PhD Student Profile: Namita Roy
School of Management, Operations & Marketing, Faculty of Business

“My PhD research focuses on understanding tourist experiences on themed routes, examples of which include Route 66, Camino De Santiago, and the Chianti wine trail. 

Themed trails or themed routes connect two or more destinations/products under a unified theme creating a distinct experience for the traveller. These trail environments are themed based on cultural or historical value that might have evolved organically over time or  have been specifically  designed  to  connect  destinations in  the  zone  of thematic  interest. 

Themed routes have been conceptualised based on managerial, planning and development perspectives.  Themed  routes  need  to  be  further  conceptualised  based  on consumer  agency  to  understand  consumer  subcultures  in  the  realm  of  dynamic and  personalised  market appropriations  of  themed  environments.” 

WHY DOES THIS INTEREST YOU?

Famous themed routes such as Route 66, Appalachian’s Trail, Hadrian’s wall and the Explorer’s Way (Stuart’s Highway) have always created a sense of adventure intertwined with the thirst of gaining knowledge about the history and the values of the local places. In a way, travelling on such routes makes you feel like a local and not as a tourist. This feeling of relating and connecting with the past and local, encouraging self-growth, was something that I could always personally relate to. Hence, this thesis became an endeavour for me to explore tourist experience on such routes and highlight the importance of value in experience for themed route planners. 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? 

Themed  routes  or  trails  are  used  as  tools  for  regional  socio-economic  development, environmental conservation and extension   of cultural networks through tourist dispersal using marketing strategies. Themed routes have been fairly studied for  planning  and development as well as marketing and management issues. 

However, these routes have scarcely been studied for consumer demand. Further, most studies suggest that themed routes are a  supply-driven initiative as a result of  innovative aggregation of supply networks, with demand parameters still unestablished. 

Viewing themed routes as a supply-driven initiative, poses a serious problem in assessing the long term viability and longevity of themed routes as sustainable regional tourism development initiatives.

DESCRIBE HOW YOU GOT HERE?

My interest in travel was ignited during my childhood travelling with my father for his work. He was an electrical contractor and used to travel by road to most unknown and non-touristy places in India. As family we would always tag along. From a very young age, I knew I wanted to travel far and see the world. The best way I figured was to do it for work, just like my father. 

I graduated in urban planning from universities in India and very soon I was employed by a Travel Market Research firm with offices in New York. I was happily travelling for conferences and work internationally. 

Soon after marriage, I started working in the field of tourism planning creating themed routes for regional councils and districts as a consultant to the local bodies. That is the first time I recognised the unrealised potential of the themed route strategy. Regional and local municipalities in India were creating themed routes to induce tourism demand in places that were unknown and non-touristy.

I was back to where I had started, but this time with an objective. I decided to learn more about themed routes and how they created demand and whether they would work as a sustainable strategy in the long term. This brought me to Australia. 

WHO OR WHAT HAS INFLUENCED YOUR RESEARCH SO FAR?

Since I started my PhD at UOW, there have been many researchers and schools of thought that have influenced my work. Primarily, my research is influenced by three main scholarships. First is the feminist post-structuralist qualitative understandings of space, place and time by feminists such as Doreen Massey and Nigel Thrift; secondly the phenomenological perspectives of tourist experience advanced by sociologists and human geographers such as John Urry and Erik Cohen; and thirdly the understandings of consumer culture and marketplace dynamics forwarded by researchers such as Eric Arnould, Russell Belk and Robert Kozinets.

YOU RECEIVED A GLOBAL CHALLENGES TRAVEL SCHOLARSHIP?

Winning the Global Challenges travel scholarship has allowed me to venture further into the academic realm of tourist experience by funding me to attend conferences and workshops and meet researchers who could give valuable feedback. I will be using this scholarship to go for the Consumer Culture Theory Qualitative Data Analysis Workshop in Los Angeles, USA. I’ll be able to meet consumer culture theory researchers and learn directly from them while analysing data I collected in the Hunter Valley.

Namita Roy is supervised by: Venkat Yanamandram, School of Management, Operations and Marketing, Faculty of Business, UOW , Gordon Waitt, School of Geography and Sustainable Communities, Faculty of Social Sciences, UOW, Ulrike Gretzel, School of Journalism, University of Southern California.