The promotion of local economic development processes in a metropolitan area often depends on its ability to attract sustainable tourism flows and to provide a high quality of life for citizens. Both are basic conditions to enhance the competitiveness of an urban context, but are possible only if territorial planning strategies are focused on the real "experience" lived by tourists and citizens while they get in touch (either virtually or physically) with that place. This is the reason why all the choices made by policy makers, urban planners, and territorial marketing managers should be aimed at promoting the best experience possible for people visiting and living the city. Thus, there is a ...view middle of the document...
It is very important to give relevance not only to the needs of tourists, but also to those of residents, as a good quality of life is at least as much essential as tourists satisfaction for the attractiveness of a territory. Furthermore, the attention to local community favours also the development of a sustainable tourism: it prevents degenerative phenomena that lead to over-exploitation of tourism resources, which reduce the long-term competitiveness of a destination.
City planners and policy makers have also to take into account that the experience lived by tourists is undoubtedly different from that lived by residents: the tourists satisfaction depends only on the ability of the destination to offer a pleasant stay consistent with the tourists personal preferences, while the perception of quality of life by residents relies on many other factors, more articulated and complex. This implies that it is necessary to pay attention also to several different features of the territory. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a least common multiple in the experience of the two types of users that can provide a useful point of reference: the experience of a "place" may actually be similar both for those tourists who aim at really immersing themselves into the local culture, avoiding the clichés of mass tourism, and for those residents who aim at discovering the local cultural assets of their land, going beyond the mere functional exploitation of the local resources. Both seek to build a personal relationship with the city, getting in touch with its real identity and carrying back a non-stereotypical memory, made of unique emotions, innovative ideas, and new knowledge.
This combination of cognitive inputs, emotions, feelings, and perceptions may be defined as "place experience" and represents the main source of tourist satisfaction and one of the primary building blocks of quality of life for the local inhabitants. The place experience cannot be planned a priori, as it is by definition the fruit of a spontaneous and subjective process which takes shape within the individual consciousness, but it is possible to create the best conditions to favour its positive development.
Marketing scholars have discovered the importance of this issue many years ago, focusing on customer experience as the real outcome of every commercial transaction and as one of the main concerns of business managers. More recently, this concept has become popular in the economy of tourism economics where there is a reach research stream focused on the study of the tourism experience.
In spite of the growing interest for the topic, there is still a lack of systematic approaches to this field and a high fragmentation tends to prevail. Besides, also the works devoted to tourism experience focus on the demand side, while there is little attention to the territory as a possible source of experience.
This paper aims at giving a contribution in to fill both these gaps by presenting a...