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International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021

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International Journal of Hospitality Management


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijhosman

An epistemological view of consumer experiences


Andrew R. Walls a, , Fevzi Okumus b , Youcheng (Raymond) Wang b , David Joon-Wuk Kwun b
a
Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway St, San Francisco, CA 94132, United States
b
Rosen College of Hospitality Management, University of Central Florida, United States

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Keywords: This paper discusses the theoretical underpinnings of consumer experience by examining the deni-
Consumer experience tions of experience and the contextual nature of consumer experiences. It offers a framework to better
Consumption experience understand this construct in a hospitality and tourism context. The proposed framework demonstrates
Experiential marketing
the multidimensional facets of the consumer experience. An extensive review of the literature identi-
Hospitality and tourism marketing
ed three stream of empirical research. The paper suggests that the perception of consumer experience
has numerous foundational origins that have complicated its growth as a viable and valued concept.
This study proposes a number of emerging themes that give credence and direction to the concept of
consumer experiences.
2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction setting, practically everything a tourist goes through at a destina-


tion is an experience, be it behavioral or perceptual, cognitive or
More and more companies in the hospitality and tourism emotional, expressed or implied (Oh et al., 2007, p. 120). Carbone
industry are focusing on creating and managing experiences and Haeckel (1994) argued that customers always get more than
for their customers. It is not sufcient to offer a functional level they bargain for, because a product or service always comes with an
of products and services, and offerings must be accompanied experience. That experience may be good or bad, lasting or eeting,
by experiences to differentiate themselves in the increasingly a random phenomenon or an engineered perception (p. 9).
commoditized and competitive business environment (Pine and Despite the enthusiastic movement toward the experience
Gilmore, 1999; Schwartz, 1990). As the economy offers more and economy and its particular relevance to the hospitality and tourism
more commoditized products and services, hospitality companies industry (Gilmore and Pine, 2002; Titz, 2007), the literature has
should nd ways to differentiate themselves from their respec- demonstrated a wide-ranging and perplexing set of denitions and
tive competitors. One way this can be achieved is by focusing theoretical meanings. Though this is explained partially by the
on the design and delivery of service experiences in an effort to multidisciplinary use and application of the experience concept,
increase satisfaction and loyalty. Authors have insisted that the it appears that there is a need to move cautiously and succinctly
service sector has been transformed into a dream society (Jensen, toward a better understanding of this important construct distinc-
1999), entertainment economy (Wolf, 1999), attention economy tively in the eld of hospitality and tourism. To this end, this paper
(Davenport and Beck, 2002), and experience economy (Pine and seeks to (1) examine various approaches and denitions of experi-
Gilmore, 1998, 1999; Schmitt, 1999). ence and discuss the contextual nature of consumer experiences;
From a marketing perspective, consumers want more than just (2) discuss the diverse theoretical underpinnings of consumer
the delivery and consumption of products and services. Instead, experience in the hospitality and tourism industry; and (3) propose
they seek unique consumption encounters to accompany the prod- a new set of denitions supported by a conceptual framework to
ucts and services that create memorable experiences. Therefore, better understand the composition of the hospitality and tourism
businesses need to shift their focus from a delivery-focused ser- consumer experience.
vice economy to one that emphasizes high-quality products and
services and staged experiences that create memorable consumer 2. Dening the family of experiences
experiences (Pine and Gilmore, 1999). In a hospitality and tourism
The theoretical origins of consumer experience may be traced
back to several specialized elds of behavioral science. These elds
Corresponding author.
include cultural industry systems (Hirsch, 1972), esthetics (Jaeger,
E-mail addresses: arwalls@sfsu.edu, arwalls99@gmail.com (A.R. Walls),
1945; Kaplan, 1987), psycholinguistics affective response (Osgood
fokumus@mail.ucf.edu (F. Okumus), raywang@mail.ucf.edu (Y. Wang), et al., 1957), and fantasy, imagery, and multi-sensory within psy-
dkwun@mail.ucf.edu (D.J.-W. Kwun). chology (Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982; Singer, 1966; Swanson,

0278-4319/$ see front matter 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2010.03.008
A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021 11

Table 1
Summary of experience denitions.

