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Tourist-to-Tourist Interaction at Festivals:
A Grounded Theory Approach
Huan Sun 1, Shaofeng Wu 2, Yanning Li 3and Guangquan Dai 1 ,*
1School of Economics and Commerce, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510006, China
2School of Tourism, Hunan Normal University, Changsha 410006, China
3School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, University of Surrey, GU2 7XH Guildford, UK
*Correspondence: email@example.com; Tel.: +86-138-2619-4271
Received: 1 July 2019; Accepted: 23 July 2019; Published: 25 July 2019
Although neglected in previous studies, tourist-to-tourist interaction (TTI) is a core part
of festival experience. It is widely acknowledged that interactions between tourists signiﬁcantly
inﬂuence behavioral reactions such as desire to stay, satisfaction, and loyalty, which are important
for tourism destination marketing. This study used grounded theory to obtain insights into onsite
interactions between tourists and to propose a conceptual model of TTI on the Midi Music Festival
in China. The model constitutes the types, drivers, and inﬂuence of TTI. Compared with mutual
assistance and conﬂict, entertainment interaction plays an essential role in the overall evaluation of
the festival experience. Individual characteristics are the internal drivers of interactions between
tourists. Environmental elements including the festivalscape and social festivalscape are inﬂuential
exogenous factors. Additionally, spatial locations of tourists at the venue play mediating roles
between the driving elements and TTI. Since entertainment incidents construct the essential part of
onsite interactions at festivals, managers can shape the atmosphere to encourage tourists to engage in
interactive entertainment with others tourists. This should improve participants’ overall evaluations
of the festival experience as well as the sustainable development of destinations where festivals
Keywords: festival tourism; interactions between tourists; tourism marketing
Festivals have gradually become highly developed segments of the continuously expanding
tourism industry, because of the closer connection between festivals and tourism [
]. Festivals can be
used to shape destination image and to promote economic development of the territory where festivals
are held [
]. Meanwhile, the cyclical features of festivals and the development from hallmark events to
hallmark destination are very important for the sustainable development of tourist destinations. Due to
the rapid growth of festival tourism industry, ﬁercely competitive and homogeneous festival products
have become the prominent problems perplexing festival operators. Hence, they are increasingly aware
of the importance of sustainable management of festivals to strengthen market position and competitive
Management of customer relationships is emphasized in service relationship marketing [
However, tourist-to-tourist interaction (TTI) has been overlooked in both research and practice, due to
its uncontrollable nature for site or festival managers [
]. However, it is generally agreed that
meeting people and forging new relationships are core parts of the experience, resulting from tourists’
interactions with various physical and social elements [
]. As such, shared time and space make TTI
critical for the overall tourist experience, which has been acknowledged in traditional service marketing
and management frameworks [
]. TTI is the theoretical application of customer-to-customer
Sustainability 2019,11, 4030; doi:10.3390/su11154030 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2019,11, 4030 2 of 15
interaction (CCI), which draws on the earlier servuction system model and has provided a wide range
of insights [
]. After nearly two decades of development, the components and characteristics as well
as inﬂuential factors of TTI have drawn academic attention [
]. Correspondingly, integral aspects of
this topic have comparatively not been as fully studied as other service industries such as retailing,
education, and passenger transportation .
Festivals are inherently social events and provide a means for people to interact and share
experiences with signiﬁcant others [
]. For many festival tourists, the most meaningful experiences
derive from social interactions with peers rather than from speciﬁc activities [
]. Hence, TTI are
essential to the festival experience and inﬂuence behavioral reactions, such as desire to stay, satisfaction,
and loyalty, which are important for the sustainable development of festival destinations [
The existing literature considers TTI mainly in three types of activities: group tours, backpacking,
and cruises; obviously, festival tourism has been neglected .
Considering the high dependence of interactive behaviors on the situation, existing frameworks
for TTI in general tourism settings are not suﬃcient for a thorough comprehension of interactions
between festival tourists. This exploratory study aims to contribute theoretically to tourism destination
marketing research and speciﬁcally to the study of TTI in festival settings. Grounded theory has
been adopted to construct a conceptual model containing the content and classiﬁcations of speciﬁc
interactive incidents as well as the mechanisms, including drivers and inﬂuence, of festival TTI.
Practical implications for festival operators to improve tourist relationships have also been analyzed
based on the conceptual model.
