Modernising Fairyland: Nostalgia, Memory and Identity in Public Responses to Changes in Efteling

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Talking about travel on social media is nowadays commonplace. Since a few years, and more specifically after the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry has seen a shift towards virtuality and online means of communication. On social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, the content dedicated to travel forms a large majority of publications, which has led to the creation of the online outdoor and travel community. TikTok is currently considered as one of the most influential social media networks in the tourism sector, which makes it an interesting case to further understand its role in shaping contemporary popular discourses on travel. Besides, increasing attention is directed to responsible and sustainable forms of tourism by international and governmental institutions, the academia, but also tourists themselves. Discussions, debates and concerns are, among others, shared on social media. Among the different types of travel content creators on TikTok are backpackers; whose videos show great potential in understanding the characteristics of a sustainable traveller as well as the kind of content they share and the type of values they advocate. These reasons motivate the direction of this research study. Scholars have studied the behaviours of backpackers since the emergence of this type of tourism. Their behaviours have often been associated with sustainable practices, mostly because of their search for authentic socio-cultural and environmental experiences and connections. Previous research indicates that empirical work done in order to understand backpackers as a group of tourists from a perspective combining sustainability and new media studies is limited. This thesis thus seeks to answer the following research question: In what ways do backpacking content creators on TikTok foster socio-cultural and environmental awareness through their travel videos? In order to provide an answer to the research question, a theoretical background including key theories and concepts is first provided. A mixed-method qualitative analysis was performed combining netnography and close reading in order to analyse a representative sample of 45 TikTok videos. These videos were selected employing a combination of hashtags related to backpacking, sustainability, environment, and culture. Aspects relating to socio-cultural and environmental sustainability in the videos were coded, grouped and themed using the software ATLAS.ti, and finally interpreted. The objective of this thesis is not only to investigate backpacking TikTokkers’ behaviours regarding sustainability, but also to determine whether these content creators sensitize other viewers on the topic and help increase awareness about it. Keywords: TikTok, backpacker tourism, sustainable behaviours, sensitized tourism, netnographic analysis
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