Author (year) Denition

Ray (2008) Experiences interrupt people from their lives and expectations to provide something of interest
that demands attention; experiences themselves are incredibly involving.
Lashley (2008) Discusses tourism experiences from the perspective of creating hospitable relationships between
the host and guest; these experiences engage emotions, which is essential to creating a memory.
Titz (2007) No single model of experiential consumption has emerged; experiential consumption is central to
a comprehensive understanding of consumer behavior in the hospitality and tourism context.
Mossberg (2007) A blend of many elements coming together and involve the consumer emotionally, physically,
intellectually and spiritually.
Oh et al. (2007) From a consumers perspective experiences are enjoyable, engaging, memorable encounters for
those consuming these events.
Andersson (2007) The tourist experience is proposed as the moment when tourism consumption and tourism
production meet.
Uriely (2005) The tourist experience is currently depicted as an obscure and diverse phenomenon, which is
mostly constituted by the individual consumer.
Berry et al. (2002) The means of orchestrating all the clues that people detect in the buying process.
Lewis and Chambers (2000) The total outcome to the customer from the combination of environment, goods, and services
purchased.
McLellan (2000) The goal of experience design is to orchestrate experiences that are functional, purposeful,
engaging, compelling, and memorable.
Schmitt (1999) Experiences are private events that are not self-generated but rather occur in response to some
staged situation and involve the entire being.
Gupta and Vajic (1999) An experience occurs when a customer has any sensation or knowledge acquisition resulting from
some level of interaction with different elements of a context created by a service provider.
Pine and Gilmore (1998, 1999) A distinct economic offering that are as different from services as services are from goods;
successful experiences are those that the customer nds unique, memorable and sustainable over
time, would want to repeat and build upon, and enthusiastically promotes via word of mouth.
OSullivan and Spangler (1998) Involves the participation and involvement of the individual in the consumption and the state of
being physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, or spiritually engaged found that experience.
Carlson (1997) An experience can be dened as a constant ow of thoughts and feelings that occur during
moments of consciousness.
Merriam-Webster (1993) The fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through a direct observation or
participation.
Arnould and Price (1993) Extraordinary experiences are those characterized by high levels of emotional intensity.
Denzin (1992) Extra ordinary experiences rupture routines and live and provoke radical redenitions of the self.
In moments of epiphany, people redene themselves. Epiphanies are connected to turning-point
experiences.
Csikszentmihalyi (1990) Flow is the optimal experience that keeps one motivated. This feeling often involves painful, risky
or difcult efforts that stretch the persons capacity as well as an element of novelty and discovery.
Flow is an almost effortless yet highly focused state of consciousness and yet the descriptions do
not vary much by culture, gender, or age.
Mannell (1984) An experience or state of mind, is uniquely individual and that the quality rather than the quantity
of leisure in our lives deserves attention.
Hirschman and Holbrook (1982) Those facets of consumer behavior that relate to the multi-sensory, fantasy and emotive aspects of
ones experience with products.
Maslow (1964) Peak experience is the experiences in which the individual transcends ordinary reality and
perceives being or ultimate reality. Short in duration and accompanied by positive affect.
Thorne (1963) Peak experience is subjectively recognized to be one of the high points of life, one of the most
exciting, rich and fullling experiences which the person has ever had. A experience may be
described operationally as a subjective experiencing of what is subjectively recognized to be one
of the lowest points of life, one of the worst, most unpleasant and harrowing experiences of life.

1978). Motivation research within the marketing eld focuses on experiences of life (p. 248). From an anthropological and ethnolog-
the emotional aspects of products/services, fantasies aroused by ical perspective, an experience is the way in which culture affects
products (Dichter, 1960; Zajonc, 1980), and product symbolism the way an individual receives events into his or her consciousness
(Denzin, 1992; Levy, 1959). While these studies contributed to the (Car and Cova, 2003). Though an experience is perceived accord-
paradigm shift, extending the traditional methods used in con- ing to an individuals perspective, conceptually it is distinguishable
sumer behavior research by incorporating more phenomenological from an ethnology perspective, which involves experiences that
approaches, one of the challenges in this stream of research is the happen to others, society, and the world (Abrahams, 1986).
diverse denitions of consumer experience (see Table 1). Employing an economic and marketing perspective, Schmitt
As demonstrated in Table 1, experience has been a part of stud- (1999) declared that experiences are private, personal events that
ies spanning many elds, demonstrating that there is a healthy occur in response to some stimulation and involve the entire being
and broad application of this concept. From a sociological and psy- as a result of observing or participating in an event. He postulated
chological perspective, Maslow (1964) dened peak experiences that in order to stimulate desired consumer experiences, mar-
as those in which the individual transcends ordinary reality and keters must provide the right setting and environment. Lewis and
perceives being or ultimate reality; it is short in duration and Chambers (2000) dened consumer experience as the total out-
accompanied by positive affect. Similarly, Thorne (1963) dened come to the customer from the combination of environment, goods
peak experience as subjectively recognized to be one of the high and services purchased (p. 46). Finally, most researchers attempt-
points of life, one of the most exciting, rich and fullling experi- ing to dene the experience overlook the operational patterns that
ences which the person has ever had, contrasting it with a Nadir are common to many consumer experiences. For example, Solomon
experience, which is subjectively recognized to be one of the low- and Corbit (1974) described the standard pattern of affective dynam-
est points of life, one of the worst, most unpleasant and harrowing ics that can shed light on the many empirical commonalities in
12 A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021