1.1. Literature Review
1.1.1. Customer-to-Customer Interaction (CCI)
In the mid-1970s, service management theory started to accommodate the reality that a customer’s
perception of service could be aﬀected by the behavior of other customers [
]. Due to the nature
of service encounter in the simultaneous presence of multiple customers, they have to share time,
space or service utensils with others [
]. Customers are inevitably required to engage in interactions
with one another. Empirical studies have found CCI to be a familiar feature in a wide variety of service
] in which customers may aﬀect other customers’ perception of service indirectly by being
part of the environment or more directly through speciﬁc interactions [
]. However, the literature on
service quality has not given suﬃcient attention to all CCI aspects that may contribute to customer
There are varying terms and deﬁnitions of CCI from diﬀerent perspectives. Derived initially
from the servuction system model, the term “customer B” was used to represent the concept of
other customers present in the service setting [
]. On this basis, more exact descriptions of
CCI have been established form plenty of conceptual or empirical studies. Although there is
not yet a uniﬁed deﬁnition of CCI, it mostly refers to face-to-face, direct interpersonal interactions
between customers taking place in physical onsite service settings, distinguishing it from oﬀsite
CCI which often means word-of-mouth [
]. Diﬀerent types of CCI also have been
investigated. Grove and Fisk (1997) identiﬁed a two-category classiﬁcation of CCI as protocol incidents
and sociability incidents through the critical incident technique. Kim and Choi (2016) suggested
three types of CCI: friend-interaction, neighboring customer-interaction, and audience-interaction [
Moura E S
and Amorim (2017) put forward a typology based on two main axes-service delivery
orientation and exchange orientation-resulting in four major CCI scenarios: casual, functional,
staged, and deliberate [
]. Through a systematic literature review, Heinonen (2018) revealed 11
diﬀerent types of CCI interaction: knowledge exchange, problem solving, collective meaning-making,
community building, endorsement, recreation and spending time, disciplinary and protocol behavior,
verbal misbehavior, physical misbehavior, and contextual misbehavior which was categorized into
oﬀering-focused and process-focused interactions .
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Increasing evidence shows that CCI, driven by various individual and environmental
elements, greatly impacts customer experience perception as well as the value creation process.
Behaviors originate from environment no matter physical or social aspects. Thus, CCI highly depends
on servicescape—the majority of the physical environment which can promote the nature and the quality
of interactions among customers by providing space for them to meet and talk [
]. The social
aspects of the environment, known as social servicescape, include the mere presence of individuals
as well as their behavior and can fundamentally aﬀect CCI [
]. In addition to the environment,
many studies acknowledge that customers’ social motivations, such as to engage in social interaction,
and to gain social status and a sense of aﬃnity, are key drivers of CCI [
]. Moreover, researchers have
investigated the eﬀects of CCI on multiple service outcomes including purchase behavior, satisfaction,
loyalty to the ﬁrm, word-of-mouth, and perceived service quality [24,28,30,31].
1.1.2. Tourist-to-Tourist Interaction (TTI)
The shared beliefs, behavior and interactions with one another generate perceived emotional
closeness between individuals including bother residents and tourists [
]. In contrast to the wide
examinations of the relationships between residents and tourists under the framework of social
exchange theory, tourist gaze and emotional solidarity [
], relationships among tourists have
been relatively ignored due to its uncontrollable features. A few studies have drawn attention to
the interactions between tourists on the basis of CCI. However, the mode, content, and depth of
TTI are not fully appropriate for CCI because of the relatively longer period and hedonic nature
of tourism activities [
]. Moreover, TTI in various tourism settings, including cruising [
] and group tours [
], have been discussed by scholars, while TTI at festivals
are really overlooked.
Distinct from service contexts in retail, passenger transportation, and education where CCI
commonly occurs, social interactions between tourists construct the core part of tourism experience.
As tourism is inherently a social phenomenon [
], the presence of fellow tourists is not only
unavoidable but also indispensable in situations such as cruise ship travel, group tours, holiday resort
stays, and festivals in which tourists have to share a conﬁned environment and signiﬁcant time
with others [
]. Moreover, social motivations appear to be principal reasons for TTI in tourism
settings which often provide a means for people with similar interests or motives to come together
and interact .
Besides Lin (2019) focused on the single type of TTI, namely the self-disclosure which has been
identiﬁed as the core factor of relationship between individuals [
], researchers have employed
both qualitative and quantitative methods to classify diﬀerent types of TTI. Using the critical
incident technique, Harris and Reynolds (2004) revealed eight fundamental types of jaycustomers:
compensation letter writers, undesirable customers, property abusers, service workers, vindictive
customers, oral abusers, physical abusers, and sexual predators, predominantly ranging from ﬁnancial
gain to obtaining non-ﬁnancial and personal beneﬁts in hospitality industry [
]. Bosio and Lewis
(2008) classiﬁed interactions between hotel guests into three broad categories: the exchange of greetings
and pleasantries, engaging in mutual moans, and oﬀering physical and informational assistance [
The principal components analysis of data from foreign travelers suggested that the perception of CCI
incidents could be separated into six types: protocol and sociable incidents, violent incidents, grungy
incidents, malcontent incidents, crude incidents, and inconsiderate incidents [
]. However, recently
more conceptual approaches have been used to develop theoretical categories. Following an inductive
approach for analyzing data from focus group discussions of cruise communities, the varying levels
of interactions were summarized into three scenarios: no interaction or superﬁcial interaction with
negligible impact, spontaneous interactions that became an autotelic part of the cruise experience,
and close interactions with lasting relationships that became one of the highlights of the cruise
]. From the perspective of social constructivism, Reichenberger (2017) adopted social
situation analysis in order to understand social interactions with other visitors and classiﬁed them
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into three levels of interaction: communitas level, social bubble level, and detached tourist level
]. Koenig (2018) investigated interactions between football spectators and classiﬁed
them as two types—between known/familiar others, and between unknown-others [
]. Based on
a large sample of tourists at Shanghai Disneyland, interactions between tourists were divided into
positive and negative dimensions which signiﬁcantly aﬀected customer responses .
