluated food sharing higher regarding its impact on authenticity and wellbeing than their Chinese counterparts.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- Hospitality and Tourism Management
- West Lafayette