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Tourism Management 42 (2014) 282 e 293 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Tourism Management journal

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Tourism Management

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/tourman What makes a destination beautiful? Dimensions of tourist

What makes a destination beautiful? Dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment

Ksenia Kirillova, Xiaoxiao Fu, Xinran Lehto * , Liping Cai

Purdue University, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, United States

School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, United States highlights The beauty of tourist destinations is uniquely


The beauty of tourist destinations is uniquely judged and admired. Experiential rather than classic dimensions of aesthetic judgment are salient in tourism aesthetics. Dimensions are equally prominent in judgment of nature-based and urban destination. Destination planners should employ existing aesthetic inventory in strategic planning.

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Article history:

Received 10 May 2013 Accepted 18 December 2013


Aesthetic judgment Tourism experience Destination management Experience-based products Destination planning Tourism aesthetics


Drawing on the literature in environmental psychology, the current study attempted to reveal di- mensions of tourist aesthetic judgment in the context of both nature-based and urban tourist destina- tions. Two-stage analysis of semi-structured interview data from a theoretical sample of 57 individuals yielded 21 aesthetic dimensions that were categorized into nine themes: Scale, Time, Condition, Sound, Balance, Diversity, Novelty, Shape, and Uniqueness. The identi ed themes were further conceptualized into a two-dimensional plane along Concrete-Abstract and Subjective-Objective continuums. This research posits that tourism allows a unique appreciator-object dyad where individuals are fully immersed in a destination in pursuit of a non-routine and oftentimes novel experience. The beauty of tourism destination is uniquely judged, admired, and appreciated, and the assessment of the beauty goes beyond the visual aspects and engages all senses. The ndings make a theoretical contribution to the existing aesthetics literature and bear practical implications for destination planning, branding, and management.

2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Tourism experience is a critical concept in tourism marketing and management literature; therefore, researchers have paid increasing attention to this area, exerting efforts in both conceptual deliberations and empirical validations (e.g. Cohen, 1979a; Li, 2000; Mannell & Iso-Ahola, 1987; Mkono, Markwell, & Wilson, 2013 ; Otto & Ritchie, 1996; Quan & Wang, 2004; Sternberg, 1997; Uriely, 2005 ). Tourism scholars, however, have yet to fully investigate the tourist e environment exchange ( Lehto, 2013 ). The environmental qualities of a destination can impact a tourist experience profoundly ( Todd, 2009 ). Tourists interaction with a destination s overall environ- ment and their internalization of what they see and sense could play a key role in their overall trip satisfaction. When people plan to

* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ 1 765 494 2085. E-mail addresses: kkirillo@purdue.edu (K. Kirillova), fu34@purdue.edu (X. Fu), xinran@purdue.edu (X. Lehto), liping@purdue.edu (L. Cai).

0261-5177/$ e see front matter 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

travel for pleasure, they seek destinations that, in their opinion, maximize the possibility to receive a pleasurable experience ( Lue, Crompton, & Fesenmaier, 1993 ). One source of such pleasure is the aesthetic qualities of the destination. In tourism management literature, it has been acknowledged that aesthetic characteristics affect tourists experience and satisfaction, contributing to their

loyalty towards a destination ( Lee, Jeon, & Kim, 2011 ) and thus intention to return ( Baloglu, Pekcan, Chen, & Santos, 2004 ). Desti- nations aesthetic qualities, such as scenery, have been an integral element of many satisfaction and perceived image scales used in tourism research (e.g. Alegre & Garau, 2010; O Leary & Deegan,

2003 ).

Despite the fact that numerous studies have recognized the importance of aesthetic qualities of a destination, these qualities have so far been largely reduced to a single dimensional variable such as the place is beautiful in destination attribute satisfaction assessment. Although the notion of product aesthetics has been explored in consumer behavior literature in conjunction with

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product choice (e.g. Creusen & Schoormans, 2005 ), design (e.g. Bloch, 1995; Riemann, Zaichkowsky, Neuhaus, Bender, & Weber, 2010 ), and overall product evaluation ( Yamamoto & Lambert, 1994 ), the aesthetic component as judged by consumers has yet to be a focus in tourism research. Tourism aesthetics implies multi- sensory lived experience which may entail inter-relations not only between a tourist and the surroundings but also among po- tential dimensions of the interactive experience ( Ittelson, 1978 ). As such, this lived experience offers opportunities for phenomeno- logical exploration. Additionally, tourists may use home environ- ment as a reference point in assessing whether the destination is beautiful. For example, interpretation of a destination s aesthetics may be derived from the similarity or contrast between one s home environment and the vacation environment. Due to the potentially diverse aesthetic judgments among tourists, it will be of theoretical signi cance to zoom in on the area of tourism aesthetics for its multi-faceted dimensionality. The search for the answer to what do we nd beautiful? is one of the most long-hauled quests in philosophy. De ning beauty as which gives pleasure when seen, Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas asserted that the beauty resides within an object and is not subjected to observers biased evaluations ( Beardsley, 1975 ). Hume (1757/2013) and Kant (1790/1987) , on the other hand, posited that beauty is in nature subjective. No response to an object is superior because one judges beauty based on personal values such as religious beliefs, cultural background, political views, and other normative values. Thus, aesthetic pleasure is a natural human response, and as such, its extent could be distinct across different individuals ( Ginsborg, 2013 ). Modern philosophers conceptualized aesthetic judgment as the object-related cognitive part of aesthetic processing and thus it can be assessed in social science while aesthetic emotion can only be measured by neuro- psychological means ( Leder, Belke, Oebrest, & Augustin, 2004 , p. 503). Moreover, empirical research in art appreciation found that people tend to perceive symmetric and round objects as beautiful ( Jacobsen, Schubotz, Höfel, & Cramon, 2006; Silvia & Barona, 2009 ). Unlike the art experience where the appreciator is an outside observer, an individual is immersed in the object of appreciation in environmental aesthetics ( Berleant, 2005 ). Aesthetic qualities of places have been previously explored conceptually in environ- mental aesthetics (e.g. Berleant, 2005; Carlson & Lintott, 2008 ) and empirically in environmental psychology (e.g. Kaplan, Kaplan, & Brown, 1989 ) and urban design (e.g. Daniel, 2001 ), where both urban and natural landscapes were employed as contexts. Tourism aesthetics, however, could possess its own traits and characteris- tics in that tourism experience involves the full immersion of an individual into an environment that may be distinct from his/her everyday living surroundings ( Volo, 2009 ). The experience may trigger human senses to become more responsive to outside stimuli and allows more complex human e environment in- teractions and exchanges. Thus, how and why tourists perceive a destination beautiful could potentially be related or unrelated to, similar to or distinct from the criteria researchers utilize to assess routine (home) environments ( Maitland & Smith, 2009 ). Never- theless, until now, these areas have been sorely neglected in tourism marketing and management literature. As a pioneering attempt, the current study initiates an inquiry into tourist aesthetic judgment. Speci cally, the study aims to examine how aesthetic grati cation is provided in both urban and nature-based tourist destinations. Given the scarcity of existing empirical studies in this area and a need for in-depth understanding of tourist aesthetic judgment, the present study employed a quali- tative assessment through personal interviews to uncover both theoretical and practical insights.