TTI is mostly driven by individual and environmental stimuli, as is CCI in service situations.
Levy (2010) revealed that social motivations appear to be principal reasons for TTI in hedonic service
settings including entertainment, arts, and leisure experiences [
]. Backpackers are mainly motivated
to interact with others so as to gather information on destinations/businesses [
]. Cruise customers
require distinct types of social interaction and the forging of new relationships due to the natural
progression of TTI [
]. Additionally, individual characteristics such as values and mood, demographics,
the level of personal interest and involvement, and the willingness and ability of individuals to respond
to requests for product-related information, also drive TTI [
]. Other causal conditions for TTI
are the physical and social environments. It is well-documented that the physical setting as external
stimuli or “servicescape” can fundamentally inﬂuence social interactions between tourists [
Social aspects of environment such as the number of other tourists [
], physical proximity within
the tour [
], social structure within the group [
], and perceived similarity with others [
contribute to TTI.
2.1. Research Design
This study aims to investigate, in depth, the nature and formation mechanism of festival TTI,
rather than form a universal theory applicable to all tourism contexts. It employs grounded theory
for data collection, analysis, and theory formation. Grounded theory is an iterative, comparative,
interactive, and abductive method formulated in the 1960s by Glaser and Strauss. Since then,
three main versions of grounded theory have emerged: objectivist, post-positivist, and constructivist.
In the constructivist version, used in this study, the investigative process emerges from interactions,
data production and analysis are socially constructed, and the research goal is to enhance contextualized
]. As TTI is constructed within particular social contexts, a constructivist orientation
to grounded theory should generate theoretical insights about festival participants’ interactions.
2.2. Data Collection
2.2.1. Case Study: Midi Music Festival
The Midi Music Festival (Midi) originated from the underground rock music scene and has grown
to pioneer the music festival industry in China. Midi has been considered the Chinese “Woodstock”
as it contains many western festival characteristics (e.g., rock and pop music, outdoors, camping,
]. Midi is the largest and longest-running non-government music festival in mainland China;
from its inception on 30 April 2000, to the end of 2018, it has been held 44 times. Nearly 100 national
and international musical bands perform at each event. The Midi outdoor venue is mainly divided
into performance and camping areas. In addition to live shows in the performance area, there are
also various activities such as rock climbing, skateboarding, live Counter-Strike and ﬂea markets.
The camping area provides space for tourists to camp, rest, entertain, and communicate with others.
Therefore, the scale of the festival, the sharing of time and space by music enthusiasts, and the diverse
activities all oﬀer a wide range of interactive opportunities. Midi provides a typical case for studying
interactions between festival tourists, and allows suﬃcient observation space for in-depth research.
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2.2.2. Sampling Selection and Interviews
Interview data were collected from a total of 16 participants attending one of three Midi festivals:
the Taihu Midi Music Festival from April 30 to 3 May 2016, the Tenglongdong Midi Music Festival
from 15–17 September 2016, or the Shenzhen New Year Midi Music Festival from 31 December 2016 to
2 January 2017. Semi-structured interviews were used to obtain qualitative data. Each interview was
recorded in full and subsequently transcribed.
Initially, after entering the Taihu Midi Music Festival, convenience sampling was used to
identify individuals who had previously attended the Midi and were willing to be interviewed.
Then the following 7 participants were identiﬁed using snowball sampling. Corbin and Strauss
(1990) suggested that interviews should take place at locations and in situations that provide
the greatest opportunity to gather the most relevant data about the phenomena under investigation [
Thus, interviews were generally conducted in the camping and rest areas near the performance stages.
In grounded theory, the analysis begins as soon as data is collected [
]. Data should be analyzed
in a timely manner after each interview in order to ﬁnd the theoretical gap to be supplemented
with data in the next investigative phase. However, each Midi festival usually lasted only two or
three days. Therefore, data acquisition and analysis were not fully saturated in the ﬁeld due to time
constraints, and original sampling was not available for supplemental investigation. In theoretical
sampling, new research participants or information are purposefully sought, based on the data analysis;
people and cases are identiﬁed to further elaborate theoretical categories [
]. Therefore, during
the 2016 Tenglongdong Midi Music Festival and the 2016/17 Shenzhen New Year’s Midi Music Festival,
8 participants were selected to bridge the data gaps and verify the theoretical saturation. In total,
there are 16 interviewees in this study (see Table 1).
Table 1. Participant Proﬁles.
