Melvyn Penn


This paper has examined the relationship between the expectations of the visitor and the visitor experience at Tintagel.

A plurality of paradigms have been deployed; constructivist and post-positivist.[see file]   This has embarked us on an inductive investigation.  A theoretical framework was provided and then developed through ethnographic fieldwork.  The small number of cases together with the random nature of the sampling has warranted triangulation of research methods.

Theoretical issues were raised concerning the structure of the tourist experience.[see file]  It was proposed that the experience can be socially structured, just like society, and so the visitor can not truly escape.  Fundamental to our line of enquiry has been the extension to the anticipatory stage and the conept of markers were introduced.  Drawing an analogy with romantic fiction, we have looked at a number of critiques of how this romanticism may be incorporated into the markers to promote an authentic experience.  These often exotic images were clearly seen to contrast with reality.

A semiotic analysis of Tintagel was deployed within this framework [ see file] and provided the contention that visitors will arrive with 'great expectations', leaving plenty of scope for disappointment.

Main Findings

The overall concensus was that the visitor was able to gain a realistic impression of Tintagel (see table 6.7) [ in this file] and that the experience was unlikely to be impaired by their expectations (see table 6.10) [ also in this file].  As these findings can be seen to contradict with our critiques it is necessary to provide an explanation.  We shall begin with the very origins of our fieldwork.

One quickly realises that one is 'out in the field' when things start not to go to plan.  It was cold, it was wet, and worse of all, it was very quiet.  Those that did respond were typically repeat visitors and/or staying for a short period of time.  The theory did not prepare me for this and my initial reaction was to exclude, for how could repeat visitors be influenced by markers if they had been here before and how could we begin to understand the visitor experience in such a short duration of time?  Such a spontaneous reaction would not only have resulted in an extremely small case study but also the loss of some crucial information.

In table 5.10 [ in this file] a correlation was suggested between the frequency of the repeat visit and the short duration of the present visit.  Considering the contrast in aesthetics at Tintagel, it was suggested that the repeat visitor could use their experience to patronise selected sights.  As we proceeded to qualitative issues it was found that although the repeat visitor was aware of the commercial aspect of Tintagel, they could discern visiting at this time of year to capitalise on the atmosphere and thus enhance their experience.  It was subsequently argued that an intangible experience can not come to symbolise Tintagel and neither could it be taken away.

Consequently, the expectations of the visitor may not be so illusory as Boorstin (1964) [ references available here] would suggest.  It was not deemed necessary to see Tintagel in any empirical sense in order to accumulate a meaningful experience (MacCannell, 1989).  The significance of the markers can not easily be retained when the intangible experience is considered (Urry, 1990).

We have now reached a position where we are able to offer an explanation for these contrasts.  There would appear to be a dynamic interplay between the expectations of the visitor and the visitor experience, which may involve a number of intervening variables.  In addition to the markers, the visitor experience at Tintagel has also been influenced by the composition of the destination, the type of visitor, seasonality and the intangible experience. These variables appear to have been neglected both by critics and promoters. 


Semiotics has provided a useful framework that has enabled us to illuminate contrasts between tourism promotion, tourism planning and the perceptions of the visitor at Tintagel.  In our purpose statement [in here] we posed whether the three components could be compatible.  Given the limitations of our research methods, our findings can serve as a foundation towards making this achievable at Tintagel.  Potential researchers and planners of tourism may wish to experiment with different methods of research to control for the different variables.  I propose a couple of brief examples but essentially they should provoke further thought.

The behaviour of visitor types is something that the potential researcher at Tintagel might choose to expand on.  A control group of first time visitors might be shown photographs of various sights as a perquisite to their visit, and their expectations compared to a non-controlled group of first time visitors who's images would be arbitrary.  On acquaintance with these sights, the reactions of the two groups could then be compared to see what effect the photographs had on the visitor experience.  This idea could be expanded further by experimenting with repeat visitors, different markers and at different times of year.  Alternatively, more qualitative methods could be considered.  Reverting to the discrepancy between the coast and the atmosphere in table 6.11, [here] long periods of observation and unstructured personal interviews could be applied to try to understand the intangible experience. 

SWOT Analysis

A summary of the main strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats at Tintagel has been provided from our analysis.  The definition of each category is rather vague and there is likely to be some overlap.  Generally, strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that can be controlled from a managerial level.  Opportunities and threats are more external and incorporate PEST (political, environmental, social and technological) factors (Beeho & Prentice, 1996).  In essense, the SWOT analysis reveals how further research and planning should be dynamic.


  • solitude/small visitor numbers 
  • affluent visitors
  • array of visitor catchment areas 
  • number of repeat visitors 
  • good range of activities pursued by visitors in given time 
  • visitors likely to benefit from Tintagel 
  • absence of target market in new planning proposals 
  • short duration of first time visit 
  • short duration of repeat visit 
  • planning in quantifiable measures 
  • lack of seasonal marketing 
  • lack of practical information available to visitor 
  • develop public transport service 
  • integrative approach between tourism enterprises 
  • Cornwall as a lucrative marker 
  • development of on-site markers 
  • potent atmosphere at Tintagel 
  • visitors inspired by coast and natural environment 
  • Tintagel perceived to be unique/offer escape 
  • intangible setting seen to complement tangible 
  • freedom to roam
  • Ocean Cove Caravan Park 
  • dependency on tourism sector 
  • poor economic status 
  • remote location of Cornwall in SW England 
  • word of mouth 
  • commercialism/Legend 
  • random opening times of small businesses 
  • lack of facilities for locals
  • presentation of Arthurian myth at Tintagel 
  • steep flight of steps on access to Castle
  • utilisation of car parks 
on to Appendices 

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