effective and hedonic experiences. They describe this pattern as tic. In response to the contradictory viewpoints, Cohen (1979)
follows: mused that neither conception is universally valid, though each
has contributed valuable insights into the motives, behavior and
First, following the sudden introduction of either a pleasurable
experiences of some tourists. Accordingly, different kinds of peo-
or aversive stimulus, an affective or hedonic reaction begins and
ple may desire different modes of touristic experiences; hence the
quickly rises to a peak. It then slowly declines to a steady level
tourist does not exist as a type (p. 180). Cohen (1979) proposed
where it remains if the stimulus quality and intensity is main-
a phenomenological typology of tourist experiences that included
tained. Then, at the sudden termination of the stimulus, the
recreational, diversionary, experiential, experimental, and existen-
affective reaction quickly disappears and gives way to a quali-
tial modes, ranging from a mere pleasure to a quest for core
tatively very different type of affective reaction which reaches
meaning.
its own peak of intensity and then slowly disappears with time
Uriely (2005) referred to two schools of thought in an attempt
(p. 120).
to differentiate tourist experiences. The rst is a modernist point
According to Solomon and Corbit (1974) the pattern consists of of view, which postulates that tourism is the opposite of every-
ve distinctive features: (a) the peak of the primary hedonic pro- day life. The second point of view is the postmodernist perspective,
cess or state, precipitated by the stimulus onset; (b) a period of which suggests that everyday life is not differentiated from tourist
hedonic or affective adaptation during which the intensity of the experiences but rather that a de-differentiation exists intertwin-
hedonic state declines, even though stimulus intensity is main- ing everyday life and tourist experiences. Everyday life contains
tained; (c) a steady level of the hedonic process that continues as responsibilities, work, thriftiness, and stress. However, tourism
long as stimulus intensity is maintained; (d) a peak of affective after- is essentially a temporary reversal of everyday activitiesit is a
reaction, which quickly follows stimulus termination and whose no-work, no-care, no-thrift situation (Cohen, 1979, p. 181). In a
quality is hedonically very different from that of the primary hedo- similar light, Smith (1978) surmised that the tourist is one who
nic state; and nally; and (e) the after state in which the experience temporarily visits a place away from home for the express purpose
decays and subsequently disappears. This description is helpful in of experiencing change. Mannell and Iso-Ahola (1987) insisted that
understanding what a person undergoes during a prescribed con- hospitality and tourism activities often incorporate religious feel-
sumer experience. Accordingly, the peak of primary affect reaction ings, a source of personal development, effective means of escape
will be less intense, and the peak of affective after-reaction will be from daily routines, and the opportunity to reestablish interper-
intense and long-lasting. This concept has sensible applications to sonal relationships.
the hospitality and tourism setting. In a tourism context, for exam- Another experience-based model is the tourist experience that
ple, visiting a luxury oceanfront resort day after day, consumers inuences choice (Ryan, 2002). Knutson and Beck (2003) pro-
may be less affected by the sights, smells, and sounds than they posed a model that relates experience to expectations, perceptions,
were during their rst few visits. service quality, value, and satisfaction. Quan and Wangs (2004)
It is important to recognize the distinction between a scientic conceptual model of tourist experiences looked at peak, supporting,
experience and experience in general. A scientic experience pro- and daily routine experiences, and Knutson et al. (2009) formulated
vides universal knowledge for all, while a common experience is the consumer experience index, designed to identify the underlying
unique to the individual. A philosophical experience is a personal dimensions of a consumers experience as an accompaniment to the
occurrence that changes or transforms the individual. Experience American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). These results are very
is therefore gained when what happens is translated into knowl- much in line with Urielys (2005) description of the tourist experi-
edge (common sense), not only when it remains a simple lived ence. His description included (a) the distinctiveness of tourism
occurrence (Car and Cova, 2003, p. 269). Edgall et al. (1997) from everyday life; (b) the tourism hospitality experience that
outlined four unique consumption experiences which includes includes a multiplicity of interact dimensions; (c) a shift from stat-
community experiences, household experiences, state or citizen ically displayed items to subjective interpretations of physical and
experiences, and market or consumer experiences. They dened human dimensions; and (d) consumer experiences that tend to be
market or consumer experiences resulting from encounters with relative and not absolute.
businesses and other consumers and postulated that there is a dis- As outlined in Table 2, experiential research in hospitality and
tinction between a consumption experience and a consumer tourism has taken three general directions: (1) creating a taxon-
experience. For example, a communal consumption experience omy or classication of experiences; (2) examining the causes of
involving a dinner party with friends is a friendship experience or explaining an experience; and (3) comparing the relationship
even though it is linked to the marketplace where the food was pur- between experiences and other constructs.
chased. Similarly, a communal consumption experience involving The taxonomic work was rst reported by Thorne (1963), who
conversation with friends is outside the realm of the marketplace. was exploring the concept of peak experiences and asked sub-
Stated differently, if there is no product or service exchange, then jects to describe the most exciting and best three experiences in
the individual no longer engages in a consumer-related experience their lives. The results were classied into six main categories: sen-
but rather encounters experiences that are outside or beyond the sual, emotional, cognitive, conative, self-actualization, and climax
market setting (Car and Cova, 2003). peak experiences. Each of these categories was further subdivided
into two or more subcategories. Barsky and Nash (2002) mea-
sured key emotions in the consumer experiences connected to
3. Consumer experience in the hospitality and tourism their hotel stays in order to gain a more in-depth understanding
industry about the feelings that customers experience. After questioning
a panel of frequent hotel guests, they developed a list of emo-
The experience concept has a broad appeal inuenced by var- tions that were appropriate for hotels. In addition, they found
ious disciplines, which helps us to understand the hospitality that there were differences among hotel industry segments and
and tourism experience. In determining the nature of the tourist brands in their ability to create emotional experiences for their
experience, Boorstin (1961) described the postmodern condition guests.
as a trivial, supercial, frivolous pursuit of vicarious, contrived A number of subsequent studies have attempted to develop
experiences, a pseudo-event (p. 77). MacCannell (1973) argued experience-related scales. Mehrabian and Russells (1974) plea-
that the tourist experience is a sincere pursuit of the authen- sure arousal dominance scale (PAD); Swansons (1978) absorbing
Table 2
Consumer experience research in hospitality and tourism.

Author(s) (year) Study typea Application/discipline Instrument Measured construct Statistical method Findings

Lodging
Yuan and Wu (2008) E/R Restaurant/hospitality Self-reported Measured ve experiential Factor analysis and Outcome suggests that
and tourism questionnaire marketing concepts, customer SEM experiential marketing should
value, and service quality induce satisfaction and loyalty
model through emotional and
functional values.
Oh, Fiore and Jeoung (2007) E/T B&B/hospitality Qualitative and Measured the relevance of Pine Multivariate The data supported the
self-administered and Gilmores four realms of measurement scale dimensional structure of the
experience in a B&B four realms of experience,

A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021


environment and perceived providing empirical evidence
quality and satisfaction. for both face and nomological
validities of these realms and a
starting point for measuring
emerging experience economy
concepts and practices within
lodging and tourism settings
McIntosh and Siggs (2005) T Boutique In-depth interviews Inquired as to the experiential Content and inductive Revealed ve key experiential
hotel/hospitality nature of boutique analysis dimensions that are seen as
accommodation products, important to the success of
highlighting the emotive boutique hotels: unique
aspects of the experiences character, personalized,
gained by guests by examining homely, quality, and value
experiential dimensions that added.
are seen as important to the
success of boutique
accommodation product.
Barsky and Nash (2002) T Hotels/hospitality Telephone interviews Measured 16 emotions during Descriptive analysis Developed the market matrix
their most recent hotel stay hotel emotions scale. There are
considerable differences
among hotel industry
segments and brands in their
ability to create emotional
experiences for their guest.