Participant Gender Frequency of Midi Participation Date Place
TH1 Male 1 5/3/2016 Taihu 1
TH2 Female 4 5/1/2016/Taihu
TH3 Female 4 5/1/2016 Taihu
TH4 Male 1 5/1/2016 Taihu
TH5 Male 2 5/2/2016 Taihu
TH6 Female 3 5/2/2016 Taihu
TH7 Male 2 5/2/2016 Taihu
TH8 Female 1 5/3/2016 Taihu
TLD1 Male 1 9/16/2016 Tenglongdong 2
TLD2 Male 1 9/16/2016 Tenglongdong
TLD3 Male >5 9/17/2016 Tenglongdong
TLD4 Male 4 9/17/2016 Tenglongdong
TLD5 Female 2 9/17/2016 Tenglongdong
SZ1 Female 1 1/1/2017 Shenzhen Center 3
SZ2 Male 2 1/1/2017 Shenzhen Center
SZ3 Male 2 1/2/2017 Shenzhen Center
1Taihu =Taihu MIDI Camp, 2Tenglongdong =Tenglongdong Scenic Area, 3Shenzhen =Shenzhen Universiade.
2.3. Data Analysis
Grounded theory research procedures continuously compare, think, analyze, and transform data
into concepts to establish a theory. The data analysis, or coding is the core link. In grounded theory
research, there are three basic types of coding: open, axial, and selective .
Open coding is the interpretive process of decomposing, examining, comparing, conceptualizing,
and categorizing data. Its purpose is to give the analyst insights by breaking through standard ways of
thinking about or interpreting phenomena reflected in the data. In open coding, events/actions/interactions
are compared with others for similarities and differences. They are also given conceptual labels. First,
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we analyzed the data word by word, extracting relevant concepts, and merging those with overlapping
meanings. Then, concepts of similar incidents were gathered to further abstract the initial categories.
Through the analysis of the original data, 372 initial concepts were obtained. Further, 33 preliminary
categories were formed by summarizing and refining the initial concepts. Table 2shows examples of
the initial concepts and preliminary categories obtained from open coding.
Table 2. Open coding of tourist-to-tourist interaction (TTI) (excerpt).
Original Data Labeling Preliminary Categories
It was easier to get excited when in the crowd. They were
interactively playing pogo or wall of death in the crowd.
The more crowded, the happier we were.
In the crowd
Because it was my favorite band, I pushed forward to get into
the front rows. I remembered that I ﬁnally got into the second
row. It was so cool.
In the front rows
I just wanted to sit away from the stages to quietly watch
the show, even during the performance of my favorite band.
I wouldn’t push into the crowd.
Far away from the stages
I just came from another stage when WanQing (name of
a music band) was performing. I was too tired to get into
the crowd. I held a bottle of beer and stood behind the crowd.
Behind the crowd
Axial coding refers to the process of developing main categories and their subcategories [
Through the “coding paradigm” of conditions, context, strategies (action/interaction), and consequences,
subcategories are related to a category [
]. On the basis of situational understanding, six main categories
were developed. Table 3shows the main categories, their conceptualizations, and dimensions.
Table 3. Axial coding of tourist to tourist interaction.
Main Category Conceptualization Dimension
Weather Rainy, cloudy, sunny
Layout Performance area, functional area, stages, camping area,
Music style Heavy metal, folk, punk, blues, electronic music
Crowd density Crowded-few people
Emotions of other tourists Happy-unhappy, calm-crazy
Behavior of other tourists Jumping, wall of death, scream, circle pit, waving hand in
hand, driving a train
Personality characteristics Introversion-extroversion, sentimental-calmness
Musical preferences Heavy metal, folk, punk, blues, electronic music
of music festival First-time, goer-frequenter
Motivations Meeting friends, escaping from daily life, relaxing
Entertainment Pogo, wall of death, driving a train,
singing together, jumping
Mutual assistance behavior Holding items for others, protecting others, searching for
lost items, providing information
Conﬂict Pushing and squeezing, ﬁghting, arguing
Evaluation of overall experience
Crazy, beautiful, boisterous, grand, memorable, immersed,
In the crowd, in the front rows, behind the crowd, far away
from the stages
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Selective coding is the process by which all categories are uniﬁed around a “core” category,
and categories that need further explication are ﬁlled-in with descriptive detail. The core category
represents the central phenomenon studied [
]. Selective coding was used to specify possible
relationships between these categories and to form an initial theoretical framework. Finally, a model was
developed after revisiting the coded and categorized statements and identifying their inter-relationships.
3.1. Types of Tourist-to-Tourist Interaction (TTI)
In the festival context, the interactive behaviors of tourists were divided into three types:
entertainment, mutual assistance, and conﬂict.
The entertainment interactions around the musical theme constitute the central part of the festival
experience. The most important features of outdoor music festival are the variety of interactive
activities that participants may engage in during the shows. In the performance area, “you can play
together with others at the live show” (TH6). “For example, you can play pogo, jumping, driving
a train, or wall of death” (TH1). Some festival-goers were motivated by recreational interactions
with others, so music enjoyment was less important. These entertainment activities allowed festival
attendees to release daily life pressures and escape from the real world.
As a “continuation of the live shows,” the camping area is the stage spontaneously generated
by tourists themselves. As rock music has always been on the fringe of the cultural mainstream in
mainland China, rock music fans can feel isolated in real life. Midi, especially the camping area,
provides them with the opportunity to “play with a group of like-minded people for a few days.”
Therefore, compared with the full input in the performance area, the entertainment interaction in
the camping area is more like a carnival with friends. Through drinking, chatting, playing the guitar,
singing together, as well as other interactions, strong aﬀective links are established between tourists,
as well as a sense of belonging, which is scarce in daily life.
