Why does sound matter in tourism experiences?
Updated: Mar 21
As an intrinsic part of tourism spaces, sounds play an important role in the co-creation of tourism experiences. Sounds can contribute to both the creation and the destruction of customer value. While bird songs and the sound of a creek can have a positive effect on the experience of tourists participating in a nature hiking tour, the same experience can be negatively affected by the noise of a low-flying military jet aircraft. Indeed, sounds can affect our mood and the way we experience the world around us. In Finland, several tourism organizations have recognized the role of sounds for the tourism and hospitality sector. For example, House of Lapland and Visit Finland launched in April 2019 a campaign called “Sound of Lapland”, which offers a collection of authentic sounds taken from the wilderness and local life in Finnish Lapland. Other similar initiatives have followed afterwards.
The study of soundscapes in tourism
Although the relevance of sounds as part of tourism spaces has begun to be widely acknowledged across both academia and industry, there are still few studies on the subject. Most research has focused on exploring noise pollution and its impact on tourist experiences, the importance of natural quiet acoustic environments and the role of sound as an element of multisensory experiences. For example, as part of a research project on slow tourism at the University of Lapland, a group of scholars did some studies on silence in tourism. Another similar example is the work done by an interdisciplinary research group exploring the acoustic experience of tourists visiting urban destinations by using the case of Lisbon. The study was part of a three-year research project called “Sounding out the Tourist City” which was implemented by several European universities. This work has inspired tourism students at the University of Lapland and motivated them to do their thesis research on subjects such as experiencing silence and the role of sounds in dogsledding experiences.
Source: JC García-Rosell
Tips for designing soundscapes in tourism
Considering the importance of sounds in tourism, the design of soundscapes should be a priority when planning tourism services and environments. This implies awareness of the various sounds that appear in a particular service space as well as their implications for customer experience. Here some useful tips:
Get insights into the way tourists relate and perceive the sounds appearing in the servicescape under consideration.
Identify desirable and unpleasant sounds and work on a plan that help maximize the former and minimize the later.
Assess the customer journey and different service moments from an acustic perspective and think of possible changes that could help improve the soundscape experience of the service.
Monitor any external changes or developments (e.g. new airport, wind turbines) that could have an impact on the soundscape of your service.
Better soundscapes can be created by just making minor changes supporting desirable sounds and avoiding unpleasant ones appearing in the service environment. It also good to keep in mind that soundscape design is driven by sounds and the acoustic experiences of the user, rather than by what is more convenient for the producer. And remember, a well-designed soundscape can make all the difference to your customer's experience!
This blog article is based on the research note, "An acoustic perspective on nature-based tourism experience – The soundscape of dog sledding, Lapland" (2019) co-authored with Ivan Fesenko and published in the Finnish Journal of Tourism Research (Matkailututkimus).