Atmospherics
Gueguen and Petr (2006) E/R Restaurant/hospitality Self-reported An experiment was carried out One-way ANOVA Olfactory cues in restaurants
questionnaire in a restaurant where lemon affect approach/avoidance
and lavender aromas were behaviors
diffused and compared to a
no-aroma control condition.
Pullman and Gross (2004) E/R VIP circus/hospitality Qualitative, internet Measured relationship Factor analysis and Determined that different
pre-test, and internet between design elements and SEM design elements can contribute
self-reported survey experiences and loyalty. toward emotional connection
and loyalty behaviors.
Hui and Bateson (1991) E/R ToTM Self-selected random A self-administered Multi-sample Situational and emotional cues
assignment to questionnaire measured ve structural equation inuence approach/avoidance
treatments dependent variables: perceived modeling behaviors under crowded
choice, perceived control, conditions
perceived crowding, pleasure,
and approach- avoidance.

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14
Table 2 ( Continued )

Author(s) (year) Study typea Application/discipline Instrument Measured construct Statistical method Findings

Milliman (1986) E/R Restaurant/hospitality Self-reported Repeated randomized block T-test Variation in tempo and rhythm
questionnaire design of music affect purchase
intention and alcohol

Service
Mattila and Wirtz (2006) E Cafe Randomized A 3 by 3 true experimental Two-way ANOVA Findings indicated that that an
convenience sampling design was used to test a intrinsically attractive store
of MBA students research hypotheses in a cafe environment can be perceived
context. The research as unpleasant if it fails to
methodology involved video match the consumers desired
simulations and role-playing level of stimulation (arousal
instructions. congruency).
Bloemer and de Ruyter (1999) E/R 6 different service Random Examined the simultaneous Hierarchical regression The results reveal that the

A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021


providers interview-point effect of satisfaction and analysis relationship between
Likert scale positive emotions m a number satisfaction and loyalty with
questionnaire of service settings that differ in respect to extended services is
level of involvement. moderated by positive
emotions in the case of high
involvement service settings.

Food
Jacob (2006) E/R Bar or Tavern Setting Observations were An experiment was carried out One-way ANOVA Results showed that drinking
made during 14 in a bar to test inuence of songs appeared to increase the
afternoons of three three different styles of music length of time customers
working weeks with on patrons. stayed in the bar and the
the consent of the average amount spent.
owner of the bar.
Dube et al. (2005) E/R Food/Re staur ant Survey was Explored the possibility that Multi-factorial ANOVA Results indicate that mens
administered via the the type of food eaten during comfort food consumption was
worldwide web and comfort-seeking episodes can motivated by positive
was promoted in also be tied to affect emotions whereas womens
electronic and mass asymmetry consumption was triggered by
media negative affects
Charters and Pettigrew (2005) E/R Blind wine tasting Qualitative approach: Questions covered a range of Self-selected samples Findings of the study suggest
individual interviews topics, but all data collection that consumers perceive some
and focus groups operated within the context of key similarities between the
exploring if and how wine consumption of wine and the
functions as an aesthetic appreciation of art forms.
product for drinkers. These similarities include: the
pleasure provided by each; the
interrelated role of sensory,
emotional and cognitive
responses; and the issues of
personal taste.
Laros and Steenkamp (2005) E/T Data were collected in Professionally Randomized Dutch Second-order factor Results suggest that basic
a nationally developed respondents were asked to analysis and SEM emotions provide more
representative sample indicate to what extent they information about the feelings
among 645 Dutch experience 33 specic of the consumer over and
emotions for one (randomly above positive and negative
assigned) type of food affect.
(genetically modied food,
functional food, organic food,
or regular food). Thus, we
measure emotions at a general,
product-type level of c
ategorizati on.
Miscellaneous experience studies
Aron (2006) E Marketing/advertising 22 Experimental The study examined the ANOVA It is demonstrated that after a
design: product impact of marketing negative experience, a positive
experience communications (designed to message about the product
valence advertisement create positive messages) leads to lower levels of
valence when seen by a customer who satisfaction and repurchase
has had a negative experience intention as compared to when
with a product/service. What is that negative experience is
the inuence of a counter- followed by more neutral
experiential communication message.
on a dissatised customer?
Knutson et al. (2009) T Consumer experience Attempted to extract, They employed a four-phase Exploratory factor The 39-item consumer
index (CEI) identify, and measure survey methodology. Data was analysis experience index (CEI) is a