2. Literature review

2.1. Aesthetics in management literature

Aesthetics has received increasing yet still limited attention in the business management literature with scholarly interest centered on aesthetic products and experiential consumption ( Charters, 2006 ). Generally, aesthetic products are believed to have four essential qualities: 1) the product s aesthetic considerations must be the primary purpose; 2) the product is constructed to stimulate aesthetic consumption; 3) it is capable of providing intrinsic value; and 4) it strives in highly segmented markets ( Charters, 2006 ). However, as most consumer goods possess the above-mentioned qualities to various degrees, aesthetic products could be conceptualized as a continuum consisting of products ranging from those of minimal aesthetic dimension to those entirely aesthetic ( Bloch, Brunel, & Arnold, 2003 ). Assessment of aesthetic qualities is an important aspect of consumptive experi- ences (e.g. Baker, Grewal, & Parasuraman, 1994 ), and the concept of aesthetic product is distinct in the discussion of experiential con- sumption ( Charters, 2006 ). For instance, Esthetics was proposed as one fundamental dimension in experience by Pine & Gilmore (1999) in their notion of experience economy, along with Enter- tainment , Education , and Escapism . Aesthetics has been also dis- cussed in hedonic consumption as having the capacity to generate strong emotional involvement ( Hirschman & Holbrook, 1982 ). In his review of the existing literature on the topic, Charters (2006) asserts that there is a link between the experiential consump- tion of a product displaying beauty and the judgments, comprised of appreciation, quality evaluation, and taste (pp. 243 e 244). Such observations imply that aesthetic properties of a product are instrumental not only in stimulating consumption but also in evaluation of the entire consumptive experience. Aesthetic consumption and consumers ability to judge aesthetic qualities of a product are related to the idea of product design. In saturated markets, an aesthetically appealing product is a way of gaining buyers attention, communicating information, and providing aesthetic pleasure to both sellers and users ( Bloch, 1995 ). Moreover, aesthetic responses elicited by exposure to sensorial properties of a product rather than its functional characteristics tend to have a long-lasting effect on consumers as the product becomes part of users sensory environments ( Jones, 1991 ). Holbrook and Zirlin (1985) argued, however, that the aesthetic component of a product is best realized during the functional use of the product, suggesting that only purely aesthetic products such as classical music or a painting could stand on their own during the consumptive experience. Such propositions have been well embraced in service man- agement where the signi cance of aesthetic judgment has been re ected in the theorizations and applications of servicescape or atmospherics ( Bitner, 1992; Lovelock & Wirtz, 2004 ). It has been empirically noted across a variety of service settings that cus- tomers experience is inevitably in uenced by the surrounding aesthetic cues. It was found, for instance, that facility aesthetics affects perceived servicescape quality and thus satisfaction, re- patronage intentions, and desire to stay at basketball and football stadiums and casinos ( Wake eld & Blodgett, 1996 ). Aesthetically pleasing dining environment attenuates perceived food and service quality and directly in uence behavioral intentions ( Ha & Jang, 2012 ). Finally, aesthetic judgment, which may or may not lead to the occurrence of aesthetic pleasure, seems to play an important role in the assessment of overall experience (e.g. Liu & Jang, 2009 ). Despite the recognition of aesthetics in business research in general, there has been a paucity of attention on tourism aesthetics in particular. One such effort is noted in the bed and breakfast


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setting ( Oh, Fiore, & Jeoung, 2007). Through validation of the experience economy concepts, the study revealed that aesthetic experience played a dominant role in the experiential outcomes of guests stay. Unlike conventional products and services, tourism destination is a multifaceted concept and cannot be reduced to only environment, products, or services provided in situ . A destination is believed to be comprised of a number of attributes that potential tourists use as input information to assess utility of traveling to a destination, contributing to the process of destination choice ( Um & Crompton, 1990 ). As one of these attributes, aesthetic properties are also linked to overall satisfaction with tourism experience, desti- nation loyalty ( Chi & Qu, 2008 ), and intention to return ( Baloglu, Pekcan, & Santos, 2004 ). Although importance of aesthetic prop- erties varies from one destination to another ( Albayrak & Caber, 2013; Kozak, 2003 ), they lend to destination image formation ( Baloglu & McCleary, 1999 ). As the judgment of beauty is a cognitive process ( Kaplan, 1985 ), aesthetics of a destination may contribute to formation of the cognitive component of destination image and speci cally its functional and common characteristics at the attri- bute level ( Echtner & Ritchie, 1991 ). In addition to the theoretical implications, aesthetic judgment which occurs at tourism desti- nations is also part of the overall appraisal of a tourism experience and therefore deserves close attention from destination management.

2.2. Aesthetic judgment

Based on the Kantian idea of disinterestedness and the Enlight- enment notion of picturesque , the 18th century philosophers brought the appreciation of nature to an idealized form ( Todd, 2009 ). Speci cally, landscape was judged as beautiful if it had the perceived quality of being placed on a postcard. Philosophical contemplations on aesthetics of natural landscapes were consid- erably widened in the 20th century, yielding a number of para- digmatic shifts. First, Hepburn (1966) proclaimed that, unlike artworks, natural landscapes could not be framed or separated from the viewer. Rather, the observer and all his/her senses are engaged in the process of aesthetic appreciation. Thus, aesthetic appreciation of environment is fundamentally different from that of art. In a holistic review of contemporary models of nature appreciation, Todd (2009) explicated ve paradigms: Natural environmental model ( Carlson, 1979 ), Engagement model ( Berleant, 2005 ), Arousal model ( Carroll, 1995 ), Mystery model ( Godlovitch, 2004 ), and Budd s (2002) skeptical view. The Natural environmental model suggests that, while in u- enced by our knowledge about the environment, there exists a proper way of appreciating nature, and scienti c knowledge serves as a base for accurate aesthetic judgment. The Arousal model, however, rejects the importance of scienti c knowledge in aesthetic appreciation but supports objectivity in aesthetic judg- ment. The Engagement model emphasizes aesthetics of engagement as the subject s active, multisensory engagement in the environ- ment, and the holistic, perceptual unity of the subject immersed in and continuous with their surroundings ( Todd, 2009 , p. 161), completely dismissing Kantian notion of disinterestedness . The Mystery model suggests an alien, unknown character of nature that is beyond aesthetic appreciation and similar to a religious experi- ence. Finally, Budd (2002) argued that all attempts to nd a proper way to appreciate nature is a chimera since not only aesthetic judgments are relative but so is nature itself. Despite the diverse approaches to nature appreciation, Todd (2009) noted that often a rather trivial view of nature dominates tourism experience in that oversimpli cation, falsi cation, sentimentality, lack of authenticity, and romanticization prevent tourists from aesthetically enjoying natural landscape as is.

