Transport and travel in a fragile rural tourist destination: a social representations perspective of residents' and visitors' mobility patterns.

This source preferred by Janet Dickinson

Authors: Dickinson, J.E.

It is a well established fact that visitors to rural destinations in the UK and other parts of Europe are highly car dependent. This car dependency has resulted in a variety of initiatives intended to tackle the associated undesirable consequences. While there are some success stories, the negative impacts of transport still pervade for residents and visitors in many destination areas. Few studies address the social assumptions that underlie travel behaviour decisions. When Moscovici's social representations theory is employed it suggests that we should develop and draw on shared perceptions, or theories, of the world around us in order to interpret our behaviour. Social representations theory offers a dynamic approach to understanding how social conceptions shape our understanding of transport and travel behaviour. This approach brings in a theoretical perspective that has been absent from tourism and local transport literature and is largely absent from the wider transport debate. The aim of the study was to enhance the understanding of tourism and leisure mobility in a rural tourism context by applying social representations theory. A case study approach was employed to provide an in-depth investigation of the transport issues in a fragile tourism destination area: Purbeck, Dorset, UK. The study includes exploratory research to define the important value concepts for the population in the study area relating to transport and tourism, followed by an examination of travel patterns and travel behaviour of visitors to the area through the use of a travel diary. Finally, a questionnaire survey was undertaken with visitors at various attractions in the area. A social representations perspective demonstrates the importance of examining the social reality and the social processes that underlie people's decision making. The findings indicate that there are pervasive representations of tourism and transport forming a socially constructed consensus which shapes views of transport and tourism. While the study shows that people would like public transport to be improved, this is essentially an idealised representation and an idea perpetuated by a public that makes little use of public transport and has little intention of leaving the car behind. Arguably, people have developed a social construction of how to deal with transport problems whereby the failure of public transport reinforces the existing situation of high car use and there is little attempt to restrict car use. This study challenges this strategy and discusses practical implications for managing mobility in sensitive rural destinations.

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