“Camping is an indispensable part of Midi. After the showtime in the performance area, we are
playing, singing, drinking and doing everything we like to in the camping area. Just now a group of
people are playing pogo when waiting for the outdoor show” (TH5).
3.1.2. Mutual Assistance Behavior
Mutual assistance behavior is an important type of interactions between festival tourists.
Individuals as social network links often possess multiple social identities in daily life. The existence of
social identities can inﬂuence decision-making behavior and even force individuals into herd behavior
for a sense of belonging. At Midi, tourists are immersed in the state of authentic “me” shedding
the “we” and “us” of daily routine, and are able to “remove some defenses and masks, and show
the authentic ego to outsiders” (TLD3). Therefore, during the liminal music festival experience,
the “true self” with a good heart and integrity is more likely presented, and thus it is easier for tourists
to assume assistance-providing roles.
Mutual assistance behaviors between tourists mainly include holding someone who was going
to fall in the crowd; holding other tourists’ personal belongings while they participated in more
intense physical interactions; and helping ﬁrst-time event goers integrate into the festival atmosphere.
These spontaneous mutual assistance behaviors help tourists gain trust and generate relationships,
which facilitates the formation of a memorable experience.
“Because there is a lot of fresh blood coming to Midi every year, I want to help everyone to play
together and inherit the essence of traditional culture of Midi. In fact, I feel even happier when helping
others than playing alone” (TH3).
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Individual diﬀerences, especially motivations for festival attendance and musical preferences,
inevitably lead to conﬂicts among tourists. Diﬀerent stages usually focus on diﬀerent music styles,
so participants with diﬀerent preferences are moderately distinguished. For example, the Zhanguo
stage usually focuses on heavy metal music, while the Ming stage focuses on folk music, post-shake,
and other relatively light music styles. However, as a comprehensive main stage, the Tang stage
usually has various shows with diﬀering styles, which indirectly triggers conﬂicts, such as shoving
and crowding among tourists. In the more intense interactive activities, such as wall of death, there are
inevitably some physical conﬂicts between participants. In the camping area, uncivilized behaviors
such as drunkenness, smoking, and loud noises are more likely to cause dissatisfaction and even conﬂict.
“I was tired when I went back to the tent last night and I went to sleep. Later, it seemed that
the people in the Ye group had been drunk and harassed the tents one by one. I was quarreling with
them at that time” (TLD2).
3.2. Drivers of TTI
Both individual and environmental factors aﬀect interactions between festival tourists.
The individual characteristics are the internal driving factors, including personality characteristics,
musical preferences, participation experience, and motivations. The impact of the environment can be
divided into two aspects: the festivalscape and the social festivalscape.
3.2.1. Individual Characteristics
Personalities are the most inﬂuential elements of individual behavior. Extroverted tourists are
more likely to get into the surrounding environment and be aﬀected by the emotions or behaviors of
others. As TH8 noted, “It should be easier for more outgoing people to get excited, to communicate
with others, to interact with others and to express themselves”. However, tourists who are more
introverted are less likely to be aﬀected by others’ emotions and surrender themselves to the festivities.
Motivation is the intrinsic driver for individuals to adopt corresponding behavioral strategies.
Therefore, tourists engage in diﬀerent types of interactions according to their motivations. Those who
just want to “listen to their favorite music” pay more attention to the music itself and “don’t want to
play with other tourists.” Others consider interacting with friends crucial to the festival experience.
TLD3 noted, “I came to Midi because I wanted to get together with my friends across the country
and to drink, talk and chat with them by taking the advantage of this opportunity”.
Musical preference is highly personal. Although the main style of the Midi is based on rock,
bands with styles are invited, such as folk, rap, and pop. Therefore, festival-goers behave according to
their own preferences. Especially when encountering the performance of one’s favorite band, tourists
tend to fully invest emotionally. As TH1 noted, “When I watched the show of Mirror, I was in the ﬁrst
row. Because I have been enchanted with them for a longtime, the show really touched me. I can sing
along with them for every song. It was so cool and happy”. Conversely, when individuals experienced
some music styles that diﬀered from their preferences, their participation was limited. TLD2 noted,
“Because I am still a calm person, I think heavy metal is a bit noisy and unacceptable to some extent.
I didn’t play with them when watching the heavy metal bands”.
Another individual factor is previous experience at music festivals, especially the Midi. There were
signiﬁcant diﬀerences in interactions between ﬁrst-time goers and the frequent participants. Generally
speaking, the Midi is completely diﬀerent from daily life for ﬁrst-time goers. They were more “curious
and fresh” and as TH4 noted “various places to visit with all kinds of music worth listening to”.
Therefore, ﬁrst-timers were more enthusiastic about participating in interactive activities. Experienced
participants were more likely to feel bored with the usual interactive activities.
“I am almost tired of coming to Midi. I have been here nearly six or seven times. I don’t have
the feeling of surprise any more in here. At ﬁrst when I came to Midi, I used to go to play pogo,
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jumping and other activities. But it’s not going to happen now. I’m too lazy to squeeze inside. I’m too
tired to stand behind the crowd” (TLD4).