Empirical inquiries into the aesthetics of natural settings started in environmental psychology in 1970e 80s. Most studies are experimental in nature and did not differentiate aesthetic judg- ment from environmental preference; rather, the two terms were often used interchangeably. Kaplan (1987) identi ed four pre- dictors of preference for natural environments: Complexity, Mys- tery, Coherence, and Legibility. In this matrix, Complexity refers to diversity and ne elements of an environment. Mystery can be viewed as impossibility of complete perception ( Hubbard & Kimball, 1917 ; as cited in Kaplan, 1987 ) while Coherence is compared to a good gestalt, or completeness. Legibility concerns the ability to maintain orientation in the environment. Kaplan s idea of Mystery echoes the Appleton s (1975) prospect-refuge theory in which the prospect refers to what is implied, instead of directly experienced, by an observer. Kaplan et al. (1989) proposed a four-domain model for environmental preference, with a focus on physical attributes: Landcover (e.g. Forest, Woodlawn), Informa- tional (Complexity, Mystery, Coherence, Legibility), Perceptual (Openness, Smoothness, Locomotion), and Physical (e.g. Relief, Height). More recent studies have focused on the predictors of natural landscape preferences. For example, Naturalness (e.g. Nassauer, 1995; Van den Berg, Vlek, & Coeterier, 1998; Scott, 2002 ), Openness (e.g. Strumse, 1994; Coeterier, 1996 ), Vegetation (e.g. Rogge, Nevens, & Gulinick, 2007 ), and Diversity or Variety ( Arriaza, Canas-Ortega, Canas-Madueno, & Ruiz-Aviles, 2004 ) have been identi ed as distinct factors for predicting natural landscape pref- erence. Fyhri, Jacobsen, and Tømmervik (2009) in particular examined international visitors landscape perceptions in a coastal area in Northern Scandinavia and found that degree of vegetation and human in uence as well as typicality of setting act as impor- tant predictors of landscape preferences. One s familiarity and past experience with the landscape were also shown to be impactful factors on his/her preferences ( DeLucio & Múgica, 1994; Hammitt, 1981 ). Therefore, preferences of environmental qualities tend to vary across various user groups ( Van den Berg et al., 1998 ). Aesthetics of urban landscapes has not been conceptualized at the level of the natural landscapes aesthetics. City landscape is largely considered as an extension of the natural environment, and thus the methods and dimensionalities developed in aesthetic judgment of natural landscapes are deemed appropriate for in- quiries into urban aesthetics ( Berleant, 2005 ). Aesthetic judgment and environmental preferences of urban landscape have been mainly explored in urban planning and design where aesthetic value has been reduced to its functionality ( Maitland & Smith, 2009 ). However, Williams (1954) has argued that [t]he studies of aesthetic characteristics of cities must go beyond concern only for the design of some of their parts, such as boulevards, parks and civic centers (p. 95). Since a city is a continuum of sensory expe- rience (p. 98), which is similar to the nature, visual perceptions of the urban landscapes deserve explicit scholarly attention. Along these lines, Weber, Schnier, and Jacobsen (2008) found that Vege- tation, Stylistic uniformity, Homogeneity of Scale, and Symmetry were the principal predictors for streetscape preference. A group of other predictors have also been empirically assessed and validated as in uencing aesthetic judgment in city settings: Vegetation (e.g. Cackowski & Nasar, 2003; Galindo & Rodriguez, 2000 ), Novelty and Typicality ( Hekkert, Sneldels, & van Wieringen, 2003; Nasar, 1994 ), Order ( Nasar, 1998 ) and the interplay between Order and Complexity ( Kaplan, 1982 ), Spaciousness (e.g. Horayangkura, 1978 ), and Maintenance and Upkeep ( Nasar, 1994 ). Acknowledging the connection of urban landscape aesthetics to natural landscape appreciation, Ittelson (1978) argued for a different approach towards understanding an urban experience which involves the analysis of the city as a source of information and psychological process of this information. The process

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approach is expected to result in unique phenomenological expe- riences for the observers and such experiences would largely attest to their aesthetic judgment and preference. Despite the call for phenomenological exploration of aesthetic experience in the city settings, this line of research has not received continued attention.

2.3. Summary

Table 1 presents a summary of the reviewed research streams, highlighting insights that informed the current study. Philosophy, particularly the branch of aesthetics, established the subjectivity of aesthetic judgment while emphasizing the unique nature of envi- ronment appreciation. Environmental psychology and urban design research attest to the cognitive processes behind the nature and urban landscape appreciation. Additionally, literature in gen- eral management indicates that, in the era of experience economy, product aesthetics possesses critical implications for strategic marketing and management. In the case of service encounters, aesthetic judgment in uences perceived quality and satisfaction, which in turn affects behavioral intentions. Although destination management research has yet to zoom into the aesthetic compo- nent of tourism experience, for long it has considered beautiful scenery to be an attribute of a destination. As such, aesthetics could be in uential in destination choice, image formation, and overall satisfaction. Taken as a whole, the insights derived from these research streams contribute to conceptual understanding of the role of aesthetics in experiencing as well as managing a tourism destination.

3. Objectives

As the literature review demonstrated, aesthetic judgment in a destination setting deserves closer scrutiny in its own rights because a destination is different from transaction-based business settings. A destination experience necessitates tourists bodily and mental immersion, engagement and appreciation of non-routine environments and thus entails a much more holistic and global judgment. Such judgment may not be in conformity with the

aesthetic appreciation in visual arts or generic product/service design. On the other hand, aesthetic attributes of vacation desti-

nations are an integral part of destination image formation and overall satisfaction with tourism experience, leading to destination choice and revisit intentions. Understanding this aspect of tourism experience could provide invaluable insights into the process of aesthetic appraisal and allow practitioners to manage destinations more strategically. Despite the theoretical and practical importance

of aesthetics in tourism, tourist aesthetic judgment has rarely been

conceptually elaborated nor has it been empirically investigated; the questions of how and why tourists may judge a destination as beautiful remain under-explored. Tourism experience can be a unique aesthetic experience because an individual is physically relocated and immersed into a setting that could be drastically different from his or her everyday environment. The current study aimed at understanding how and why tourists nd certain aspects of vacation destinations to be beautiful. Speci cally, it attempted to reveal the dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment of both nature-based and urban desti- nations. It should be noted that the goal was to uncover the general dimensions of aesthetic judgment of destinations rather than to compare and contrast the dimensions between the nature-based and urban settings.

4. Method

In-depth personal interview was used for data collection. This research adopted a qualitative approach with the goal of obtaining

a rich and in-depth understanding of tourist aesthetic judgment.

Previous research has been inconclusive about whether individual socio-demographic characteristics predict aesthetic preference. For

example, Van den Berg et al. (1998) reported no signi cant effect of personal factors on general aesthetic judgment, while other re- searchers found that age, social class ( Howley, 2011 ), and gender ( Strumse, 1996; Yabiku, Casagrande, & Farley-Metzger, 2008 ) may

in uence landscape preferences. Since aesthetic judgment entails

the joint outcome of a multitude of factors ( Liu, 2003 , p. 1277), a

theoretical sampling technique was employed in order to include

Table 1 A summary of research streams.

