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

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Nostalgia is omnipresent in today’s media landscape, with the revival of 80s music and production of nostalgic games and TV shows. In the field of tourism studies, nostalgia is mostly researched in the context of heritage sites. This research adds to this by investigating the role that nostalgia plays in public responses to changes in Dutch theme park Efteling. Two case studies are analysed: the demolition of Spookslot, a haunted house ride which was deemed outdated, and the rebranding of Monsieur Cannibale, a controversial teacup ride which has been subject of discussions about racism. Both cases are analysed through a qualitative analysis of newspaper articles. Synthesising ideas about nostalgia from the perspectives of sociology, tourism studies and marketing, the research shows that nostalgia plays a significant role in the identity formation of Efteling visitors and fans. In the context of Spookslot, nostalgia is readily acknowledged and explicitly mentioned as an argument for preservation; visitors experience personal nostalgia due to their own memories as well as vicarious nostalgia for the idyllic retroscape that is constructed by Efteling. In the case of Monsieur Cannibale, visitors do not acknowledge such nostalgic feelings in an explicit way; however, nostalgic discourse is recognised in the public discussions about racism and woke-ism. It is concluded that Efteling serves as an anchor for personal and collective nostalgia for people in the Netherlands, therefore people expect the park to uphold the values and traditions of a heritage site while simultaneously functioning as a commercial enterprise.
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