Prestige Tourism

Correia, A. (2015), "Prestige Tourism", in J. Jafari, H. Xiao (eds.), Encyclopedia of Tourism, Berlin: Springer International Publishing, 1-2 (ISBN: 978-3-319-01669-6).

In etymology, prestige is derived from the Latin expression of praestigiae. In the Middle Ages, this word was used with a pejorative sense to refer to delusion, trick, deception, or magic. Yet prestige appears related to honorific positions that are deferred to individuals that possess an exquisite position in the society, such as wisdom. Later,Veblen (1899) considered prestige as a synonym of social standing or honor some groups may possess; then these were a minority in the society. Nevertheless, prestige drives all human needs, even the most primary ones. Tourism is in essence a social behavior mostly driven by prestige motivations. For many tourists, this is the process by which they can enhance their social standing. Defined as status, this social standing could be achieved by behaving in conformity – “bandwagon effect” – with others or by differentiating – “snob effect” – their experiences (Leibenstein 1950). As such, prestige motivations depend more on the manner of traveling than on the place visited (Riley 1995). Yet prestige in tourism is defined as the process by which individuals strive to improve their regard or honor through the consumption of tourist experiences that confer and symbolize prestige both for tourists themselves and for their peers. Moreover, the prestige motivation is assumed as a multidimensional construct that refers to the social recognition which comes from belongingness to a group (visiting destinations where most friends go) or group differentiation (traveling to places where friends have not yet visited). Hence bandwagon and snob motives act as measures of the level of status tourists are willing to experience, giving rise to the reconciliation of both perspectives to achieve status (Wegener 1992). Holidays in popular destinations where many others go are perceived as ability to confer the level of compliance tourists seek with their peer groups, relating also to prestige worthy behavior that is able to confer status. Tourists that exhibit snobbish behavior wish to be different and exclusive: differentiating and distancing themselves from the “common herd” are drivers of their behavior. Here, demand decreases if the tourists concerned recognize that others are consuming the same commodity, or that they are increasing their consumption. In tourism, experiences out of the ordinary (exclusivity) or unique travel experiences (uniqueness) give tourists a sense of prestige, conferring status through a perceived increase in social standing and impressing others. The interpersonal values of both exclusivity and uniqueness may be regarded as antecedents of a behavior that is mostly driven by the desire for social status (consequence). Future research should use a prestige motivation scale that accrues cognitive and evaluative dimensions, transforming differences of achieving social honor into a prestige hierarchy. From there, distinctive prestige attributes that may enact the spillover of the image may be outlined.