Research stream

Representative works

Contributing ideas


Hume (1757/2013) Kant (1790/1987) Leder, Belke, Oebrest, & Augustin (2004) Berleant (2005) Silvia and Barona (2009) Appleton (1975) Kaplan (1987) Van den Berg et al. (1998)


Subjective nature of aesthetic judgment


Idea of disinterestedness


Unlike aesthetic emotion, aesthetic judgment can be assessed in social science


Round and symmetric objects are judged as more beautiful


Environmental aesthetics implies complete immersion into an object of appreciation



Aesthetic judgment is a cognitive process



Four domain of predictors of preferences for natural environments: Complexity, Mystery, Coherence, Legibility



Prospect-refuge theory


Environmental preferences vary according to user groups

Urban design

Williams (1954) Ittelson (1978) Weber et al. (2008)


City as a multisensory experience


Urban experience implies a psychological processing of information


Vegetation, Stylistic uniformity, Scale and Symmetry as predictors of preferences for urban landscapes

General management

Holbrook and Zirlin (1985) Baker et al. (1994) Pine and Gilmore (1998) Charters (2006) Bitner (1992) Lovelock and Wirtz (2004) Liu and Jang (2009) Um and Crompton (1990) Echtner and Ritchie (1991) Oh et al. (2007)


Aesthetic products range from those of minimal aesthetic qualities to entirely aesthetic


Aesthetic quality is an important aspect of consumptive experiences


Aesthetics is one of the dimensions of experience economy


Product design as manifestation of aesthetics

Service management


Aesthetics affects perceived service quality, satisfaction, and thus behavioral intentions


Aesthetics in uences perception of overall service experience

Tourism destination


Aesthetics as a destination attribute



Beautiful scenery as a factor in the destination choice process


Aesthetics contributes to overall satisfaction with tourism experience



Aesthetics could lend to image formation


K. Kirillova et al. / Tourism Management 42 (2014) 282e 293

perspectives of individuals from a variety of socio-demographic background ( Strauss & Corbin, 1990 ). Theoretical sampling is the process of data collection whereby the researcher simultaneously collects, codes and analyzes data in order to decide what data to collect next ( Coyne, 1997, p. 625). This sampling technique is not concerned with population representa- tion; rather, it is intended to contribute to developing codes and emergent theory ( Becker, 1993 ). As the data collection and analysis progressed, individuals from under-sampled groups were further recruited to yield a nal sample re ecting perspectives of various socio-demographic clusters. This process continued until theoret- ical saturation was reached ( Sandelowski, 1995 ). As a result, the nal sample consisted of 57 individuals, of which 24 (42.1%) were males and 33 (57.9%) were females. The average age of respondents was 32 years old. The respondents educational background was distributed as follows: 37 have high school diplomas, two have an Associate degree, nine have a Bachelor s degree, three have a Master s degree, and six have a Ph.D. degree. It should be noted that cultural background could in uence aesthetic judgment. For instance, Asian people tend to perceive objects and landscapes holistically while Americans are more analytical in information processing ( Nisbett, 2003 ). To obtain consistent data for aesthetic judgment, this study focused on respondents of the U.S. descent. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by the rst and second authors from November 2012 to March 2013 in a Mid- western city of the U.S. Each interview lasted 20 min on average. First, interviewees general background information such as age and education was solicited. Second, as indicated in the literature review, although beauty of a destination cannot be considered a single proxy for satisfaction, it does contribute to overall satisfac- tion with tourism experience. Thus, interviewees were asked to recall one most beautiful nature-based destination and one most beautiful urban destination they had visited and rate their satis- faction with their experiences on a scale from 0 to 100%. Such a scale is associated with the standard grading system in the U.S. educational institutions and thus is deemed as closely related to respondents cognitive evaluation style. Third, the interviewees were probed to further explain in depth why they found the des- tinations beautiful. Finally, they were requested to recall and explain the ugliest (or least beautiful) aspects of the destination in order to cross-validate the information provided in the previous responses. Since membership checking was not logistically possible, the information received during the interviews was repeated back to the respondents to ensure its accuracy and elim- inate possibilities for multiple interpretations. All interviews were audio-recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Data analysis consisted of a two-stage process. At the rst stage, the data were subjected to thematic analysis in which the themes were identi ed within the explicit meanings of the data ( Braun & Clarke, 2006 ). Thematic analysis resembles content analysis but pays greater attention to the qualitative aspects of the material analysed( Joffe & Yardley, 2004 , p. 56). The six-step process for thematic data analysis advocated by Braun and Clarke (2006) was utilized in this research. First, the authors familiarized themselves with the data, jotted down initial ideas for coding, and discussed the possible patterns. In accordance with the nature of an inductive approach, no prede ned categories were imposed on the data. Second, the rst author analyzed half of the data while the second author scrutinized the rest of the data for initial coding. The third author acted as an auditor to verify both the process and the initial results of data coding ( Lincoln & Guba, 1985 ). The authors collec- tively discussed and reached consensus on the proposed codes. It should be noted that in this particular study, the term code is replaced by dimension as the latter better serves as a unit of aesthetic judgment which seems to involve a spectrum anchored

by opposite points, as demonstrated in the nature of aesthetic judgment (beautiful-ugly). Third, when all data were coded into dimensions, the researchers discussed the viability of certain di- mensions, re-coded when necessary, and examined potential themes. Fourth, the researchers collectively reviewed the initial themes and underlying dimensions for internal homogeneity and external heterogeneity both at the level of coded data extracts and the entire data set. Fifth, all authors nalized the themes. Sixth, the authors discussed the strategies for writing up the scholarly report, with attention paid to selection of quotes to illustrate the uncov- ered dimensions and themes. When disagreements among the researchers arose during the thematic analysis process, the re- searchers gathered and discussed the evidences pro and contra a certain dimension or theme until consensus was reached. For example, the dimension Colorful - Dull was originally allocated to the theme Diversity by one of the researchers. When the raw data for this dimension were further reviewed, it was agreed that this dimension was better suited to the theme Scale. The second stage of data analysis involved calculation of fre- quencies in order to assess the relative importance of the di- mensions and themes established during the rst stage ( Creswell, 2008 ). For example, if a respondent mentioned that a destination was beautiful because of its modern architectural style, a frequency of one was recorded on the Modern-Historic dimension.

5. Results and discussion

5.1. Dimensions of aesthetic judgment

Interviewees reported their travel experiences with 30 different nature-based destinations that ranged from such international destinations as Tibet and Maldives to such domestic vacation sites as Florida Keys and Upper Michigan counties. The majority of the interviewees (81.82%) visited nature-based destinations for the rst time and enjoyed them to a great extent (97.11%). Twenty-ve ur- ban destinations were discussed by the interviewees, varying from such international destinations as Beijing and Prague to domestic cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. In the case of urban des- tinations, for most respondents (72.73%), it was their rst visit, and they enjoyed those destinations to a substantial degree (72.7%). Data analysis revealed 21 dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment which were further organized into nine themes: Scale, Time, Con- dition, Sound, Balance, Diversity, Novelty, Shape, and Uniqueness. Scale, Time, and Condition are the three most frequently discussed themes.