3.2.2. Environmental Impacts
The impacts of the environment can be divided into two aspects: festivalscape and social
festivalscape. Festivalscape is the overall perception of the environmental stimuli in festival situations,
which shape and inﬂuence tourists’ general experience. The Festivalscape of the Midi mainly includes
musical performances, weather conditions, and the spatial layout. Music is a core element of the Midi.
Performances of diﬀerent music styles decisively inﬂuence interactive activities between tourists.
As TH7 noted, “For example, everyone must be quiet when listening to folk music and sing together
when the music climaxes. If someone holds a gesture of metal music during punk shows, there would
be some problems. Besides we play pogo, jumping and wall of death in shows of punk and metal.
That is to say each speciﬁc music styles relates to speciﬁc gameplay”.
Weather conditions also aﬀect the willingness and involvement of TTI. Since the Midi is outdoors,
activities are limited by weather conditions. On sunny or cloudy days, there is more participation
and enthusiasm for on-site interactions. If it rains (absent a downpour), shows continue, but with
“fewer participants who are much lazier to interact under the stage” (TH1). Moreover, rainy days
also have a greater impact on TTI in the camping area. Since the campsite is generally a relatively ﬂat
grassy area, it becomes wet and muddy with rain. Thus, most tourists choose to go to nearby hotels
and those who stay in the campsite generally remain in their tents.
TTI is also aﬀected by the festival spatial layout, such as the space between stages, location of
audience areas, distribution of entertainment facilities, and architectural style. Stage layout aﬀects
the spatial ﬂow of participants. For example, “The Zhanguo stage and Tang stage are too far away.
I am too lazy to run around” (TLD1). The layout of the audience area in front of the stage also
limits interactive activities. The Zhanguo stage is dominated by heavy rock music performance.
Therefore, tourists generally carry out more intense interactions such as wall of death, but “the venue
is too small and crowded to hold so many people” (TH8). Additionally, the architectural style within
the venue also impacts TTI.
“The Taihu Midi Camp has a feeling of conﬂict with rock music culture. It is too delicate and makes
us feel that it is somewhat out of place. If it is more open and rougher, we may play much happier
and crazier” (TH6).
The social festivalscape is the perception of social environmental variables, including crowd
density and the emotions and behaviors of others. In other consumption situations, higher crowd
density tends to diminish the overall experience. However, in festival settings such as Midi, crowds
provide interactive opportunities between tourists and help generate more positive experiences.
As TH8 noted, “It’s quite crowded in front of the stage. But I like this feel. I don’t like it when there
are few people at the festival. If the distance between us is too far, there would be a lack of such
an atmosphere. Interactive activities such as jumping, wall of death and driving a train are hard to be
developed when there are few people under the stage”.
The representation of others’ emotions and behaviors are also important social environmental
factors. Strong emotions are infectious in tourists, although emotional involvement varies signiﬁcantly
due to individual diﬀerences. Those who are more passive or introverted interact more easily when
others are highly emotionally and behaviorally engaged in the atmosphere.
“As long as there is one person starting to play, surrounding people follow to play together.
When the atmosphere is intense, all participants are involved. Everyone is emotionally engaged” (SZ1).
3.3. TTI Locations
Spatial impacts neglected in previous studies have essential eﬀects on TTI. Individuals, propelled
by internal factors, choose their spatial locations during the music shows. The experience of
the Midi signiﬁcantly varies from the micro-environment of diﬀerent spatial locations which inﬂuences
Sustainability 2019,11, 4030 10 of 15
the perception of physical and social environmental factors. Thus, interactions in diﬀerent locations are
aﬀected by the density and the involvement level of surrounding tourists. The formation of interactive
activities such as jumping, driving a train, and wall of death requires a crowd; crowd density intensiﬁes
participants’ excitement. Therefore, such interactions often occur in front of the stages and in the center
of the crowd. When away from the stage and the crowd, TTI tends to be low-intensity, such as pogo
and hand-in-hand singing together.
“I felt that it was more exciting and much easier to integrate into the music atmosphere when
standing in the crowd. And the closer you were to the performing bands, the more infected you would
get. Other surroundings could strongly drive you to engage in the interactive activities when you
were in the heart of the crowd” (TLD5).
3.4. Inﬂuence of TTI
TTI occurs throughout the festival, in both time and space. Participants’ perception of
the quality of interaction is closely linked to their evaluation of the overall Midi experience. Positive
interactions enhance emotions and cognition about the experience. High-quality musical interactions
between tourists help generate positive performance evaluations. Additionally, socialization
is the main motivator for some, especially ﬁrst-time attendees unfamiliar with the live bands.
Despite the unfamiliarity, TTI promotes integration into the overall interactive atmosphere with
the assistance of others and thus produces a profound experience.
“Though I don’t know them, I felt that the overall atmosphere of the band was really amazing.
People from the ﬁrst row to the last row were entirely infected with music and dancing around.
They were hand in hand and playing pogo. Midi is fantastic and crazy. I really love it” (TH8).
Using grounded theory, this study constructed a conceptual model of TTI, shown in Figure 1.