A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021


experience factors. collected through a Web-based reliable and valid index to
Based on American survey using samples from measure the important
Customer Satisfaction three Internet distribution components for a consumers
Index (ACSI). channels (n = 397). economic experience. Second,
Scale-development procedures
result in a seven-factor model
consisting of Environment,
Benet, Accessibility,
Convenience, Utility, Incentive,
and Trust. Third, the factor
analysis also shows that these
dimensions have a hierarchical
order for the consumer.
Wirtz et al. (2003) E/R College Spring Breakers Participants were The present study compared Path-Analysis Predicted and remembered
surveyed at six points students predicted, on-line, experiences were both more
over the course of and remembered spring-break positive and, paradoxically,
about 8 weeks using a experiences, as well as the more negative than on-line
PDA. inuence of these factors on experiences.
students desire to take a
similar vacation in the future
Harris et al. (2003) E Retail Interviewed employees This study examined critical Non-hierarchical Authors argue that using
to recount memorably incident techniques with cluster analysis dramatic script development
dissatisfying critical employees and how to deal and integral staging can help
incidents during with them using organizations facilitate total
service encounters theatrical/dramatic script customer experiences.
development
Mathwick et al. (2002) E Retail The sampling frame for Respondents were asked to Factor analysis Results suggest that retailers
this study was drawn recall a recent retail purchase capable of delivering an
randomly from the list and identify seven indicators of efcient shopping experience
of billed customers experiential value. Seven and offering strong economic
who had purchased indicators of experiential value should consider targeting
from the rms catalog valueefciency, economic their retail channel to
or Internet site within value, intrinsic enjoyment, goal-oriented shoppers.
a 45-day period escapism, visual appeal, Consumers with well-formed
immediately preceding entertainment, and service shopping plans are in a
the mailing date. A excellenceserved as the receptive frame of mind for
survey packet mailed subjective measures of retail this type of retail experience.
to 1,200 catalog and channel performance. Experiential shoppers,
1,000 Internet sh however, are looking for and
oncers. apparently nd heightened
enjoyment in the process of
shopping.

15
16
Table 2 ( Continued )

Author(s) (year) Study typea Application/discipline Instrument Measured construct Statistical method Findings

Prentice et al. (1998) E/T National Park/tourism Fully structured Experiences felt and benets Inductive analysis Experiential and benet
interview gained by visitors to a Heritage segmentations appear to be
Park somewhat independent of
socio-demographic attributes.
Donovan et al. (1994) E/R Retail Participants were The study measured emotions Factor and Regression Emotional responses (pleasure
asked to rate their during, rather than before or analysis and arousal) induced by the
feelings on a 12-item after, and records the effects on store environment can affect

A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021


semantic differential actual shopping behavior. the time and money that
scale measuring consumers spend in a the store.
Mehrabian and
Russells pleasure and
arousal dimensions.
Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre (1989) E Experience sampling Investigated the This method consists of Content and Inductive Contrary to what one might
method (ESM) quality of experience providing respondents with an analysis expect, the great majority of
during the course of electronic pager and a block of ow like experiences in the
everyday life - work self-report forms with lives of average adults seem to
and leisure times. open-ended and scaled items. come from work, not from
Respondents wear the pager leisure. This is true not only for
for a week, during which time people working in higher level
they are paged about 56 times jobs, but also for blue-collar
at random intervals. Whenever assembly line workers.
the respondent is signaled, he Whereas leisure activities meet
or she lls out a page of the the conditions of ow (i.e., high
booklet, indicating activity, challenges and high skills) less
location, and companionship, than 20% of the time, work
as well as describing the does so from 47% of the time
quality of the experience at the for blue-collar workers to 64%
time on a variety of of the time for managers.
dimensions.
Mathes et al. (1982) E/T Psychology Conducted ve studies Measured participants peak Varied Peak experiences were
to examine taxonomy, experiences using a variety of validated and taxonomies were
causes and relationship scales recommended; causes of peak
between peak experiences were identied.
experiences
Thorne (1963) T Psychology Ask subjects to write Asked subjects to report the Content and Inductive Peak experiences were
one page of material most exciting, highest and best analysis categorized into six main
describing when three experiences in their lives categories: sensual, emotive,
where, why and how cognitive, conative,
the experience self-actualization, and climax
happened. peak experiences. Each main
category had two or more
subcategories.
a
Study type: TTypology or classr cation; Ecauses or explanation of experiences in a multitude of settings; and Rrelationship between the experience construct and another variable.
A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021 17

Fig. 1. A framework for the composition of hospitality and tourism consumer experiences.

experience scale; Zuckermans (1994) sensation seeking scale; a VIP circus event can contribute toward an emotional connec-
Mathwick et al. (2001) experiential value scale (EVS); and Knutson tion with participants. Further, the study explored the relationship
et al.s (2009) consumer experience index (CEI). Other studies have between the service elements designed to create enhanced expe-
identied operational constructs that have affected experiences rience and customer loyalty. Though few design elements directly
and have attempted to explain what causes experiences to occur. affected loyalty behavior, the relationship between most design
For example, Panzarella (1980) found that visual art resulted in elements and loyalty is strongly mediated by eliciting certain types
renewal experiences, and music resulted in motor-sensory expe- of emotional behavior (Pullman and Gross, 2004, p. 551).
riences. Ravizza (1977) hypothesized that peak experiences occur
for athletes participating in sporting events. Milliman (1986) found 4. Hospitality and tourism consumer experience
that music tempo variations can affect purchases and length of framework
stay. Donovan et al. (1994) examined how emotional responses
(pleasure and arousal) in a retail setting are induced by a store envi- Based on the above discussion, a framework (Fig. 1) is proposed
ronment that can affect the time and money that consumers spend to depict the composition of the consumer experience in the hos-
in the store. pitality and tourism industry. It is posited that the core consumer
Further studies revealed that consumers individual character- experience is comprised of two axis representing four components
istics or situational factors also impact their perceived experience. including ordinary, extraordinary, cognitive and emotive. On the
Mathwick et al. (2001) discussed the consumer experience and pos- peripheral of the consumer experience are a number of factors that
tulated that it can be rich in experiential value. They suggested impact consumer experiences. It is posited that consumer expe-
that perceptions of experiential value involve either direct usage riences do not operate in a vacuum, void of external or internal
or distanced appreciation of goods and services. These interac- effects, but are unique for each individual. These inuencing factors
tions provide the basis for the relativistic preferences held by the may include: perceived physical experience elements, perceived
individuals involved offering both intrinsic and extrinsic benets human interaction elements, individual characteristics, and situa-
(Mathwick et al., 2001, p. 41). The extrinsic shopper is oriented tional factors. As depicted in Fig. 1, it is proposed that the external
toward simply processing the exchange and can be described as factors will play a diverse and ever-changing role as consumer
utilitarian in nature. In contrast, shoppers who appreciate the shop- experiences transpire. Each factor may have a modest or signi-
ping experience for the experience itself apart from any other cant impact on the consumer experience components, making each
consequence that may result are looking for intrinsic value. This individuals experience distinctly unique.
concept demonstrates that hospitality and tourism companies The framework is based on incorporating both business and con-
must understand the differences in the delivered experiences and sumer perspectives of experience. A business entity attempts to
the unique preference held by individual customers. connect with a consumer by creating and choreographing experi-
Finally, a number of studies are both explanatory and ences for consumers via physical environment dimensions and/or
relationship-focused. These studies have sought to describe the emotional/human interaction dimensions. The purpose of this
causes of consumer experiences by illustrating the relationship connection is to foster the consumers awareness or interest in
between an operational construct and the experience itself. For order to create a meaningful and fullling consumption/transaction
example, Pullman and Gross (2004) sought to explain how design experience that will inuence perceived consumption values, sat-
elements (food and beverage, interaction, seating, and sensory) of isfaction, and repeat patronage. A consumer experience is the
18 A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021

