PLACE-ATTACHMENT AND INVOLVEMENT BY TOURISTS OF NATURAL AREAS
Tourism studies have experienced significant advances through the intersection of theories developed in several disciplines: Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Geography, Marketing, among others. This interconnection is visible in two concepts that have received increasing attention from researchers as they measure how tourists relate with tourism products and with the destinations visited. Involvement from Marketing reflects the perceived importance and/or personal interest that consumers link to the purchase, consumption of goods, services or ideas (Mowen & Mirror, 1998), Place Attachment from Environmental Psychology and Geography represents the effective linkage between people and specific places (Hidalgo & Hernandez, 2001). Recent studies have tested the linkage between those two concepts (Gross & Brown, 2008). explained by understanding the ties that connect communities to environments (Feld & Basso, 1996), namely by place-identity and place-dependency.
The new paradigm in tourism research emphasizes the understanding of emotional and symbolic subjective meanings associated with nature places and also the connection of people to those places (Williams & Vaske, 2003). Moreover it stresses that natural areas are more than geographical environments with physical characteristics. They are fluid, convertible, dynamic contexts of interaction and memory, and therefore susceptible to different links / relationships (Stokowski, 2002).
There are differences among individuals, which depending on the product or the situation, make some consumers more interested, concerned or involved in the purchase decisions. It influences the proximity relationship of individuals to the decision-making behavior from pre-purchase up to post-purchase (Slama & Tashchian, 1985). Consumers’ involvement influences their buying decision, so it is a well-known variable to conduct effective market segmentation (Kassarjian, 1981). Tourism products with high monetary and non-monetary costs are based on extensive problems’ solving processes, meaning that they are considered as high involving products (Sirakaya & Woodside, 2005). Involvement is a multidimensional concept analyzed by six dimensions: Pleasure/Interest Probability Risk, Importance of Risk, Signs of Prestige/Self-Expression, Attraction and Centrality.
Place attachment, on the other hand, refers to the involvement of tourists with the places and destinations visited. Is a complex phenomenon that involves social, psychological and cultural interpretations, as well as different meanings built on the interaction between individuals and places (Brandenburg & Carroll, 1995; Relph, 1976; Stedman, 2003). In the contemporary era, the connection to places by individuals must be understood from a multidimensional analysis (Appadurai, 1996),
The combined use of involvement and place attachment concepts occurred only recently in tourism research. The pioneers’ researchers were Kyle and his colleagues that studied Involvement (Kerstetter, Confer & Graefe, 2001; Kyle & Chick, 2002; Kyle, Kerstetter & Guadagnolo, 1999, 2002, Scott & Shafer, 2001) and place attachment (Kyle, Absher & Graefe, 2003b; Moore & Graefe, 1994; Moore & Scott, 2003) as separate constructs. The same authors combined those concepts on a study in 2003 where they were successful in measuring the relationship between involvement and place attachment among hikers in leisure activities (Kyle et al., 2003a).
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