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An Empirical Investigation of Cultural Travellers’ Preferences and Behaviours in a Destination with Mixed Environmental Features


It is widely recognized that cultural tourism is a relevant economic phenomenon, but so far the determinants of cultural tourists' choices have not been explored by the economic literature in depth. The expanding notion of cultural tourism as participation to cultural experience makes difficult the characterization of this phenomenon. This paper aims at investigating cultural tourists' profiles: Once these profiles are defined, we can also try to estimate what factors affect the choice of ‘strongly motivated’ cultural tourists, using econometric analysis. The analysis is carried out using a unique database: data and information on the preferences and the behaviour of visitors in the area surrounding the Orta Lake in Italy are obtained via global positioning system (GPS) technology, which monitors the spatial-temporal flows generated by tourists, and these are combined with a questionnaire. Unlike other empirical studies carried out in destinations with only a strong cultural characterization, the mixed features of the Orta Lake (an assortment of culture, nature and sport/recreation attractions) allow carrying out an analysis with a wider scope for understanding cultural tourists’ behaviour and the connections between various types of cultural attractions.


  • Cultural tourism
  • Heritage
  • Environment
  • Global positioning system
  • Multivariate analysis

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-09096-2_17
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  1. 1.

    The tourism market has been impacted sporadically by the financial crisis affecting the world economy in 2008 and in 2009: International tourism has exhibited more volatility than its domestic counterpart and likewise business tourism more than leisure tourism (OECD 2010).

  2. 2.

    Europe accounts for 52% of international arrivals; this high share is likely to depend on the proximity of the European countries, which stimulates intra-European cross-border travels, recorded as international.

  3. 3.

    About 14% of international tourists reported travelling for business and professional purposes and another 27% travelled for various purposes, such as visiting friends and relatives, religious reasons and pilgrimages, health treatment, etc. The purpose of visit for the remaining 7% of arrivals was not specified.

  4. 4.

    Gasparino et al. (2008) provide a survey of the literature on the economic impact of tourism, identifying the main categories of impacts and the methodologies available to assess them.

  5. 5.

    Similar problems arise with the ‘wide definition’ of CT adopted by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) including all movements of persons, aimed at satisfying the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters.

  6. 6.

    There is an interesting parallelism with the enlargement of the concept of culture which has occurred in recent years and constitutes the field of cultural economics, moving from a narrow scope referring only to ‘high culture’ to include all cultural goods and services (Towse 2003).

  7. 7.

    From the supply perspective, a relevant side-effect is that the attractiveness of a region depends on its cultural assets but its capability of being competitive with other destinations depends on its ability to transform the basic inherited factors into created assets with a higher symbolic or sign value.

  8. 8.

    These definitions are based on the idea that all people visiting cultural attractions can be considered cultural tourists.

  9. 9.

    Five typologies are obtained ranging from the purposeful cultural tourist (high motivation/deep experience, at one extreme, to the incidental cultural tourist (low motivation/shallow experience).

  10. 10.

    This specialization is represented by two ‘industrial districts’—one in the field of household objects and the other in the field of plumbing and precision hydraulic systems.

  11. 11.

    On the East side of Orta Lake there is Maggiore Lake, which is the most visited tourist destination of the alpine lakes system of Piedmont. Maggiore Lake is significantly bigger than Orta Lake, is one of the more structured and mature tourist destinations both in the Piedmont region and in the North-West Italy.

  12. 12.

    There are two different provincial authorities (Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Novara), several municipalities, three mountain communities and a union of municipalities.

  13. 13.

    The Sacro Monte d’Orta is part of the system of Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, which is the typology of a devotional path recognized by the UNESCO World Heritage. For the role of UNESCO World Heritage inscription in enhancing the performance of tourism destinations see Cuccia et al. (2016; 2017).

  14. 14.

    The analysis of tourist demand has been carried out by SiTI (Higher Institute on Territorial Systems for Innovation) between 2007 and 2008 within the Project Visitors Management and Hospitality, commissioned by the Department of Tourism of the Piedmont Region.

  15. 15.

    A set of 15 motivation items was initially generated from a pilot study measuring visitor’s motivations and only 7 of the latter were considered to be appropriate for measuring visitors’ motivations in relation to the Orta Lake.

  16. 16.

    The questionnaire to elicit the respondents’ motivations uses a scale with three grades; it is important to stress that the respondent can assign the maximum evaluation to more than one option.

  17. 17.

    Among the studies conducted on sites with strong cultural characterization see Apostolakis and Jaffry (2004, 2007).

  18. 18.

    The respondent can assign the maximum evaluation to more than one option.

  19. 19.

    The differences across groups have been shown using multinomial representation of the variables (see Guccio et al. 2011).


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Correspondence to Calogero Guccio .

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Guccio, C., Levi Sacerdotti, S., Rizzo, I. (2017). An Empirical Investigation of Cultural Travellers’ Preferences and Behaviours in a Destination with Mixed Environmental Features. In: Ateca-Amestoy, V., Ginsburgh, V., Mazza, I., O'Hagan, J., Prieto-Rodriguez, J. (eds) Enhancing Participation in the Arts in the EU. Springer, Cham.

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