Tourism Research Philosophies and Principles Competing Philosophies Assessment

Excerpt from Assessment :

Tourism Research Philosophies and Principles

"Competing" Philosophies

Impact of Values and Interests on Research

The relatively young area of Tourism Research borrows heavily from social science in its use of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods. Previously contrasted with each other, the two methods are increasingly used as complimenting disciplines by researchers attempting to deal with the complexity and global importance of tourism research. Even as researchers seek greater knowledge by Quantitative-Qualitative analyses, their research is still significantly impacted and sometimes considerably skewed by their values and interests, as well as the lack of a clear code of ethics for tourism research. Finally, four peer-reviewed tourism research articles are examined for their research methods, underlying principles and worldviews.

"Competing" Philosophies

Within social sciences, paradigms are frameworks with differing worldviews springing from theoretical and philosophical assumptions (PANSIRI, 2005). The social science paradigms of 'positivist/functional' and 'interpretative' research methodology have dominated research and form the bases of many other paradigms (PANSIRI, 2005). The positivist paradigm assumes that knowledge is obtained and authenticated by researchers independent of the subject and making direct observations or measurements, forming the basis for the Quantitative Method of research (KRAUSS, 2005) In contrast, the interpretative paradigm is "value-laden," assuming that while reality is external to humans, "humans construct reality, human experience and communication is subjective, human behaviour is creative and voluntary," forming the basis for the Qualitative Method of research (KRAUSS, 2005).

The Quantitative Method has historically dominated research (MEHMETOGLU, 2004), including tourism research, and concentrates on collecting data of occurrence frequency (BOWEN, 2002). Historically juxtaposed is the Qualitative Method, which collects "data about activities, events, occurrences and behaviours…to seek an understanding of actions, problems and processes in their social context" As such, it "does not produce quantified findings" (PHILLIMORE & GOODSON, 2004); rather it is concerned with "the meaning of phenomena" (BOWEN, 2002). Though Quantitative historically dominated research, the Qualitative method as enjoyed increasing favor by researchers in such tourism research areas as education, efficiency, package tours, attitudinal training, classification, competitive advantages, the environment, hallmark events, theme parks, services and transportation (JAFARI, 2000).

Furthermore, as tourism research has broadened and deepened, researchers have acknowledged that the Quantitative and Qualitative Methods complement each other. Three additional developments from this realization are hybridization, triangulation and a conscious link between Qualitative and Quantitative research (FLICK, 2006). The Hybrid Method now explored by researchers uses both Qualitative and Quantitative research (GIVEN, 2008); Triangulation focuses on many evidentiary sources to identify, study and explain real cases in tourism (WILLIAMS & SPENCER, 2010), the idea being that "Measurement problems can be avoided by making a number of measurements and observations, and using several research techniques" (UNIVERSITY OF NOTTINGHAM, 2007) and the method is considered stronger because independent data supports or at least does not disapprove the researchers' findings.

Impact of Values and Interests on Research

In any type of research, the values and interests of researchers and other interested parties can taint data and skew conclusions. An example of this phenomenon was given at the Proceedings of the 5th DeHaan Tourism Management Conference in 2007. Maintaining that cultural tourism "is arguably the oldest of the 'new' tourism phenomena" (MCKERCHER, 2002), McKercher illustrated that research sometimes "proves" demand when there is none (MCKERCHER, 2007) due to the values, interests and flawed assumptions of tourism organizations. There is a disconnection between research and reality because the research is flawed. Tourism organizations have an underlying value, interest and logic that "special interest tourism [is] the hub around which the total travel experience is planned and developed"; therefore, they simply rely on "raw participation rates to determine market size." According to their logic, "because somebody visited a museum at some stage during a trip, that person must have been motivated in whole or in part to travel to the destination to learn about its cultural heritage." However, "the assumption is valid only if no other plausible cause can be identified for visiting the attraction." McKercher went on to show how the raw data that 23% of visitors to Hong Kong visit "The Avenue of the Stars" has led to the flawed conclusion that "23% of visitors to Hong Kong are film tourists." In reality, most visitors to "The Avenue" are not film tourists: "some visit because it is a free attraction that zero commission tour operators can drop people off at no charge; tourists must cross it from a bus parking area to access other attractions; it offers pleasant views of Hong Kong Island; it provides convenient access to the Star Ferry connecting Hong Kong and Kowloon; or because it is the venue for the evening laser light and fireworks show. Mostly, though, they visit because it offers a leisurely walk along the waterfront in clearly signaled tourist space." McKercher maintains that such widespread, flawed logic and simplistic reliance on raw data has led to the illogical conclusions that: "…81% of U.S. adults are considered historic/cultural travelers, 11% of all inbound Australian tourists are wine tourists, 52% of American tourists and 68% of foreign visitors are classified as cultural tourists, up to 60% of all international tourists are nature-based tourists and 40% are wildlife-related tourists" (MCKERCHER, 2007). As Mercher shows, the values and interests of tourist bureaus and their dependent industries, coupled with a simplistic reliance on raw numerical data, resulted in a flawed logic and misinterpretation of collected data.