5.1.1. Scale First, tourists seem to form their aesthetic judgment of a destination based on the Scale of the place. Speci cally, such di- mensions as Colorful e Dull , Grand e Quaint , Presence of people e Absence of people, Abundance e Scarcity, and Openness e Narrowness pertain to characteristics related to the physical magnitude of a vacation destination. Colorful e Dull refers to intensity of colors in a destination while Grand e Quaint attests to physical proportions of a place. Presence of people e Absence of people indicates the degree of crowdedness, Abundance-Scarcity connotes the amount of visual cues in the environment, and Openness e Narrowness demonstrates the importance of spatial characteristics of a destination. Only one dimension ( Openness e Narrowness ) has been previously explored in environmental psychology ( Coeterier, 1996; Strumse, 1994 ). Among the dimensions identi ed within the theme, Colorful e Dull seems to be the most commonly addressed. Tourists generally judge colorful and vibrant sceneries and features as beautiful, as illustrated by the account of a 20-year old male: When I say beautiful, I mean really vibrant color in the water and you can see it very clear, vibrant,

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vibrantly colored. At the same time, some travelers tend to consider dark-colored features as beautiful, as exempli ed by The water was dark and calm, almost like glass but you couldn t see through (male, 62). Such diversity in judgments exists across nature-based and urban destinations.

5.1.2. Time

The second theme Time consists of such dimensions as Mod- ern e Historic and Young e Old . While the former dimension refers to the physical attributes of a place, the latter relates to the age of other individuals observed at the destination. Modern e Historic appears to be a more prominent dimension. Although the degree of being modern or historic seems to be shared as an important cri- terion for aesthetic judgment, whether or not one is preferred over the other appears to vary among interviewees. Some tourists appreciate the beauty of the destination because of its historic

aspect, as testied by a 21-year old female who visited Chicago:

It s kinda old architecture, old stone, and the area around it, too. There is just like . old historic feeling to it. So, and that s really pretty that the city could keep it like that for so long, too, and not like modernize everything.

Other interviewees, however, perceive a destination as beautiful if it appears to be ultra-modern. For example, a 19-year old female noted, I like all the modern design in the city, especially those facilitated by technology. I don t like backwardness. Not surpris- ingly, this dimension was generally discussed as a criterion for the beauty of urban destinations.

5.1.3. Condition

Dimensions under the third theme Condition mainly pertain to the state of physical features of vacation destinations. Clean e Dirty attests to the perceived hygienic conditions at a destination while Well-maintained-Run-down emphasizes the importance of upkeep of its physical attributes. Such dimensions have been noted previously in the literature of urban aesthetics ( Galindo & Hidalgo, 2005; Nasar, 1994 ). Clean e Dirty seems to be the most salient dimension in interviewees aesthetic judgments. It attests to a destination s ability to not only maintain a litter-free environment but also manage features that do not appear as clean such as homeless people, stray animals, and poor air quality. Negative comments regarding visible trash on the ground as being the least beautiful aspect of a tourist destination seem to be more prominent in cases of nature-based destinations. This is not surprising since people do not expect to see traces of human activity in natural settings and thus litter is perceived dirtier than in cases of urban

destinations. This dimension echoes the notion of Naturalness ( Scott, 2002 ) in that tourists traveling to nature-based destinations expect to see a landscape untouched by human activity. It also re- lates to the dimension of Human touch e No human touch in the theme Balance as travelers tend to judge nature-based attractions as more beautiful if no evident human element is present.

5.1.4. Sound

In addition to visual stimuli, tourists also judge the aesthetics of destinations based on auditory perceptions. The fourth theme Sound contains such dimensions as Lively e Peaceful , Nature- made e Human-made , and Loud e Quiet. The Lively e Peaceful dimen- sion shows that tourists form aesthetic judgments based on the pace of sounds heard at a destination while Nature-made e Human-made and Loud e Quiet illuminate the importance of source and volume of these auditory cues. These dimensions are unique to tourism aes- thetics, implying full immersion into the surrounding environment on the part of the tourists ( Berleant, 2005 ). It is noteworthy that

Lively e Peaceful and Loud e Quiet attest to different modes of sound perception and are not mutually exclusive. For instance, a 55-year old female describes her experience at Niagara Falls as:

The sheer force of the water is pretty awe inspiring. If you go out in one of the boats at the bottom you can get a pretty good perspective of how powerful they are. The noise is unbelievable but not scary or anything, just impressive and kinda peaceful.

5.1.5. Balance

Tourists also judge the beauty of a destination along the di- mensions Human-touche No human touch, Authentic e Arti cial , and Cohesive e Out of place , collectively forming the fth theme Bal- ance.Overall, this theme demonstrates the appropriateness of experiential cues to an environment. Speci cally, Human touch e No human touch relates to the suitability of visual cues to the setting. The presence of human-in uenced elements contributes to the beauty of urban destinations while viewed as ugly in the nature setting. As a 40-year old male noted about his travel experience to the U.S. beach destination: you have one beautiful natural scenery in one direction and a parking lot in the other. The Authentic e Arti cial dimension relates to the extent of perceived integrity of a destination to its intrinsic properties while Cohesive e Out of place refers to overall cohesiveness, or uid ow, of visual cues at a destination. This theme has been previously explored in environmental psychology, as testi ed by equivalent terms such as Harmony ( Galindo & Hidalgo, 2005 ) and Compatibility ( Kaplan et al., 1989 ).

5.1.6. Diversity

The dimension Diverse e Alike , comprising the sixth theme Di- versity, indicates the variety of visual and other experiential cues during the tourism experience. Regardless of the destination type, Diverse e Alike is a dimension commonly discussed and most trav- elers consider diverse settings more beautiful. For example, the interview with a 51-year-old male discloses that:

The reason I chose Hawaii over some other areas that I found particularly beautiful, mountains with snow, lakes, and . is because Hawaii has just about everything. Although I didn t experience snow in Hawaii, it does snow and you can ski in Hawaii. It has mountains, it has lush tropical gardens and owers, it has beautiful ocean. Ocean has varying colors. For instance, if you go in summer, it looks green, almost brown water.

This theme is related to Kaplan et al. s (1989) Complexity ; how- ever, in Kaplan s matrix, Complexity also accounts for ne and so- phisticated aspects of an environment in addition to the diverse aspect. It is worth mentioning that although the preference for di- versity was addressed for both urban and natural landscapes, trav- elers did emphasize the appreciation of a harmonious combination of the diverse features. The notion of balance closely resembles Kaplan et al. s (1989) Cohesiveness and, along with Complexity, are two of the dimensions in his matrix that appear to be prominent in tourist aesthetic judgment. A 20-year old male explained:

Seattle is beautiful because of the combination of different things. I get to see everything I want to see at the same time. There is combination of motion and stillness but they blend really well. The borders between things were harmonious. They don t seem to try to disrupt the environment.

