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Tourists’ embodied transport experiences of travelling by train

Mertena, Ilze (2015) Tourists’ embodied transport experiences of travelling by train. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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This thesis examines tourists’ embodied experiences of railway travel by analysing how tourists inhabit, (co)produce and practice time-space while being ‘on the move’. It responds to an under-researched aspect in tourism studies, tourists’ experiences of travel to/from a destination and its role in the total holiday experience. Although transport has been recognised as an integral part of the tourist experience, existing research mainly examines transport experiences from the traditional transport economics perspective with an aim of discovering the positive utility of travel. Moving beyond economically-productivist studies, this thesis adopts an explicitly interdisciplinary research approach to uncover the multifaceted nature of the tourist transport experience. Empirical research, employing a combination of qualitative research methods (self-reflexive observation, passenger observation, rhythmanalysis and ethnographic interviews on the move) and three data collection tools (time-space diary, photo/video camera and audio recorder), produces rich ethnographic data – written accounts, photographs, videos, ambient sound recordings and forty-six interview transcripts – which are analysed using multisensory research analysis techniques. Empirical findings make an original contribution to knowledge in four main ways. Firstly, this study demonstrates that the tourist transport experience is not a self- contained experiential phase that is always perceived as a cost. There is a dynamic and reciprocal relationship between the experience of travelling to/from a destination and experiences at the destination. Moreover, tourists’ lifestyles, interests and life-stage influence the mobile experience and the meanings that tourists attach to train travel. Secondly, this thesis conceptualises travel time as a ‘time frame’ that is filled with diverse time dimensions, practices, travel routines and unreflexive habits, embodied sensations, and rhythmicity of the journey. Thirdly, this study shows that social rhythms, different affective atmospheres inside a carriage and travel companions constitute important elements of the tourist transport experience. Finally, this thesis reveals that the mobile experience is explicitly multisensory, which is pronounced through sensing the transport mode itself, its mechanical rhythms, the built form of a train carriage and the railway route. In summary, this thesis presents new ways of considering the mobile experience and, by doing so, the present study makes an original contribution to knowledge in tourism, transport and mobilities research.

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