multidimensional takeaway impression or outcome, based on the occur. For example, Csikszentmihalyis (1990) ow experiences or
consumers willingness and capacity to be affected and inuenced Arnould and Prices (1993) extraordinary experiences would not
by physical and/or human interaction dimensions and formed by occur if the individual did not intentionally have them in the rst
peoples encounters with products, services, and businesses inu- place. This does not, however, preclude the notion that an expe-
encing consumption values (emotive and cognitive), satisfaction, rience can occur by happenstance, but it is postulated that the
and repeat patronage. experience is self-generated and that the consumer can control or
choose whether he will have an experience or not (including nega-
4.1. Ordinary to extraordinary component tive experiences). Consequently, all people are not equally affected
by every consumer experience, which contradicts Berry, Carbone
The rst event axis represents the range of experiences from and Haeckels (2002) denition of experiences as orchestrated clues
ordinary to extraordinary. Consumer experiences in hospitality and that all people detect. For example, during a hotel check-in, it is
tourism are events or occurrences that happen outside of the daily conceivable that two different customers having nearly the same
routine experience. At the highest level, they are peak or transfor- staged experience can have a different experience in their inter-
mative experiences (Cohen, 1979; Smith, 1978). Arnould and Prices pretation and reaction to the same clues. Therefore, it is assumed
(1993) qualitative work on a river rafting trip described deeply that consumer experiences are received and absorbed dissimilarly
intense and positive experiences that provide life with meaning by different people.
and perspective, or what they call extraordinary experiences. Their Carlson (1997) proposed that an experience can be character-
work has inspired other researchers to move away from mere expe- ized as a steady ow of thoughts (cognitive) and feelings (emotive)
riences to a new realm of immersed, optimal, extraordinary, that take place during moments of consciousness regarding experi-
or ow experiences. These four analogous terms perhaps were ence elements. Car and Cova (2003) suggested that an experience
conceptualized originally by Maslows (1964) work, in which he is an activity containing both cognitive and subjective processes
referred to peak experiences as similar to religious ecstasy, and that allow an individual to develop a means to construct real-
using such terms has gained momentum as researchers and mar- ity. Similarly, Oh et al. (2007) insisted that hospitality and tourist
keters have run with the idea that consumers want intense, positive settings are satiated with experiences that include both cogni-
experiences that ultimately provide meaning and perspective to tive and emotional components. Prior research investigated the
their lives (Arnould and Price, 1993). Abrahams (1986) further following general types of experiences: the epiphanic experience
developed this concept and differentiated between ordinary expe- (Denzin, 1992), the ow experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), and
rience (i.e., everyday life, routines, and acceptance of events) and the extraordinary experience (Arnould and Price, 1993). These
extraordinary experience (i.e., total immersion or ow experience). experiences, whether ordinary or extraordinary, transform lives
Consistently, Car and Cova (2003) differentiated between ordinary and contain processes that allow an individual to develop a means
and extraordinary experiences with the latter being the desired to construct reality (Car and Cova, 2003). Regardless of ones aca-
goal of those in the hospitality and tourist industry. demic eld or industrial perspective, experiences employ a unique
Many researchers have agreed that consumers notice a per- combination of cognitive and emotive processes (Abrahams, 1986;
ceived difference between everyday or routine experiences and Arnould and Price, 1993; Car and Cova, 2003; Csikszentmihalyi,
leisure or tourism experiences (Boorstin, 1961; Cohen, 1979; 1990; Denzin, 1992). It is postulated, for example, that a business
MacCannell, 1973; Quan and Wang, 2004; Smith, 1978; Uriely, executive who checks into a resort hotel for business purposes may
2005). The hospitality and tourism experience includes both peak cognitively limit the experiences in order to achieve her stay goals.
(extraordinary) and supporting daily experiences such as sleeping, However, the same executive traveling on her honeymoon may
eating, and playing (McCabe, 2002) and can occur on a contin- cognitively maximize (choose to engage) the experiences due to
uum ranging from ordinary or daily to transformative or epiphanic the purpose of the trip.
depending on the product or service (Day, 2000; OSullivan and
Spangler, 1998; Quan and Wang, 2004). These experiences can 4.2.1. Physical experience and human interaction factors
range from exciting positive experiences to unpleasant negative Hospitality and tourism companies can enhance consumers
experiences. The consumer must not only be willing and able to experience through managing physical and human interaction
receive an experience, as mentioned above, but the product or elements. Bitner (1992) argued that environmental and internal
service category may also lend itself to certain types of expected responses (cognitive, emotional, and physiological) had a direct
and delivered experiences dimensions. For example, experience impact on consumer and employee experiences, resulting in higher
encounters when buying a rental car or taxi service tend to be more levels of satisfaction. Consumer experiences are not necessarily
product-oriented in and of themselves (feature and benets), while related only to tangible items usually witnessed in general con-
taking a cruise vacation is more experience-oriented. Therefore, it sumer products but also can embody the perception formed when
is proposed that hospitality and tourism experiences range on a consumers coalesce the sensory information (sight, smell, touch,
continuum between ordinary and extraordinary depending on the taste, hearing) formed by consumers encounters with business
product or service. However, as explained later, even ordinary or products and services (Carbone and Haeckel, 1994). These intrinsi-
daily experiences can become peak or transforming experiences cally emotional and personal experiences, however, are inuenced
if inuenced or combined with appropriate physical experience by factors that are out of the control of management (Pullman
and/or human interaction factors. For example, a father and daugh- and Gross, 2004). These factors may include multi-sensory physical
ter taking a walk at home may be an ordinary experience but experiences, human interactions, cultural backgrounds and per-
walking together through one of Californias Redwood forests may sonality traits, and other situational factors (Belk, 1975; Bitner,
prove to be an extraordinary experience. 1992; Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982; Schmitt, 1999; Schmitt and
Simonson, 1997).
4.2. Cognitive to emotive component Domenico and Lynchs (2007) work titled Commercial Home
Enterprises found that participants are not mere bystanders,
The internal response is represented by the second event axis, nor are the physical environment and human interactions static.
demonstrating the range of experiences from cognitive (objective) Rather, the consumer experience is multidimensional and evolving,
to emotive (subjective) experiences. This component signies that often spontaneous interaction between the physical environment
individuals can initiate the process in which an experience can dimension and the human dimension consisting of the hosts
A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021 19