5.1.7. Novelty

Another remarkable dimension of tourist aesthetic judgment is Novel e Typical that comprises the seventh theme Novelty and

exempli es the contrast between a familiar and a new


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environment. As noted similarly in previous research, novelty and typicality are joint predictors for aesthetics judgment ( Hekkert, Snelders, & van Wieringen, 2003 ). The sense of place identity can contribute to individuals aesthetic judgment, meaning that familiar places and landscapes tend to be perceived as more beautiful ( McAndrew, 1998; Twigger-Ross & Uzzell, 1996 ). Thus, these researchers have advocated the notions of congruency and continuity in aesthetic judgment of a place. From the tourists perspective, however, it appears that novelty plays an important role in aesthetic judgment. Tourists consider novel, never-before- seen aspects of a destination as more beautiful than familiar landscape. This can be best illustrated in a 21-year old female s account of her Caribbean trip:

I guess when I think that something is beautiful, I think of something that is not my everyday life, andI feel that every day is something that is very routine. In Indiana, the same stuff is everywhere, so. something new and peaceful. Thats, I guess, thats my denition of beauty, just relaxing, peaceful. I don t like the cold, I don t like snow, so anything that s like tropical and warm is like gorgeous, so yeah. down there it was not like my everyday life, it wasn t like . it wasn t like traveling to Florida or something . its still pretty,

but down therewe

had a car but we didn t need it to go out to places, we kind of walked

everywhere, and being right on a beach was just gorgeous . just being able to do stuff you dont get to do everyday-like we got to go snorkeling, paddle boating and . so, it was just absolutely gorgeous.

but. its still pretty kind of like every day in a way

5.1.8. Shape

The eighth theme Shape is relatively less prominent as none of the classic dimensions of aesthetic judgment such as Coherence, Complexity, Openness, Roundness, and Symmetry seems to play a major role in tourist aesthetic judgment. This may again attest to the uniqueness of aesthetic judgment by tourists who are relocated and immersed in an atypical environment for an unusual experi- ence. The aesthetic experience at a tourist destination is not about visual observations only; instead, it engages all ve senses in the process of aesthetic judgment. Therefore, tourists are receptive to other perceptual cues of a destination, and such classic dimensions

as Round e Angular, Symmetric e Asymmetric , and Sophisticated e Simplistic become less central to the judgment.

5.1.9. Uniqueness

The last theme Uniqueness suggests that tourist aesthetic judgment appear to depend on whether the destination possesses uniquely identi able features, along the Unique e Ordinary dimen- sion. Destinations with unique features tend to be perceived as beautiful and therefore possess a pull motivation force, as posited in the push e pull theory ( Dann, 1981 ). This nding is not surprising, given that novelty-seeking has been acknowledged as a funda- mental motive that prompts tourists ( Krippendorf, 1987 ). While the themes Uniqueness and Novelty may appear related, they are dis- cussed quite differently by the interviewees. Uniqueness refers to a destination s feature that makes the place distinctively identi able. For example, several respondents indicated that Chicago Gate, known as the Bean, did not convey much aesthetic value on its own but it was unique to Chicago and therefore beautiful as a landmark attraction. Novelty, on the other hand, attests to those properties of a destination that are original and never experienced before by a tourist. Therefore, Uniqueness is relatively objective whereas Novelty, as the opposite of familiarity, is more subjective and varies among tourists. For instance, if a person grew up in a tropic island, he or she may perceive snowy mountain slopes as beautiful, more so than tourists from mountainous areas. This point is well illustrated by a 51-year old male s account:

Trees. the trees that really impressed me . made the biggest impression on me were the trees we saw around some waterfalls. They had these, I call them the roots dropping from the branches , they were very tall trees but they had these . they looked like binds that would go all the way down to the ground. Just once again, different unique to me, to my experience, if you grew up next to them, they are not, but they are unique to me. Yeah, these trees made the biggest impression on me but there were many different trees. fruit trees, there are many, but these are particularly memorable.

It is worth noting that the interviewee utilizes the word unique to refer to the more subjective uniqueness which is better classi ed as Novelty. As an innate pursuit of tourists, novelty- seeking has been an important theoretical construct in explaining travel motivation and destination choice behavior ( Cohen, 1979b ). The desire for Novelty bears practical implications for destination management. Since the perceived level of novelty is relatively subjective and varies by tourists, destination planners should take into consideration the effect of geographic or cultural distance when attempting to identify and segment markets. New tourism products or services should be developed and marketed, for instance on a seasonal base, to enhance the appeal of the destina- tion by attracting novelty seekers. Table 2 depicts the dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment along with their frequencies. Additionally, Fig. 1 graphically pre- sents the above results. In marketing philosophies and practices, product has been portrayed as bundles of attributes (e.g. Engel, Blackwell & Kollat, 1978 ). Also, the possible presence of interactions among the attri- butes may in uence consumers response to the outside stimulus ( Holbrook & Moore, 1981 ). Translated into the tourism context where the product contains both tangible and intangible aspects, the judgment and appreciation of a destination tends to be expe- riential and holistic in nature. This may render the previously established dimensions of aesthetic judgment imperfectly trans- ferrable. The current study showed that respondents often linked the beauty of a tourism destination to other domains of life such as religion, history, poverty, safety, lifestyle, and other experiential dimensions of destination experience such as friendliness of local people. For example, inviting atmosphere, historical past, conve- niently located hotels, and a variety of activities in which a tourist can participate were frequently mentioned as contributor to the beauty of a destination. While these aspects do not directly attest to aesthetic judgment per se , they illustrate the multifaceted nature of tourism experience. Since tourism experience can be understood as a service experience that involves delicate interplay between the experience of and satisfaction with leisure and tourism activities ( Otto & Ritchie, 1996 , p. 167), a successfully managed tourism experience should engage not only the key aesthetic cues, but also other experiential aspects at the destination.

5.2. A framework of tourist aesthetic judgment

Although the identi ed themes appear to be distinct from each other, a closer examination suggests that they do share underlining commonalities. Speci cally, the themes could be organized into a two-dimensional plane along two continuums: Concrete e Abstract and Subjective e Objective (see Fig. 2 ). One could interpret the themes along the Concrete e Abstract dimension as from being easily manipulated on a physical level (Concrete) to requiring higher order manipulation strategies (Abstract). The Subjective e Objective dimension runs from the dimensions that are subject to interpersonal variance (Subjective) to those relatively more

K. Kirillova et al. / Tourism Management 42 (2014) 282 e293

Table 2 Frequency of themes and dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment.






