Women’s Independent Travel Experiences in New Zealand

Myers, Linda Mary (2010) Women’s Independent Travel Experiences in New Zealand. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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Abstract

An ever-increasing number of women worldwide are making the most of their independence and becoming increasingly motivated to travel more than ever before. Women are grasping the opportunity to be tourists in their own right; for their own pleasure and satisfaction, breaking away from their hybrid identities of, ‘the wife’, ‘mother’, ‘girlfriend’ or the ‘housewife’. Women of all ages are beginning to become empowered and to travel together in close female friendship groups, in two’s or alone. They are gaining confidence and are able to independently self-organise their trips. Educational opportunity and financial self sufficiency through improvement in earning capacities has greatly increased women’s access to a much wider range of leisure and travel choices. Personal life spans involve significant chronological transitions, such as from university to work, marriage to divorce, work to retirement where identity has to be renegotiated; new autobiographies reconstructed, and new trajectories have to be set. Often, it seems women are motivated to travel during such transitional circumstances. Despite the tendency to assume that male appeals are universal, research suggests that female and male perceptions and experiences of space differ substantially. In tourism, gender relationships have been examined from a number of perspectives; women as the employee's of the tourism industry; women as hosts in the tourism destination; and more recently women as tourists. Women are slowly being recognised as a market segment, facilities and different services in luxury hotels, women only tours and cruises are evolving to meet demand.
The gendered perceptions and ideologies of New Zealand; being 100% pure nature and the adventure capital of the world which is open to all, ages, and abilities, attracts statistically more women backpacker travellers than men. A major objective of this thesis is to redress the bias in tourism research; to represent women including lesbian women in the tourism arena. In both cases giving women a ‘voice’ to represent their touristic experiences, desires and link these to the notion of identity construction through tourism. Little remains known on the wider variables and influences that motivate the travel choices of lesbian consumers in particular. It has been argued that female tourism experiences, like their leisure behaviours, are constrained by male dominated cultural values and attitudes at destinations and by social constraints and restrictions in their home society. However, on the other hand it has also been argued that some women’s tourism experiences - such as backpacking and independent travelling- can also be potentially liberating for some women as they gain the freedom to express their often hybrid identities in new ways. The focus in this study is towards the positive gains and benefits to the individual through travel experiences, but this cannot be done in isolation without considering some of the constraints and challenges. It is multidisciplinary in approach, grounded in theoretical frameworks offered by gender studies, tourism studies, social science, leisure studies, women’s studies, queer theory, cultural geography and sports studies. It is a qualitative study which sets out to explore tourism experiences and the personal growth and identity development through tourism experiences in New Zealand. Sixty in-depth interviews were held with international women travellers, backpackers and tourism providers in New Zealand. Adopting an interpretive paradigm with a limited feminist influenced, the important focus was to allow the women to speak of their experiences and lives in their own voices. In line with qualitative methodologies, it is the words and photographs of the women that form the data set for this study. It critically examines how a performative understanding of the playing out of gender can be linked to notions of serious leisure, the reflective production of biographies and accumulation of cultural capital.
The results reveal that personal development, self identity and social identity can be influenced by travel experiences in varying degrees. Four interlinking categories of importance were identified; embodied experiences, psychological development, socio-spatial interactions and visual consumption. Each category evolved and was sometimes dependent upon age and sexuality. The results of this study show that there are real benefits to personal growth and identity development to women through their travel experiences. Through travel women make the time or find the time to self-reflect on their lives. They escape from the social constraints at home and can achieve a sense of freedom. Through the act of travelling itself and through participating in physical adventure activities travel can present a means of empowerment and a record of achievement. The confidence gained through travel experiences can enhance self-esteem and help construct a new dimension to their identities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Tourism > Tourism
Divisions: Faculty of Business and Law > Department of Tourism
Depositing User: Barry Hall
Date Deposited: 09 Jan 2013 09:57
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 03:33
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/3308

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