and guests. In other words, the staged situation or environment consumer experiences and the nature of affect. A further contri-
involves physical dimensions that impact the ve senses of con- bution of this paper emerged from an extensive literature review
sumers. Bitner (1992) directed organizations to think in terms which found that consumer experience in hospitality and tourism
of environmental dimensions, participant mediating or internal has taken established three main streams of theoretical thinking
responses (cognitive, emotional, and physiological), and employee and empirical research. These include creating a taxonomy or clas-
and customer behaviors that result in expressing commitment, loy- sication of experiences, examining the causes of or explaining an
alty, spending of money, and extending stays. That is, consumers experience, and comparing the relationship between experiences
who willfully involve themselves in positive physical and relational and other constructs. These perspectives help identify and gain a
aspects of their consumer experiences are more inclined to engage better understanding of the challenges researchers face in under-
in positive emotion and behavioral outcomes. standing the hospitality and tourism experience.
Businesses, in an effort to impact the consumer, stage and A number of themes have been formulated that provide some
enhance the physical environment in order to appeal to the ve framework for this topic. Most importantly, consumer experi-
senses of the consumer and create a physically appropriate envi- ences do exist (Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre, 1989; Denzin, 1992;
ronment that meets their marketing objectives. These elements Solomon and Corbit, 1974; Thorne, 1963) and are distinctly differ-
may, for example, include items such as a fresh-smelling hotel ent from and to some extent incorporate everyday routines (Cohen,
environment, warm and welcoming color schemes, and a properly 1979; Quan and Wang, 2004; Smith, 1978). Furthermore, con-
designed environment that is both practical and visually appeal- sumer experiences have a beginning and ending point (Solomon
ing. Businesses also may enhance human interaction experience and Corbit, 1974) and typically are composed of a variety of envi-
elements by training employees and targeting a specic type of ronmental and internal components that trigger a multiplicity of
consumer in order to create a socially engaging and appropriate emotional, physical, and cognitive reactions to the consumption of
environment. These elements may include employee behaviors goods and services. It is a blend of many individual elements that
such as wearing sharp uniforms, having good body posture, mak- involve the consumer emotionally, physically, intellectually, and
ing eye contact, and smiling at customers. Experiences also may spiritually (Shaw and Ivens, 2002).
be impacted by the interactions with other guests. These elements In general, there appear to be diverse views on key princi-
may include fellow guests or visitors expected behavior, respect ples used to craft the hospitality and tourism experience. Day
of personal space, or socio-economic expectations. (2000) and OSullivan and Spangler (1998) described a relation-
ship or goods-services experiences spectrum with a transactional
exchange on one end and a collaborative exchange on the other.
4.3. Individual characteristics and situational factors
Pine and Gilmore (1998), Schmitt (1999), and Carbone and Haeckel
(1994) agreed that a product or service comes with an experience
The last two elements, situational factors and individual char-
or as an event that engages the individual in a personal way across
acteristics, are usually outside the control of the business entity.
a wide range of industries including tourism and hospitality. The
The consumer experience may vary because not all hospitality and
diverse perspective on consumer experience has made it difcult to
tourism products and services are created or performed equally.
understand the concept and the relationships between consumer
Consequently, the consumer experience in the hospitality and
experiences and their respective elements. From the broadest per-
tourism context is not conned to one type of transaction or
spective, tourist consumption experiences have been described as
response but is impacted by the type and stage of consumption
being the opposite of everyday life and are considered distinct,
experience and also the characteristics of the individual. Likewise,
important, and exceptional. Yet others have argued that these dis-
consumer experiences conceivably could be much different if one
tinctions are not so clear-cut and are now common in our daily
compares their reactions to a fast food experience and a luxury
lives. When looking at the individual elements that make up the
cruise ship experience. Day (2000) and OSullivan and Spangler
consumer experiences, it appears that many of these elements exist
(1998) referred to a transaction or experience spectrum wherein
in both our everyday and tourist experiences.
the product/service and the consumer determine the type and
The proposed conceptual model (Fig. 1) attempts to demon-
degree of consumer experience encountered.
strate that consumer experiences are multidimensional and unique
This can be due to each consumers individual characteristics
for each situation and consumer. It is posited that in order to elu-
and situational factors. The situational factors such as trip-related
cidate the meaning of experience, the experiential concept should
characteristics in a hospitality and tourism context often inuence
be approached from both perspectivesthe business entity and the
the nature of the trip. These factors include the purpose of trip,
consumer. This perspective stems from the idea that businesses
travel companions, and nature of destination, all of which inuence
can orchestrate only the opportunity for an experience. Consumers
the travelers willingness to recognize staged experience elements.
may choose or default to the types of experiences they want to
Likewise, individual characteristics, such as personality type and
have. That is, an organization cannot grant an experience to the
sensitivity to the environment, also may inuence the travelers
consumer; rather, organizations can create only the environment
willingness or ability to recognize staged experience elements.
and the circumstances in which consumers could have an experi-
Therefore, the hospitality and tourism consumer experience is a
ence. It is the consumer who adds the nal link to the production
multidimensional construct comprised of a number of external and
chain by putting together the resources in a consumer experience
internal factors that shape and inuence consumer experiences,
that produce the tourism experience (Andersson, 2007). In other
which can exist only if the participating consumer is willing and
words, the experiences that consumers encounter occur inside the
able to participate.
person, and the outcome or experiential consumption depends on
how the consumer, based on a specic situation or state of mind,
5. Discussion and conclusions reacts to the staged encounter (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Mossberg,
2007; Pine and Gilmore, 1999; Wang, 2002).
This paper aimed to discuss the theoretical underpinnings of The extent and success of the experience will be based on the
consumer experience and propose a conceptual framework to bet- quality of the hostguest connection and the willingness and capac-
ter understand consumer experience construct in a hospitality and ity of the consumer to engage in the multidimensional encounter.
tourism context. Given the existing quantity and quality of research Based on related literature, the authors posit that experience
production in the hospitality eld, there is still much to learn about provide distinctiveness between ordinary and extraordinary expe-
20 A.R. Walls et al. / International Journal of Hospitality Management 30 (2011) 1021