This model shows the main categories of social interaction between tourists, its formation process, as well
as its inﬂuence. The ﬁgure shows TTI is the core of the model and there are three types of interactions:
entertainment, mutual assistance, and conﬂict. Additionally, factors that inﬂuence interactions between
tourists include individual and environmental aspects. Individual characteristics are personality,
musical preferences, previous experience of music festivals and motivations. The environmental
inﬂuences are divided into festivalscape and social festivalscape. Additionally, locations of tourists
in the festival venue can directly inﬂuence TTI and indirectly inﬂuence TTI through its impacts on
festivalscape and social festivalscape perceptions. Finally, the evaluation of overall experience is
inﬂuenced by all factors, especially TTI.
Sustainability 2019, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 10 of 15
different locations are affected by the density and the involvement level of surrounding tourists.
The formation of interactive activities such as jumping, driving a train, and wall of death requires a
crowd; crowd density intensifies participants’ excitement. Therefore, such interactions often occur
in front of the stages and in the center of the crowd. When away from the stage and the crowd, TTI
tends to be low-intensity, such as pogo and hand-in-hand singing together.
“I felt that it was more exciting and much easier to integrate into the music atmosphere when
standing in the crowd. And the closer you were to the performing bands, the more infected you
would get. Other surroundings could strongly drive you to engage in the interactive activities when
you were in the heart of the crowd” (TLD5).
3.4. Influence of TTI
TTI occurs throughout the festival, in both time and space. Participants’ perception of the
quality of interaction is closely linked to their evaluation of the overall Midi experience. Positive
interactions enhance emotions and cognition about the experience. High-quality musical
interactions between tourists help generate positive performance evaluations. Additionally,
socialization is the main motivator for some, especially first-time attendees unfamiliar with the live
bands. Despite the unfamiliarity, TTI promotes integration into the overall interactive atmosphere
with the assistance of others and thus produces a profound experience.
“Though I don’t know them, I felt that the overall atmosphere of the band was really amazing.
People from the first row to the last row were entirely infected with music and dancing around.
They were hand in hand and playing pogo. Midi is fantastic and crazy. I really love it” (TH8).
Using grounded theory, this study constructed a conceptual model of TTI, shown in Figure 1.
This model shows the main categories of social interaction between tourists, its formation process, as
well as its influence. The figure shows TTI is the core of the model and there are three types of
interactions: entertainment, mutual assistance, and conflict. Additionally, factors that influence
interactions between tourists include individual and environmental aspects. Individual
characteristics are personality, musical preferences, previous experience of music festivals and
motivations. The environmental influences are divided into festivalscape and social festivalscape.
Additionally, locations of tourists in the festival venue can directly influence TTI and indirectly
influence TTI through its impacts on festivalscape and social festivalscape perceptions. Finally, the
evaluation of overall experience is influenced by all factors, especially TTI.
Figure 1. Conceptual model of festival tourist-to-tourist interaction (TTI).
Social interactions between tourists have been highlighted in previous studies , in which
entertainment TTI has been neglected. Entertainment interaction is the crucial type of TTI at
Figure 1. Conceptual model of festival tourist-to-tourist interaction (TTI).
Sustainability 2019,11, 4030 11 of 15
Social interactions between tourists have been highlighted in previous studies [
in which entertainment TTI has been neglected. Entertainment interaction is the crucial type of
TTI at festivals. Music festivals are typical hedonic services which consist entertainment as principle
] and many festival-goers are primarily motivated by interactive recreational activities.
Previously, mutual assistance behaviors and conﬂict have been emphasized. In many service settings,
customers interact with each other by providing instructions or assistance [
]. Stemming from
a variety of product knowledge, personality, and motives, diﬀerent tourists may take on diﬀerent roles,
including reactive helper or helpseeker, or proactive helper or helpseeker [
]. However, ﬁrst-time festival
goers always seek information and physical assistance from frequent goers to facilitate engagement in
the overall atmosphere. Moreover, Martin and Pranter (1989) revealed that incompatible behaviors
could give rise to customer dissatisfaction [
]. Since then, conﬂicts and their impacts among tourists
have been highlighted in the literature .
TTI is propelled by both endogenous and exogenous eﬀects. Endogenous eﬀects are personality
characteristics, music style preference, participation experience, and motivations. Exogenous eﬀects
refer to environmental features of both festivalscape and social festivalscape. Diﬀerences in speciﬁc
classiﬁcations aside, most researchers agree that both individual characteristics and environmental
settings contribute to more profoundly perceived social interactions [
]. Extroverted tourists are more
social and talkative [
] during festivals. Besides, social motivations appear to be principal reasons for
interaction in hedonic service settings such as festival tourism. Festival-goers desire to make social
bonds with fellow tourists for identiﬁcation and shared interests [
]. However, both musical
preferences and previous participation experiences can signiﬁcantly inﬂuence TTI and have not
received enough attention in previous studies. Music style preference mainly aﬀects the types of
interactions, while the participation experience has great impact on the involvement of tourists’
Physical and social environmental factors also affect interactions between tourists. The festivalscape,
the venue itself and the physical environment surrounding the festival [
], can facilitate TTI by providing
space for tourists to meet and engage [
]. Compared with the physical aspects, social festivalscape
has a more significant impact on tourists’ behavior [
]. The behaviors and experiences of tourists
are influenced simultaneously by the presence of others and perceptions of other tourists’ emotions
and behavior in the festival setting.