Scale total:


Diversity total:


Colorful e Dull (intensity of color) Grand e Quaint (physical proportion) Presence of People e Absence of People (degree of crowdedness) Abundance e Scarcity (amount of visual cues) Openness e Narrowness (spatial characteristics) Time total:


Diverse e Alike (variety of visual and other cues) Novelty total:





Novel e Typical (contrast of familiar and new environment) Shape total:





Sophisticated e Simplistic (degree of complexity) Round e Angular (shape of visual cues) Symmetric e Asymmetric (degree of symmetry of visual cues) Uniqueness total:




Modern e Historic (perceived age of a destination) Young e Old (perceived age of people observed) Condition total:






Unique e Ordinary (amount of uniquely identi able features)


Clean e Dirty (perceived hygienic condition) Well-kept e Run-down (upkeep of physical attributes) Sound total:




Lively e Peaceful (pace of sound) Human-made e Nature-made (source of sound) Loud e Quiet (volume of sound) Balance total:





Human touch e No human touch (suitability of visual cues to setting) Authentic e Arti cial (extent of perceived integrity) Cohesive e Out of place ( ow of visual cues)




universally agreed (Objective). The quadrants are designated to demonstrate the relative nature and directions of the major themes in tourist aesthetic judgment. An important distinction should be made. The Objective anchor of the continuum connotes the ease of arriving to a similar judgment by people of distinct backgrounds. It still attests to the subjectivity of aesthetic judgment as proposed by the cognitive approach, rather than an objective nature of the judgment. It should be noted that the framework and positions of the themes were proposed as a result of elaborate discussions among the researchers and therefore are not absolute. Since the conceptualization entails researcherssubjective assessment of the data, it requires further empirical validation. The judgment of the Uniqueness and Scale of the destinations has been established more from an objective and abstract perspective (Quadrant I). When respondents discussed their aesthetic judgments under the two themes, they tended to refer to the destination qualities that are easy to observe and dif cult to be

modi ed. The dimensions constituting these themes are not as easy to be manipulated at the physical level. Unique e Ordinary under the theme of Uniqueness and Colorful e Dark under the theme of Scale are examples of such. For example, it would not be appropriate for New York City to change its aesthetic quality from grand to quaint. It is possible, however, for destinations to augment their unique- ness. For instance, local festivals, special events, landmark buildings and monument could enhance the sense of place and thus its uniqueness. On the other end, Balance, Novelty, and Diversity are more of subjective conception of the destination aesthetics and in the meanwhile abstract. Similar to Quadrant I, the themes in quadrant II were elaborated by the respondents from an abstract perspective, as exempli ed in Novel e Typical and Diverse e Alike . However, due to the subjective nature, these themes are not as easy for manipulation on a physical level and require higher order manipulation techniques such as careful implementation of mar- keting segmentation. By utilizing geographical segmentation, for

mar- keting segmentation. By utilizing geographical segmentation, for Fig. 1. Dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment.

Fig. 1. Dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment.


K. Kirillova et al. / Tourism Management 42 (2014) 282e 293

Kirillova et al. / Tourism Management 42 (2014) 282 e 293 Fig. 2. A framework of

Fig. 2. A framework of tourist aesthetic judgment.

instance, it is possible to target tourists driven by novelty in order to maximize the possibility for positive aesthetic judgment. Similarly, psychographic segmentation could reach individuals with the po- tential to have positive aesthetic judgment in Balance and Diversity. Younger tourists, for instance, could favor a greater degree of di- versity than more mature travelers. Quadrants III and IV, while differ on the Subjective e Objective continuum, are of similar nature when it comes to the level of abstraction. Quadrant III presents the theme (Time) that could be manipulated and altered to suite the expectations of potential tourists, although such manipulations still require knowledge of the subjective assessment of tourists. At the same time, both Modern e Historic and Young e Old were spoken of in a concrete way with examples such as building features and site-speci c factors at the destinations. Thus, if a destination wishes to appear more modern, cobblestone instead of asphalt could be utilized to nish the main streets. Sound, Shape and Condition in destinations have been discussed objectively, too, but from a relatively more concrete standpoint. Similar to quadrant I, the themes in quadrant IV attest to relatively objectiveness but are associated with richer diversity of aesthetic judgment among tourists and the abstract nature of these dimensions. For example, Human-made e Nature-made under the theme of Sound and Symmetric e Asymmetric under the theme of Shape testify to the objectivity and concreteness in respondents aesthetic judgment. The themes in this quadrant are the easiest to manipulate since well-maintained destination s attributes of classic shapes and pleasant sounds are generally preferred.

6. Conclusion

The current study unearths a new understanding of what makes a destination beautiful by dissecting the dimensions of tourist aesthetic judgment. As a pioneering attempt, it makes theoretical contribution to the existing knowledge base of aes- thetics literature. Based on ndings from 57 in-depth interviews, this study identi ed and presented nine themes of aesthetic judgment of tourist destination. They are Scale, Time, Condition, Sound, Balance, Diversity, Novelty, Shape, and Uniqueness. A theoretical framework of tourist aesthetic judgment was proposed, with the identi ed themes plotted along two continuums based on their theoretical relevance: Abstract e Concrete and Subjective e Objective. Included in the nine themes are a variety of dimensions that pertain to both nature-based and urban destinations and do not replicate the existing, classic aesthetic dimensions previously discovered in general aesthetics literature. This suggests that tourism allows a unique appreciator-object dyad where in- dividuals are immersed in a setting in pursuit of an unusual, non-

routine experience. As such, tourist aesthetic judgment is distinct from classic aesthetic assessment in art works where the appreci- ator is a purely outside observer of the objects. The beauty of tourism destination is uniquely judged, admired, and appreciated. Tourist assessment of the beauty goes beyond the visual aspects, and engages all senses. This stance coincides well with Urry s (2002) argument which posited that tourist experience involves a variety of sensescapes, including soundscapes, smellscapes, taste- capes, and touch, in addition to the conventional conception of tourist gaze and sightseeing. Although it was not the goal of this study to compare and contrast aesthetic judgment of nature-based and urban destina- tions, this research indirectly explored the dimensions of aesthetic judgment in the context of both nature and urban tourist destina-

tions. All the identi ed themes appear to be equally salient in both contexts. Nevertheless, while tourists employ the same dimensions in their aesthetic judgment, they seem to apply different criteria across different destination types. In the Presence of people e Absence of people dimension, for instance, interviewees tend to assign a greater aesthetic value to nature-based places with little human presence. To the contrary, urban destinations are perceived as less beautiful if they are not populous. In a nature-based setting, quiet and peaceful sound originated from a natural source (e.g. owing water, birds, animals, etc.) and pristine scenery without visible traces of human activity (a me and nature wilderness experience) is considered as more beautiful. In an urban environ- ment, lively human-made sounds, sophisticated layouts, and presence of human activity are perceived as beautiful because they add to the image of an urban place. This distinction between natural and urban destination is presented here as an emergent nding since the nature of collected data did not provide a basis for sys- tematic comparison between the two. The ndings of this study also bear pragmatic implications for the planning, branding, and management of destination experi- ence. Marketing of sensory experiences, which include attractive visual and other stimuli, can contribute to an organization or a brand s identity ( Schmitt & Simonson, 2009 ). Although to various degrees, tourism destinations can be considered to be aesthetic products, and, as such, they facilitate experiential consumption. Similar to aesthetics in the service environment, tourism aesthetics

is an important value-added component in tourism experience and

may serve as a major satis er of tourist experiential needs. Tourism aesthetics may also exert in uence over long-term attitudinal and behavioral attributes of tourists, such as loyalty. The aesthetic judgment dimensions uncovered can form the basis of a potentially valuable toolkit for destination planning, marketing and manage- ment. For example, an aesthetic-laden strategic approach can accentuate the identity of the destination and create unique posi- tioning among competitors. In a market saturated with similar

destination experience offerings, the strategic implications of tourism aesthetics need to be factored into marketers branding and marketing considerations. This study also found that although tourists utilize classical and previously explored dimensions while executing aesthetic judgments, the dimensions that are uniquely pertinent to the tourism experience appear to be more in uential

in their aesthetic grati cation. Speci cally, the dimensions related to scale and sound, uniqueness, perceived authenticity, and time of

a destination appear to be more important than the dimensions

related to shape, cohesiveness, and complexity. At a more abstract level, it seems that more experiential themes such as Diversity, Novelty, Sound, Uniqueness, Scale, and Time are particularly salient in tourism aesthetics as compared to environmental aesthetics. This and other ndings provide direct implication for destination management practices. Although the statement of all perceptions start with the eye holds true in general aesthetic research ( Schmitt

