|dc.description.abstract||This thesis examined the similarities and differences between the guided and non-guided tourists in their pursuit of authentic experiences at the Angkor World Heritage Site in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor was registered in 1992 as one of the UNESCO’s World Heritage properties. Angkor is currently regarded as a national iconic tourist attraction and the South East Asia’s top tourist destination. More importantly, it was the world’s most recommended UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, according to the TripAdvisor’s (2010) survey. Guided by Wang’s (1999) typology of authenticity, the study explored questions regarding the rationale behind tourists’ decision to opt for guided or non-guided visits or holidays, examined the notions of authenticity viewed by guided and non-guided tourists, and analysed whether the two types of tourists pursued authentic experiences. Insights into these issues enabled analysis of authentic experiences pursued by tourists in the light of Wang’s (1999) typology. In addressing these research questions, the study sought to assess the importance and implications of the long-established concept of authenticity in tourist experiences.
This qualitative study involved in-depth interviews of 30 guided tourists, 27 non-guided tourists, and 12 registered tour guides who were selected based on convenience and purposive samplings. They were also asked to provide demographic information about themselves and their trip characteristics. The findings of the research indicated that although the tourists conjured up similar notions of authenticity, many of them had not heard about the concept as applied to tourism before the interviews. While there were similarities between the guided and non-guided tourists in terms of their experiences, an important difference was that the former chose to be guided due to their desire for knowledge-based authenticity or cool authenticity, which is consistent with Wang’s (1999) objective authenticity, while the latter did not choose to be guided because of their strong determination for freedom and self-regulation. The study found that the tourists’ choice of a particular mode of visit (guided or non-guided) was only partially due to their pursuit of authenticity as there are other, sometimes more compelling, reasons for their decisions which were not relevant to the search of authentic experiences. From the discussion, the study concluded that the typologies of authenticity as developed by Wang (1999) were inadequate in explaining the experiences of guided and non-guided tourists as what tourists finally consume is imaginary authenticity or the representation of imaginary peoples, places, and pasts. The study also identified theoretical implications and proposed possible avenues for future studies.||en