At the International Conference on Tourism – ICOT 2013, special session on “Pilgrimage and Pilgrims: Journeys, Destinations, Meanings”, held in Limassol, Cyprus, 5-8 June 2013, prof. Lorenzo Cantoni presented a study co-authored by dr. Silvia De Ascaniis, about “Artistic and Religious Experiences in Online Travel Reviews about Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Rome)“. Below the abstract.
The online environment is an increasingly important source of information for travellers, who may consult both official tourism businesses and fellow tourists. Online platforms as TripAdvisor allow tourists, in fact, to share their experiences and voice their opinions in an electronic-Word-of-Mouth kind of interaction.
The study presented investigated if and how religious tourism experiences are shared on online platforms, as well as which is the relationship between artistic and spiritual experiences mediated by a religious attraction. In particular, the study was designed to answer questions related to functional and content characteristics of OTR about artistic-religious attractions: a) can different types of OTR be distinguished according to the main communicative function they accomplish? b) does the artistic and/or the religious experience emerge from OTR? c) can the artistic aspects of a religious attraction be drivers for a religious unsought experience? d) is the artistic or religious experience ‘revealed’ by certain keywords?
The corpus of analysis consisted of all the OTR in English published on TripAdvisor about the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 370 OTR were retrieved, which were undergone to a three steps analysis.
1) The functional analysis distinguished three types of OTR: ‘technical’ reviews, which only give trip planning-related advices; ‘informative’ reviews, which provide historical, architectural or facilities details; ‘experiential’ reviews, which focus on tourist’s experience and represent the major source of insights for users looking for opinions about the attraction and its perceived touristic value.
2) In a second step, the parts of the OTR reporting artistic or spiritual experiences were identified (inter-coder reliability was measured) and an argumentative analysis was performed, in order to reconstruct the inferential structure of the opinions given, to point out premises and to classify types of arguments used when recommending a visit to the attraction.
3) In the end, a semantic-linguistic analysis was carried out to identify keywords particularly representing of artistic and spiritual experiences. Such keywords might be used in future studies, approaching similar issues from the ‘reverse’ side, that is starting from a keywords search to come to tourists’ experiences.