Existential authenticity in cultural restaurant experiences in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe: a netnographic analysis

Document Type


Publication details

Mkono, M 2013, 'Existential authenticity in cultural restaurant experiences in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: a netnographic analysis', International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research, vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 353-363.

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how tourists negotiate existential/experiential authenticity in cultural restaurant experiences as represented in their online reviews.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper uses netnography, a relatively novel web-based method, to examine the phenomenon of existential authenticity. Post-visit online reviews were analyzed to glean meanings and insights into tourists' lived experiences in Victoria Falls restaurants.

Findings – The analysis illustrates how the experience of existential authenticity is at the centre of tourist's recollections and more importantly, how it is a highly internalized, individual process. There is a strong suggestion in the tourists' reviews however that the totality of the experience is more important than its individual components; that a hedonistic search for “fun” characterizes the tourists' quest in tourism. Very little emphasis is placed on the authenticity of cultural objects, suggesting that existential authenticity may be more important in this context than objectivist authenticity.

Practical implications – First, the emphasis on the “total experience” highlights the importance of thinking beyond the food on the plate. Second, tourists' reference to having been “pleasantly surprised” should spur restaurateurs to indulge their creative abilities; to give tourists unexpected add-ons. Restaurants that are nonconformist, original, or unusual are likely to excite international travelers. Third, the importance of collective authenticity is well illustrated: tourists enjoy “sociality”. This means restaurant marketing collateral needs to reflect the social interaction concomitant to the experience. Finally, most tourists appreciate performative experiences, thus practitioners might need to offer more interactive rather than passive service consumption.

Originality/value – The study provides insights into a previously unresearched context using a nontraditional data collection method.

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