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Gillet, PV 2011, 'Identification and analysis of psychological motives among local and non-local Masters Games participants: empirical evidence for the unique characteristics of sport tourists', PhD thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright PV Gillett 2011


This thesis makes a significant contribution to the growing body of sport tourism knowledge by identifying the unique characteristics of those who take part in this popular form of leisure. Empirical evidence of this nature effectively addresses the fundamental challenge to sport tourism’s status as a legitimate field of academic enquiry. This challenge centres on the argument that sport tourism simply involves an amalgamation of two well-established disciplines.

The context for the research is provided by Masters Games which are regarded as a prominent sport tourism activity in Australia. Specifically, registered participants of Masters Games who travel from outside the host region represent a particular type of ‘competitive active sport tourist.’ The research objective of this thesis is directed toward the identification and analysis of differences in motive between such individuals and registered participants who live locally. The travel variable therefore represents the primary feature which distinguishes the two participant groups, and by association, sport tourists from non sport tourists.

A sequential mixed-method research design is employed to address two fundamental research questions which collectively engage the research objective. Research question 1 asks: what are the key psychological motives that influence an individual’s decision to travel and compete in a Masters Games event; while research question 2 asks: is there are difference between local and non-local Masters Games competitors in terms of their psychological motives for participation?

Findings derived from in-depth interviews undertaken with non-local Masters Games participants identified five psychological motives. These motives are socialising, camaraderie, competition, achievement and athletic identity. The analysis of data also revealed that the strength of an individual’s motive may be positively influenced by the travel component of their Masters Games experience. Subsequent testing of this assessment, using a combination of multivariate data analysis techniques, found that the strength of a social and escape motive is significantly stronger among non-local participants.

In addition to support for the theoretical premise of sport tourism itself, the research findings also contribute toward a theoretical explanation of sport tourism behaviour. Building on the model of Masters Games participation proposed by Ryan and Trauer (2005), various sport tourism career paths can be recognised which lead to a social sport orientation. Such career paths are specifically attributed to the experience of competing in sport away from the home location.

The identification of different motive profiles among local and non-local participants also contributes to the development of event marketing strategies for Masters Games managers. Based on the research findings, it is suggested that marketing efforts which target non-local participants should emphasise a multi-motive approach. Alternatively, marketing efforts directed toward local participants should focus on a single ‘competition’ motive.