Mountain bikers' attitudes towards mountain biking tourism destinations
This thesis, grounded in consumer culture theory, delves into the sociocultural dynamics involved in tourist attitude content and formation. It addresses gaps in special interest tourism, sports tourism and tourist attitudes towards destinations literatures and further knowledge of mountain biking tourism, a niche, but growing, market. Qualitative methods grounded in interpretivism were used to understand how mountain bikers purposefully traveling to mountain bike tourism destinations form attitudes towards these destinations. Twenty-five mountain bikers from Wellington who qualified as serious leisure participants and had previously travelled for the primary purpose of mountain biking were interviewed. Social influence – through social ties, interactions and subcultural involvement – plays a central role in the respondents’ travel motivations and information search process, and thus influences attitude formation, strength and content. Therefore, the respondents are grouped based on centrality of mountain biking identity and subsequent desire to align with the subculture, and differences in attitude formation processes are highlighted. The respondents hold positive attitudes towards most destinations, emphasizing the need to investigate attitude strength and degree of positivity. Four main evaluative dimensions of attitudes are detailed (adventurous, natural, social and utilitarian). It is established that attitudes towards tourism destinations are (1) a qualitative evaluation of the experience anticipated or enabled rather that a quantitative appraisal of attributes, (2) continuously adjusted from the point of naïve awareness onwards, and (3) most relevant and revealing when operationalised as holistic summary evaluations rather than interrelated components. Based on an increased understanding of attitudes towards mountain biking tourism destinations, their formation and mountain biking subculture, recommendations are drawn to better design, maintain and promote sites.