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Zhao, J. Perceived Authenticity in Intangible Cultural Heritage Tourism. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 24 June 2024).
Zhao J. Perceived Authenticity in Intangible Cultural Heritage Tourism. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 24, 2024.
Zhao, Jie. "Perceived Authenticity in Intangible Cultural Heritage Tourism" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 24, 2024).
Zhao, J. (2022, March 23). Perceived Authenticity in Intangible Cultural Heritage Tourism. In Encyclopedia.
Zhao, Jie. "Perceived Authenticity in Intangible Cultural Heritage Tourism." Encyclopedia. Web. 23 March, 2022.
Perceived Authenticity in Intangible Cultural Heritage Tourism

In the era of the experience economy, intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is now much a richer in terms of authenticity, which largely enriches the tourist experience. The dual dimensions of authenticity (constructive and existential) have significantly different effects on experience quality and satisfaction. Furthermore, with regard to the mediating effect of experience quality, experience quality plays a partially mediating role between existential authenticity and satisfaction. 

intangible cultural heritage (ICH) intangible cultural heritage tourism (ICHT) perceived authenticity experience quality

1. Authenticity

The earliest conceptions of authenticity in tourism studies were understood from an objectivist perspective, arguing that authenticity could be measured by absolute, objective criteria, a pure, original and authentic version [1][2][3][4]. The original concept of authenticity emphasized the absence of commodification as a key factor in discerning authenticity [5]. Under this logical premise, objective authenticity has two main characteristics: (i) it is associated with a tangible object, essentially emphasizing the static physical nature of heritage [6];, and (ii) it is judged independently by experts, rather than perceived by tourists [7]. For example, the tree-ring pattern (the chronological characteristics of the wood used) of the Iranian national instrument, TAR, is considered a marker for judging its authenticity. In this case, the characteristics of objective authenticity fit with material culture [8].
Objectivists’ standards of authenticity are too strict for most ordinary tourists [9]. On this basis, the introduction of constructive authenticity initiated a shift from the tour object to the tourist subject. Constructivists see authenticity as a socially constructed process and outcome that is negotiable, relative and mutable [9][10]. It is a symbolic sense of authenticity [11] and is a commonly accepted constructivist (commodified) concept by marketers [12]. It is believed that constructive authenticity overcomes the static nature of objectivist authenticity by emphasizing the difference of the subject based on a focus on object authenticity, providing a rationale for commodification.
Building on this, researchers have taken their analysis a step further and proposed a subjective authenticity that is completely independent of the object, namely existential authenticity [4]. It is a self-judgement [13], a personal or intersubjective feeling that can be produced or activated through tourism activities [4][13]. Reisinger and Steiner [7] even suggest that should abandon the various conceptualizations in favor of a unified existential authenticity. It has been suggested that aesthetic judgements of tourism, consisting of, for example, authenticity, facilitate experiential consumption [14]. Indeed, the existentialists’ approach to research places more emphasis on the identity of tourists and their experiences, which is a deepening of the constructivists’ ideas about authenticity. In a way, it is also a process of change in the understanding of the ‘authenticity’ of heritage, a subjectivisation of authenticity. It represents a fundamental paradigm shift from the objective attributes of material culture to the subjective experience of the tourist [15][6].
In summary, as the concept of heritage expands from the tangible to the intangible [16][17][18][19], the perspective of authenticity research gradually shifts from objective, static and material to subjective, dynamic and immaterial, and therefore the authenticity of materialism or objectivism existing in the field of ICH is considered inappropriate. The authenticity of ICH is the result of the interaction between the cultural values of ICH and the beliefs of individuals and their representations [20]. For example, if the celebrations of the Pythian Games in ancient Greece have continued to the present day, according to their astronomical traditions, then by using the Antikythera Mechanism it is possible to calculate that the next celebration will be on Thursday 24 August 2023 [21].

2. Experience Quality

In essence, the concept of experience quality in tourism research comes from the analysis of models of product and service quality in the field of service marketing. In fact, in the tourism context, service quality and experience quality are not equivalent. Service quality models such as the SERVQUAL model [22] focus on the technical and functional aspects of service delivery, but ignore the emotional or hedonic disposition of the consumer. However, with the advent of the experience economy, people are no longer buying products and services for functional reasons alone, but for a series of psychologically memorable events [23]. Further, experience quality refers to the psychological outcome of a tourist’s participation in a tourism activity [24][25][26]. Many researchers have argued that assessing tourists’ experience quality provides a better understanding of the experiential aspects and emotional responses to tourism activities [27][28][29].
With regard to the components of experience quality, Otto and Ritchie’s [30] research was seminal in that they developed an experience quality scale with four factors, namely hedonics, peace of mind, involvement, and recognition. Scholars subsequently proposed a three-factor [25] or four-factor [23] experience quality scale, depending on their research context. Chen and Chen’s [26] study went further, pioneering the application of the concept of experience quality to heritage tourism research and proposing three dimensions of experience quality: involvement, peace of mind, and educational experience. Their study is enlightening, but the concept of heritage here focuses on tangible heritage and is not considered applicable to the context of ICHT. It is worth noting that Kao et al. [31] conceptualized experience quality through four factors, immersion, surprise, participation, and fun, in their study of theme parks. This scale was subsequently further validated by scholars in the context of water park tourism [27], ICHT [32] and green city tourism [33], respectively. 

3. Tourist Satisfaction

The concept of tourist satisfaction can be traced back to customer satisfaction in the field of marketing. Today, the variable of satisfaction is widely studied in the tourism field [34][35]. Numerous studies have shown that tourist satisfaction stimulates tourists’ purchasing behavior, increases their loyalty and their intention to revisit [26][27][35][36][37] and is critical to the survival, growth and success of tourism [38]. In the early literature on tourist satisfaction, most scholars refer to theories from the field of marketing. According to the ‘Expectation-Disconfirmation’ model proposed by the American scholar Oliver [39], satisfaction in tourism can be understood as the difference between expectations and performance before and after consumption as perceived by tourists. Dissatisfaction occurs when the post-tour experience falls below the expected level [39], while tourists are satisfied when the post-tour experience exceeds the expected level [26].
This theoretical model was widely used to guide research on measuring tourist satisfaction for quite a while in the time that follows. Indeed, the expectation-disconfirmation model was originally used to measure consumer satisfaction with functional consumer goods in general. In the era of the experience economy, tourists buy experiences, so the measurement of tourist satisfaction should also measure satisfaction with the experience and the emotional experience of the tourist. Therefore, the expectation-disconfirmation model does not fully capture tourist satisfaction. It is a key component of measuring satisfaction, but not the whole picture. Tourist satisfaction should be assessed on multiple dimensions to avoid the errors caused by using a single measurement item [40]. Given this, the relationship between the cost and expected return (benefit) spent by tourists is also used to assess tourist satisfaction. A destination is worthwhile if tourists receive the benefits or value of the trip for their time, effort and money, and vice versa [40]. In addition to this, satisfaction with the tourist experience represents an overall comprehensive evaluation and satisfaction with the entire experience of the consumption process [31]. Tourists evaluate whether a trip is overall satisfactory based on the actual experience.


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