Photographs are one of the most treasured reminders of people’s vacations. Photos provide memories whereby experiences can be relived with individuals who were on the trip, or with friends and relatives who were not. Photographs, thus, are an end product of the travel experience. In addition to stimulating memories, photographs are a physical representation of the important dimensions and trip attributes that individuals experience while traveling. Pictures have the potential to provide data and a methodological basis for assessing both positive and negative aspects of a trip. They can offer insight into how a trip should be structured or, more importantly, how a trip performed against the attributes and criteria of consumer satisfaction. The key to this assessment process is not only attributes, like in an Importance Performance (IP) analysis, but also a perspective on the impacts that a quality has upon travelers. While attribute assessment methodologies are traditionally based upon a breaking down, or segmentation, of the experience, photographic methods are based upon convergence and bringing attributes together to understand holistic impacts upon individuals. This does not suggest that the divergent methodologies are ineffective in determining impacts. Rather, it suggests that photographic techniques allow researchers to study the interactions of real-world variables and how they impact individuals. This type of holistic approach is important in trip/tour planning because it allows planners to determine the types of results that can be achieved from the interaction of trip characteristics. If a trip is manipulated in a longitudinal study with different individuals and different attributes in different configurations, then an effective methodology can be determined to study the spectrum of possible responses among travelers, which can assist in maximizing participant satisfaction. Photographs have long been an important data source for social scientists (Collier and Collier, 1986). However, there is limited literature on tourist photographs, their meanings, and what they can explain about the travel experience (Albers and James, 1988; Cohen, Nir and Almagor, 1992; Haywood, 1990; Markwell, 1997). There is, however, a growing literature of a similar conceptual nature in the area of postcards and other visual images (Cohen, 1995; Gordon, 1986). For example, using a frame analysis, which is a method of studying photographs of human subjects according to their pose in choreographed shots, Sirakaya and Sönmez (2000, p. 356) analyzed tourist brochures published by state tourism agencies in the United States. They concluded that subtle meanings in printed advertising might indeed perpetuate gender stereotypes. Likewise, Buck’s (1977) work on the brochure portrayal of Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (USA), was one of the earliest studies to examine the cultural stereotypes created and maintained by print media in tourism. Postcards are another important source of data that is directly linked to tourism. Cohen (1995) examined the portrayal of Jews and Arabs on postcards from Israel and concluded that both groups are represented in stereotypical fashion, although the Jews seemed to be depicted more as modern and futuristic, the Arabs more traditional – sheep herders and people constantly engaged in divine supplication. Such a portrayal, Cohen (1995, p. 219) argues, seems to deny that Jews and Arabs could be put on an equal footing, culturally or politically. Likewise, he suggests that the postcards imply a pluralistic society composed of different groups living harmoniously but separately side by side – a way of disguising the profound conflict between the two groups. The research on these forms of visual imagery suggests that individuals associate meanings with these items in relation to their travel experiences (Hitchcock and Teague, 2000; Love and Sheldon, 1998). Such visual media can be reflective of values, personality, and expectations. The …
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