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Evaluating the active sports tourist experience of open water swimmers

Muranovova, Andrea (2013) Evaluating the active sports tourist experience of open water swimmers. Masters thesis (MPhil), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This study focuses on the increasingly popular activity of open water swimming, which takes place in a variety of bodies of water such as lakes, rivers and oceans. Participants travel and some of them stay over at a range of destinations to engage in open water swimming and in doing so could be identified as tourists. In the present study, an explanatory research was sought to gain a deeper understanding of the active sports tourist experience of open water swimmers and to explore the key factors that influence it. The research in this study was guided by an interpretative philosophy using an inductive approach and the generated data is the result of in-depth, semi-structured interviews with twelve open water swimmers. In order to provide description and interpretation of the primary research findings, data was analysed utilising framework analysis. The analysis of primary data demonstrated that the active sports tourist experience of open water swimmers is a complex phenomenon shaped by a number of elements and inseparable from the key factors that influence it. The findings illustrated that for open water swimmers, as the active sports tourists, the experience represented a challenge that occurred on both the physical and mental level, because interviewees faced fears and risks of pain and dangers that were linked to the activity and the environment where the activity took place. There was also a sense of novelty and unknown attached to the experience of open water swimmers. Apart from the challenge, which one may perceive as negative, pleasurable states were evoked, because open water swimmers enjoyed being in the natural environment. Through the completion of the swim, open water swimmers experienced a sense of accomplishment, achievement, and fulfilment on both a personal and group level. Subsequently, along with the mental and physical states, a great range of emotions was attached to the active sports tourist experience of open water swimmers. In addition, the destination played a role in the experiences of open water swimmers, particularly the water environment offered privileged views of the landscape and enjoyment of the ‘off shore’ surroundings. As the open water swimmers encountered other people, social experiences were also evident, but the social experiences of open water swimmers entailed something more than a social interaction, participants experienced bonding with likeminded people and a sense of camaraderie. By providing these findings, the present study offers a deeper understanding of the active sports tourist experience of open water swimmers who can be recognised as a valuable subgroup of the active sports tourists.

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