The spatial locations occupied by tourists or the distance from the crowd when interacting with
others in festival space play important mediating eﬀects. Outdoor music festival tourists are relatively
free to select and change locations. It is known that spaces conducive to social interaction may
be one of the primary meanings of the tourism experience [
]. Furthermore, locations determine
the spatial framework for environmental factors. At diﬀerent distances, the information perceived by
the senses diﬀers. For example, in close proximity, contact is feasible, while vision and hearing become
more important at greater distances. Thus, tourists change their interactive behaviors according to
the distance they are separated [
]. Most festival-goers seek close proximity with other tourists
because interactions between festival participants are key motivators. Hence, dense crowds give
the sense of belonging and the social contact sought; this is in contrast with the dissatisfaction that
crowd density brings to customers in general service situations .
TTI is a strong predictor of evaluation of festival experience which is a holistic concept
including both cognitive and emotional aspects. Social interactions between tourists are an essential
part of the festival experience [
]. Perceptions of TTI directly or indirectly inﬂuence tourists’ holistic
This exploratory study contributes to the comprehensive understanding of TTI in festival settings.
A grounded theory approach using interview data was applied to construct a conceptual model
of TTI. The model revealed types of TTI (entertainment behavior, mutual assistance, and conﬂict),
Sustainability 2019,11, 4030 12 of 15
drivers and inﬂuence of social interactions between festival tourists. The festival speciﬁcs are reﬂected
in the participants’ keen attention to recreational involvement. Thus, entertainment activities compose
the major part of social interactions between tourists, due to the hedonic nature of festival tourism.
Furthermore, drivers of TTI are both internal and external to participants. Internal drivers include
personality characteristics, musical preferences, previous participation experience, and motivations.
Environmental aspects include festivalscape and social parts of environment or the social festivalscape.
The signiﬁcant inﬂuence of locations or proximity to other tourists on social interactions was highlighted.
Location preferences stemming from individual characteristics directly inﬂuence interpersonal
interactive behaviors between festival-goers and have an indirect impact on TTI. Additionally, both
positive and negative interactions between tourists aﬀected the overall evaluation of festival experience.
This study oﬀers certain actionable implications for festival managers to improve tourists’
experiences as well as to remain competitive in the market. Speciﬁcally, managers can design various
entertainment activities during the festival. Because entertainment incidents construct the essential
part of on-site interactions, festival staﬀcan shape the atmosphere to encourage tourists to engage
in interactive entertainment with others around them. By formulating behavioral norms, managers
can limit undesirable behaviors so as to avoid conﬂict as much as possible. Furthermore, the festival
layout such as stage, resting areas, and service areas, should be planned to provide opportunities
for tourists to interact. Managers should provide tourists with a shared space that is accessible
and facilitates interaction.
This study has some limitations. A qualitative method was applied for theory formation to gain
a deep understanding of festival TTI. However, the relationships between constructs in the conceptual
model need to be further examined through quantitative research. Scales for constructs should be
developed on the basis of this study’s qualitative ﬁndings. In particular, the measurement of TTI
should be assessed for various types of festivals to ensure its reliability. The mediating eﬀect of
locations, which has previously been neglected, should also be assessed through further research.
Additionally, the direct impact of TTI on evaluation of festival experience has been investigated in
this research, while the indirect inﬂuence on behavior factors (including satisfaction, revisit intention
and word-of-mouth) which have been revealed in previously literatures, has not been taken into
account. Further studies need to contain tourist behavior variables into a broader framework in order
to reveal the indirect eﬀects of festival TTI.
The generalizability of ﬁndings is limited because original data were collected solely from tourists
at the Midi Music Festival, and festival TTI is profoundly aﬀected by physical and social environmental
features, which vary across diﬀerent types of festivals [
]. Speciﬁcally, the content of particular festival
variables generates diﬀerent types of interactions. The classiﬁcation of TTI in the conceptual model
was thus derived from the analysis of Midi. Therefore, future research should include more extensive
settings of festivals to discuss TTI in order to enrich the model.
Since on-site social interactions between tourists have been demonstrated, the procession of data
collection was completely ﬁnished on-scene at Midi, where in-depth interviews could be conducted
only while waiting for the performance opening and during the halftime interval. The sample size of
this study was thus quite limited for the 2–3 days of the festival. Longer festivals could be investigated
in order to gain a larger sample size in the future. In addition, increasing the number of people
conducting interviews could boost the number of participants interviewed, even during short festivals.
Conceptualization, H.S.; Data curation, H.S.; Formal analysis, H.S., S.W. and Y.L.;
Investigation, S.W.; Methodology, H.S.; Resources, G.D.; Writing—original draft, H.S.; Writing—review and editing,
H.S., Y.L. and G.D.
This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 41571132)
and the National Social Science Foundation of China (grant number 17XMZ028).
Conﬂicts of Interest: The authors declare no conﬂict of interest.
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