Exploring the authenticity of the tourist experience in culture heritage tourism in South Africa
The research question addressed by this dissertation is: How is the tourist experience formed and what constitutes the authenticity of the tourist experience for two market segments (motivated and not motivated by learning) of tourists visiting (political) cultural heritage sites in South Africa. The study explores the correlation between three types of authenticity, namely objective, constructed and existential on two independent tourist samples, motivated and not motivated by learning. This research was initiated for three reasons. The first reason forms part of the research problem; South African cultural experiences received the lowest ratings from the international tourists despite the fact that culture and heritage play a role in reimaging South Africa from Big 5 destination into ‘It’s possible’ and ‘Leave ordinary behind’. It was suspected that not all types of cultural heritage products justify such a low ratings, especially not the political cultural heritage sites South Africa is famous for. The second reason emerged from the academic literature on authenticity theories and calls from the influential group of postmodernist scholars to declare the objective authenticity obsolete and replace it with the existential authenticity. The argument that; the hyperreal nature of the postmodern experience and its detachment from reality makes the authenticity of the site redundant, seemed inapt for cultural heritage sites exclusively dependent on their historical and authentic values. The third reason was the inability of the postmodern paradigm to explain the new tourism phenomenon driven by the tourists search for selfdevelopment through authentic experiences. The new emerging paradigm, transmodernity seemed to offer better theoretical framework in explaining the omnivorouessness of tourists’ consumption and the authentic nature of tourist experiences. The correlational character of the research question required a descriptive correlational design and quantitative methodology. The selected research instrument for primary data collection is a self–administered questionnaire. The sampling strategy is a non–probability sampling, and the sampling method is a convenience or accidental sample. The data was collected from November 2010 to February 2011 at the Constitutional Hill National Heritage Site in Johannesburg. The final sample (436) consists of 254 foreign and 182 domestic tourists. The questionnaire was designed to identify the variables pertinent to each type of authenticity of tourists experience and of the resultant tourist experience. The data analysis provided very interesting results. Firstly, the results of crosstabulation proved that more than half (56%) of the tourists expressed strong agreement that the Constitution Hill provided them with authentic experience, hence a proof that political heritage sites are not responsible for the overall low experiential ratings of the country’s culture and heritage. Secondly, the results of the Spearman’s correlation coefficient proved that objective authenticity as an independent variable have strong positive correlation with constructed and existential authenticity hence a proof that objective authenticity cannot be declared obsolete and replaced with existential authenticity. Finally, the results of the t–test proved that motivation for learning and place of birth do not play an important role in how tourist evaluate and experience the authenticity of the site pointing to the omnivorous nature of tourist consumption. In line with the transmodern paradigm, motivation for learning plays a critical role in triggering the transformative, authentic experience distinctive of the existential authenticity. The results of the study also showed that 32% of tourists are in fact the purposeful, New Age, transmodern Cultural Creatives. Proposed theoretical model of authenticity of tourists experience presents a theoretical platform for future research studies.