Ethical Considerations

Tourism is a relatively new research area. Earlier tourism researchers/writers were probably "guided by the codes of ethical research practice of the disciplines in which they were originally trained" (MOSCARDO, 2010). Adapting the ethical research frameworks for "anthropology, sociology, economics, psychology, and geography," early tourism researchers/writers did not need to discuss a specialized code of ethics for this field (MOSCARDO, 2010). However, tourism research now has researchers educated solely in tourism and lacking backgrounds in other fields with ready-made codes of ethics. Consequently, tourism research must formulate its own code of ethics, understandably borrowing heavily from older disciplines. Generally, to research ethically is to research "with integrity, with honesty and in a manner sensitive to the concerns of others" (RYAN, 2005). Ryan addresses each element separately. "Integrity" was identified as "wisdom, understanding and prudence" (following Aristotle). "Truth" was divided into paradigms of "positivistic, post-positivistic, constructionist, critical theory, feminist, chaos theory and complexity theory." Ryan examined "sensitivity to others" as recognizing that there are mutual responsibilities between researcher and subject because research is at least in part about relationships between researcher and subject: the subject provides his/her valuable information to the researcher; simultaneously, the researcher has a duty to treat the subject respectfully. In addition, Ryan states that the researcher has a duty to tell his/her readers about those mutual responsibilities because they affect the research (RYAN, 2005). Finally, moving beyond the general considerations identified by Moscardo and Ryan, tourism research can adopt the currently employed ethical principles governing most scientific research, tourism research should: cause no harm to subjects; steadfastly avoid deceiving subjects; be completely voluntary on the subject's part (requiring informed consent); fully disclose the researchers' identities; maintain anonymity and confidentiality for the subjects unless consciously waived; ensure that anticipated benefits should significantly outweigh possible risks (SCHUTT, 2009).

Literature Review

Four peer-reviewed articles were researched for this project. As any researcher would realize, some of the differences in thoroughness, details and philosophy are striking. One study in particular was extremely thorough and thoughtful, using a hybrid of Quantitative and Qualitative research methods to amass and carefully examine the data. The remaining articles used varying philosophies and degrees of care in collecting and examining their data.

a. The Effect of Interventions on the Environmental Behaviour of Australian Motel Guests by J. Mair and S. Bergin-Seers

This is a report on pilot research to "test the influence of different in-room messages on the towel reuse behaviour of guests" in order to "examine the effects of different interventions on the environmental behaviour of guests at motels in Victoria, Australia" (MAIR & BERGIN-SEERS, 2010). Mair and Bergin-Seers were exceptionally thoughtful and careful in amassing data and in examining it, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Mair and Bergin-Seers recruited four hotels with at least 30 guestrooms each in the Victoria area. Each motel was required to place one of four possible message cards in each guestroom's bathroom. The four possible messages were: informational only, in that the card advised of the value of reusing towels; information plus a direct request that the guests reuse their towels; information plus a direct request plus a description of the normal reuse of towels; information plus a promise of a donation to the guest's chosen charity on his/her behalf. In addition to collecting and analyzing numerical data, the researchers presented a four-page questionnaire to the guests in each room to determine the awareness and impact of the message cards and to obtain knowledge about "how guests' values, beliefs, norms, habits and socio-demographic differences impacted on their towel reuse behaviour" (MAIR & BERGIN-SEERS, 2010).

Mair and Bergin-Seers used a hybrid of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods. Employing the…

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