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Drawing from literature straddling tourism, marketing, geography and anthropology, this thesis investigates how US tourists consume and thereby make sense of Ireland as a place through practicing photography as part of ‘being a tourist’. The constructivist approach to this research facilitated an exchange of ideas between the researcher and the participants. This exchange between the researcher and the participants, in which knowledge is not discovered, but rather created, informs the hermeneutically-situated methodologies sometimes used by constructivists. The thesis, therefore, employs a suite of participant-focused, hermeneutically-situated methodologies, including in-depth interviews and focus groups to produce a phenomenographical account of how the participants made sense of Ireland as a place. A three-phased approach was taken to collecting the primary data. The first phase used in-depth interviews and photo-elicitation techniques to explore a selection of induced images of Ireland with US tourists prior to visiting Ireland. This phase in the research took place in JFK airport in New York, and the key themes to emerge from the photo-elicitation work categorised photographs used to market Ireland as: “indicative of Ireland”, “stereotypically Irish”, or “it could be anywhere”. Phase two of the research made use of in-depth interviews to collect and discuss photographs taken by the participants from phase one while they were on holiday in Ireland. The key themes to emerge from this phase in the research reflect the participants’ pre-visitation imagined view of Ireland as: green; rural; beautiful; Irish people; symbols of Ireland; religion. Phase three of the research involved eight focus groups with US tourists on their last night in Ireland. During the focus groups each participant was asked to submit a selection of their photographs that, in their opinion, truly represented Ireland as they experienced it. The themes which emerged from this phase of the research reflect the intensity of emotion and enchantment experienced by them with Ireland as a place during their holiday. Their photographs offer a window into their world, and how they view Ireland as an enchanting place, where enchanting people live, and where it is still possible to experience an enchanting way of life.
This thesis captures the essence of the participants’ sense-making of Ireland by discussing with them the photographs taken by them on holiday. This thesis reveals that by looking at organic images of destinations, but more importantly, by taking their own photographs while on holiday, tourists play an active role in their own seduction and enchantment with places. The thesis concludes that tourists pass through a cycle of enchantment and meaning, as they make sense of places by taking photographs. It is also clear that tourists legitimise their imagined view of places by seeking out and taking photographic evidence while on holiday, to prove that their imagined view of place really exists.
Ruane, S. T. (2014). Real Ireland:an investigation into US tourists' holiday photographs. Doctoral thesis. Technological University Dublin. doi:10.21427/D7G89Q