riences, and are composed of a variety of physical and human elements and human interaction elements) are indeed equally
components that trigger reactions to the consumption of goods experience-enhancing and whether the use of a weighting system
and services. In sum, consumer experience is the multidimensional could be employed with respect to which guests would weigh
takeaway impression or outcome formed by peoples encoun- how important each item is to their experience. This would pro-
ters with products, services, and businesses (Lewis and Chambers, vide important managerial implications as to where to allocate
2000). No longer are consumers mere inert purchasers but rather limited resources in order to create the most positive hospitality
co-producers who actively build their own consumption experi- and tourism experiences. It also would be interesting to investigate
ences through interactions with the environment, sellers, and other consumer experiences from a managerial point of view. Are there
consumers. These impressions are related to the facets of con- differences in what hospitality and tourism managers believe are
sumer behavior that relate to cognitive and emotive aspects of ones important consumer experiences compared to what the guests say
encounter with products and services and inuence the intensity are important? Finding potential gaps or incongruence may prove
of the experience from ordinary to extraordinary. Additionally, it useful for proactive managers looking to understand and enhance
is posited that consumer experiences may vary from consumer to consumer experiences.
consumer, depending on the physical or human interaction ele- Finally, many organizations are moving into the experience
ments, individual characteristics, or situational factors. business without a comprehensive positioning strategy for con-
The hospitality and tourism industry has endeavored to create sumer experiences or tactical goals of knowing which experience
unique concepts and marketing strategies that differentiate prod- dimensions to emphasize. It is recommended that organizations
ucts and services offered by their respective competitors. Many carefully consider their positioning strategies before engaging in
hospitality rms are investing heavily in changing their service experiences. For example, in order to avoid incongruencies, hos-
cultures in an attempt to enhance their brand with consumer pitality and tourism business entities should recognize who they
experiences. Though businesses can stage consumer experiences, are (e.g., luxury resort vs. select-service) and plan their correspond-
consumers may not be impacted fully due to a number of external ing consumer experience strategies accordingly. Some services and
factors (i.e., individual characteristics and situational factors). This products lend themselves to be more experience-oriented, whereas
in no way should discourage businesses from creating and staging other products tend to be more transaction-oriented. Similarly,
experiences but rather help them to understand why some con- some consumers may choose to diminish the consumer experi-
sumers are more impacted than others when they encounter the ence, depending on their willingness (e.g., purpose of trip) or ability
identical consumption experience. One way in which experiences (e.g., personality type) to engage in an experience. These factors
can be used to achieve differentiation is by focusing on the design may impact consumer experiences considerably and are vital in
and delivery of service experiences (Yuan and Wu, 2008). Typi- positioning and branding strategies of hospitality and tourism com-
cal examples of companies that provide differentiated consumer panies, especially for those with multiple brands in their portfolio.
experiences include the Rice to Riches rice pudding stores, Haagen- Additional exploration is needed to understand the relationship
Dazs cafes, and hotels such as the Soho Grand Hotel or its sister between experiences, emotions, absorption, cognition, and multi-
property, the Tribeca Grand, created to be the ultimate downtown sensory elements.
atmosphere for a fusion of business and pleasure.
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