K. Kirillova et al. / Tourism Management 42 (2014) 282 e293


& Simonson, 2009 , p. 85), a variety of multifaceted sensory expe- riences seem to be involved in tourism. Overall, the proposed nine-theme, two-dimension framework lays the groundwork for a better understanding of tourist aesthetic judgment in both nature-based and urban destinations, and accordingly facilitate the formulation of effective marketing stra- tegies, including product development, brand communication messages, and market segmentation. Since tourism experience in essence involves our aesthetic or sensual existence ( Quan & Wang, 2004 ) and such aesthetic experience is closely linked to tourists overall satisfaction as suggested by our ndings, destination plan- ners need to understand the speci cities of consumer judgment of what is beautiful when designing and packaging tourism expe- rience. General marketing practices have focused on isolated at- tributes and bene ts, due to the lack of a broad consideration of brand positioning ( Schmitt & Simonson, 2009 ). Guided by the two-

dimensional framework, destination managers could cater to the full spectrum of tourists aesthetic enjoyment while crafting and implementing marketing strategies. While destinations are increasingly perceived as undifferentiated due to their typical of- ferings, aesthetics can become a key differentiating element in the competitive market. By satisfying tourist aesthetic and experiential needs, destinations can establish a powerful point of differentiation

to produce desirable customer impressions.

The framework also offers guidance for tourism destination planning when deciding how to maximize key visual and other perceptual cues that are favorable to aesthetic judgments, and

minimize the distracting elements. Since aesthetic judgments are

in essence subjective, tourism planners should carefully evaluate

potential target markets in terms of how background charac- teristics could in uence judgments of destination s aesthetic qualities. This information needs to be reconciled with the des- tination s tourism attraction inventory, and the conclusion of whether the aesthetic qualities could result in positive aesthetic judgments should be made. If the match is not likely, destination

planners need to consider if aesthetic qualities are to be changed

or a different target market is to be selected. For instance, if the

mismatch occurs on the dimensions located in Quadrants III and

IV (Time, Condition, Shape, and Sound), a planner may choose to

modify certain aspects of the destination to cater to the prefer- ences of the target market. On the other hand, if the mismatch arises on the dimensions located in Quadrants I and II (Scale, Uniqueness, Balance, Novelty, and Diversity), it may not be feasible to change aesthetic qualities of the destination, given destination s nancial and time constraints. In such situations, selection of a different target market could be strategic. Hence, this framework can be useful for a destination to reconcile its current supply with potential demand so as to improve tourist experience quality while sustaining a competitive advantage of this destination. The value of the ndings extends beyond the tourism domain. The results contribute to the existing literature in environmental psychology by establishing how aesthetic judgments are made under new and less familiar environmental conditions. Given that this study identi ed several dimensions not previously found in the literature and noted that the beauty of home environment is closely associated with residents satisfaction and quality of life ( Widgery, 1982 ), psychologists may nd it important to determine the roles of these dimensions in residents aesthetic judgments. Additionally, the current results could inform research in leisure studies as one does not have to travel far from home to have an aesthetic expe- rience. For example, providing diverse and unique recreational environments within the same geographical locale (urban or na- ture) could augment restorative properties of recreational activities

and thus improve residents quality of life.

6.1. Limitations and future research

Like other studies, this research is not free of limitations. First, the presented results are derived utilizing a theoretical sample. While every attempt was made to diversify the sample, it is still possible that certain dimensions did not emerge in this research but are still of great importance in tourist aesthetic judgment. Second, as suggested by Hume (1757/2013) , aesthetic judgment is not only in essence subjective but also highly dependent on cultural background of an appreciator. With the focus on the U.S. re- spondents, the study did not consider cross-cultural issues of aesthetic judgment. Additionally, as an exploratory study, it neither accounted for personal and socio-demographic characteristics of the respondents nor investigated travel motivation and behavior. Finally, the conceptual framework is developed based on explor- atory inquiry and therefore it requires further empirical validation, particularly, more rigorous examination of relative positioning of the themes along the continuums. Nonetheless, this framework of tourist aesthetic judgment represents an initial conceptualization of what constitutes aesthetic judgment of tourism destinations. Future research is invited to validate and extend the dimensions identi ed in this study, across different cultures and/or in different market segments. Speci cally, aesthetic judgment could be linked to such outcome variables as satisfaction, revisit intentions, and destination choice. It would be also of interest to investigate how aesthetic judgment in uences travel motivation and behavior across various socio-demographic segments. Another avenue for further research is to establish conceptual and empirical relation- ships between aesthetic judgment and destination image. Future studies are encouraged to engage in systematic comparison of aesthetic judgments of nature-based and urban destinations to validate and expand the preliminary results emerged in this study. With availability of funding, researchers could utilize quasi- experimental design to establish causal relationship between destination attributes and aesthetic judgment in both types of destinations. Additionally, empirical validations are needed to see if certain dimensions are perceived with higher importance in tour- ists decision making and/or more readily applicable in actual marketing practices. Finally, developing a scale to measure perceived aesthetic qualities of destinations would be a logical next step in future research.


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of Product Innovation Management, 11 (4), 309 e 324 . Ksenia Kirillova is a Ph.D. student

Ksenia Kirillova is a Ph.D. student in the School of Hospitality and TourismManagement at Purdue University. She also holds a B.S. andM.S. degreesinhospitality and tourismmanagement from the University of New Orleans. Her research interests include tourism experience and hosteguest relationship.

include tourism experience and host e guest relationship. 293 Xiaoxiao Fu is a Ph. D. candidate
include tourism experience and host e guest relationship. 293 Xiaoxiao Fu is a Ph. D. candidate
include tourism experience and host e guest relationship. 293 Xiaoxiao Fu is a Ph. D. candidate


Xiaoxiao Fu is a Ph. D. candidate in the School of Hospi- tality and Tourism Management at Purdue University. Her research interests include consumptive behavior and experience in tourism and hospitality.

Xinran Y. Lehto is an associate professor of hospitality and tourism management at Purdue University. Prior to her academic appointments, Dr. Lehto spent 6 years working in the travel and tourism industry as a mar- keting executive. Dr. Lehto s research addresses how destinations can effectively market experience-based vacation products to unique segments such as family travelers. Much of her work is concerned with devel- oping understanding of 1) how tourists interact with a destination through leisure and hospitality experiences; 2) what their motivations and images are; and 3) what personal, interpersonal and cultural factors contribute to their destination satisfaction.

Liping Cai is Professor and Director of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University. The research interests of Dr. Liping Cai include branding and consumer behavior and experience in tourism.