This thesis investigates the images that actual and potential backpacker tourists hold of Australia and explores the structure, evolution and influence of these tourist destination images. This is an exploratory study drawing on a wide range of literature spanning the disciplines of geography, sociology, anthropology, planning, marketing and psychology, but it is largely grounded within the sub-discipline of behavioural geography. The primary purpose of the thesis is to investigate whether the concepts of 'stereotyping' and 'images' in behavioural geography can make a contribution to the understanding of tourist destination images and tourist behaviour. A secondary purpose is to identify the implications of these findings and the applications they might have to assist tourism planning and policy in Australia.
Tourist destination images are defined as "the expression of all objective knowledge, impressions, prejudice, imaginations, and emotional thoughts an individual or group might have of a particular place" (Lawson and Baud-Bovy 1977, 10). Thus tourist destination images are conceived as operating both at a collective level where many people within a culture may share particular aspects of an image, and at an individual level whereby an individual person may hold both stereotypical and idiosyncratic ideas about a particular tourist destination. The concept of 'image' used in this thesis includes both visual and verbal representations. In this way the thesis fills a gap in the literature as almost all previous research has focused exclusively on word-based measurements of tourist destination image. Innovative techniques developed for measuring visual aspects of image, including photo-sorting and 'auto-photography' and have been incorporated into the study.
The thesis employs the concept of 'stereotypes' to explore the structure of tourist destination images. The evolution of tourist destination images is examined from the individual perspective by comparing the images held by tourists before travel and after travel. The findings support Gunn's (1972) seven-stage model of image evolution, and the model is expanded to incorporate a stereotype structure. The influence of tourist destination images is also investigated in terms of how the image affects tourist decisionmaking, tourist photography and collective representations of the destination.
The primary research for the thesis focused on one type of tourist, namely 'backpackers', who are mainly young, independent budget travellers and who usually travel for extended periods and may participate in a range of activities including work and study during their travels.
Two phases of data collection were conducted to address two main research issues. Phase I addressed the issue 'What are the tourist destination images and stereotypes of Australia held by backpacker tourists and how are they cognitively structured?' It was a mainly qualitative study involving semi-structured interviews with 31 Canadians, Dutch and Japanese backpackers travelling in Australia. The images and stereotypes of Australia held by these three nationalities were compared and several common stereotypes were identified, the most prominent being the pictures of Uluru and the Sydney Opera House, the warm weather and beaches, and the 'Crocodile Dundee' persona. Some differences in emphasis between these images among the three nationalities were also identified. It is suggested that these differences are in part explained by the 'home anchor', in that backpackers highlight certain aspects of the image of Australia that contrast with their home country: for instance, Canadians emphasize the warmth and tropical beaches while the Dutch and Japanese emphasize the vastness and wide-open spaces of the outback.
Phase II addressed the issue 'How do tourist destination images and stereotypes evolve and influence backpackers' behaviour?' It was a mainly quantitative study that involved surveying 92 Canadian backpackers about their image of Australia. Three groups of backpackers corresponding to Gunn's (1972) three image stages were targetted:
Group 1: Backpackers not intending to visit Australia in the next three years (an 'organic image group')
Group 2: Backpackers intending to visit Australia in the next three years (an 'induced image group')
Group 3: Backpackers returned from visiting Australia (a 'modified-induced image group').............................................................................................................................................................