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Behind the brochures: The (re)construction of touristic place images in Akaroa, New Zealand

Fountain, Joanna Mary (2002) Behind the brochures: The (re)construction of touristic place images in Akaroa, New Zealand. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

The rural district of Akaroa is situated on Banks Peninsula, in New Zealand’s South Island. For most of its 160 years of European settlement, Akaroa’s economy has been based on agricultural production and the fishing industry. The district, and in particular the township of Akaroa, has also been a popular destination for holidaymakers and daytrippers since the late nineteenth century. Over the past five decades, the declining fortunes of the primary sector and easier access to the district have resulted in the tourist industry becoming an increasingly important component of the local economy. The ongoing success of this industry appears at the present time to be crucial to the long term economic sustainability of Akaroa District. In this context, it is has been important that representations of Akaroa’s place identity are developed as attractive touristic place images and disseminated in order to lure potential visitors to the district.

This thesis explores the processes involved in the (re)construction of the touristic place images used to ‘sell’ Akaroa District as a tourist destination. Using documentary analysis, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews, this research project has looked behind the brochures, guidebooks and promotional articles which present Akaroa to the outside world to investigate the social, economic and political processes involved in Akaroa’s place image (re)construction. The first case study examines Akaroa’s portrayal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as ‘A Charming Place’. The remaining four case studies explore the (re)construction of a number of place images that have been used to promote Akaroa as a tourist destination since the 1960s, which has seen Akaroa portrayed as The French Connection’, ‘An Historic Town’, ‘A Natural Wonderland’ and ‘A Romantic Rendezvous’.

This research project has been focused at the level of the local; however, this thesis reveals that Akaroa’s touristic place images cannot be seen as the result of the isolated construction of the local community’s identity or the impact of outside influences. The case studies presented in this account highlight the nexus between the global and the local in the process of place image formation. Global and national events and processes, including economic restructuring, changing political policies and cultural shifts, infuse each of the stories of Akaroa’s touristic place image (re)construction. However, these global forces are mediated at the local level by residents, visitors and other ‘outsiders’ who, as reflexive agents, demonstrate their own understandings of Akaroa’s place identity through their social interaction and, in so doing, play a crucial role in the way in which Akaroa’s touristic images develop.

These case studies also reveal the inherently political nature of the process of touristic place image (re)construction. The place images that come to represent Akaroa as a tourist destination incorporate only some versions of ‘Akaroa’ amongst the multitude of understandings of the district’s place identity held by competing interest groups. These multiple meanings of place are continuously negotiated and contested in public debate by residents and visitors to the district. Some versions of Akaroa’s place identity are heard more loudly in the public forum than others; they come to dominate in public debate and in the touristic place images that are incorporated into the promotional strategies for Akaroa.

The development and application of a model to the processes of touristic place image (re)construction in Akaroa District helps explain the rationale for the multiple and contradictory views of place held by those with an interest in Akaroa. Furthermore, this model, referred to as the Community Matrix of Place, illuminates the way in which some groups are able to ensure their understanding of ‘Akaroa’ is represented in touristic promotion for the district. While this model has been developed to understand the processes of place identity and place image negotiation which are revealed in the context of Akaroa District, it offers a conceptual tool for deconstructing debates over place identity and place image formation within other tourist destinations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Macbeth, Jim
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/53020
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