Constructing Authenticity in a Fantasy-Based Themed Environment of Santa Claus Village

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Tourism is considered a way to escape the constraints of everyday life; it is suggested that consumers are looking for authenticity by engaging in touristic activities. Yet, even after decades of research, there is no consensus on what authenticity actually is. The objective of this thesis is to learn more about how consumers construct authenticity when visiting fantasy-based themed environment. It is believed that by enhancing our understanding of authenticity construction, it is also possible to gain a deeper understanding of authenticity as a concept. The theoretical background for this research covers authenticity theories in the fields of tourism, consumer culture theory, and philosophy. Various types of authenticity are categorized into objective, constructive, and existential authenticity, as well as hyperauthenticity. In addition, theory and previous studies about themed environment, to which the chosen context Santa Claus Village belongs, are covered as well. This research is qualitative in nature. The empirical data was collected by conducting 10 semi-constructed interviews, in addition to which also preliminary research through an ethnographic study and a survey was conducted. The main method for interpreting the interviews was hermeneutic framework, which is characterized by an iterative process of moving constantly between theory and interview transcripts. The findings suggest that instead of immersing in the fantasyland of Santa Claus Village, the visitors were often reminded of the tourist attraction nature of the place when encountering unsatisfying customer experience. The factors contributing to the feeling of authenticity were fantasy elements, performers, and activities from the side of Santa Claus Village, and past experiences, expectations, and motivation from the side of the consumer. Existential authenticity through a connection to family was especially strong at producing favorable evaluations of the authenticity of Santa Claus Village, at least momentarily. However, these factors were not considered to be enough in order to gain an overall authentic experience in Santa Claus Village.
Thesis advisor
Toyoki, Sammy
authenticity, tourism, themed environment, existential authenticity
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