Researcher: Ivana Rihova
Ivana began her tourism studies in her native Czech Republic, completing a degree in Travel and Tourism Management in 2007. After spending her summers working abroad, twice in holiday resorts in Maine, USA, she moved to the Shetland Islands in Scotland to work in the tourism and hospitality sector.
After a year building on her industry experience, Ivana then returned to the world of academia to study for an MSc in International Tourism Management at Edinburgh Napier University. As part of her dissertation research Ivana undertook a qualitative study of heritage tourism and public policy in the Shetland Islands. And it was this research that formed the basis of an article she co-authored for the International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research – an accreditation that Ivana cites as her biggest academic achievement to date.
On completing her MSc in 2008 Ivana began working for a top Scottish tourist attraction and corporate events venue. “I was actively engaged in planning and delivering corporate events. This offered an excellent insight into marketing and event-related issues, and the principles behind successful marketing and branding,” she says.
Since January 2010, Ivana has been working as a Research Assistant at Edinburgh Napier’s School of Marketing, Tourism and Languages, and has been involved in a qualitative study of volunteerism in tourism and events.
This passion for events research then led Ivana to apply for a PhD studentship at the John Kent Institute in Tourism.
BU has an excellent reputation for world-class tourism research and I’m very excited about the opportunity to look at events from a marketing perspective as part of my PhD,” she says. “The topics of personal experiences, perceptions, consumer psychology and motivation are of great interest to me and I’m keen to explore these further.
She adds: “I feel very privileged to undertake a unique research project within the John Kent Institute in Tourism and I can’t wait to get started. I hope that the research I undertake at BU will help me develop myself both personally and professionally and open doors to a successful career.”
Her Research – Consumers as producers: The dimensions of consumer-to-consumer co-creation in the event experience
Over the past ten years, many authors have emphasised that western societies have moved on from the ‘service economy’ to the ‘experience economy’. The experience concept emphasises the importance of emotions and the meanings associated with these emotions. The emphasis has, thus, shifted from the technical performance of what is produced to the individual and notably the emotions and personal transformation that result from experiences. Despite the emergence of the ‘experience economy’, research within consumer experiences is still in its infancy.
From a marketing point of view, the design of products that encapsulate the features of an experience has been hampered by the limited conceptual understanding of what leads to a good experience. The general contention is that experiences result from an individual’s interaction with stimuli, which can be divided into three catagories: the setting, the staff and other participants. While research from an experience point of view is scarce in relation to these three categories, the first two types of stimuli have been the focus of past research through the concept of service quality. The third category has been much less researched, despite its critical importance in the experience of certain product categories such as events and festivals.
Unlike many other products, events are consumed by groups of people who come together to celebrate; honour; discuss; sell; teach about; encourage; observe; or influence human endeavours. The ‘social gathering’ nature of events means that the interaction between event participants takes on a critical role in shaping the event experience. This interaction between participants implies that, unlike other product categories, the event experience results from both egoistic (the attendee as a consumer) and altruistic (the attendee as producer) behaviours. The recognition that attendees contribute to the construction of the experience leads to the concept of experience co-creation, which is explored in this research.
Despite this importance, few studies have been carried out with the specific aim of looking at customer-to- customer interaction, as opposed to the co-creation of the experience with the business itself. Developed from a marketing perspective, this study will employ concepts of consumer psychology and product management to develop a model of co-creation in the event experience.
A better understanding of the principles behind co-creation would greatly help experience marketers in planning for better experiences through influencing the co-creation process.