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Micol Mieli



Smartphones and ’planned serendipity’: using the Experience Sampling Method to understand tourism information behaviour in situ


  • Micol Mieli

Summary, in English

Within the field of tourism information search behaviour, this research aims at exploring the proposed concept of ‘planned serendipity’ and its connection with smartphone use for tourism information search. Although studies on smartphone and tourism have flourished in the past few years, research on information needs and how these needs exist in relation to smartphones is lacking. Moreover, there is little academic literature on information search behaviour in situ. Considering the importance and the many uses of smartphones both in everyday life and on vacation, the present research tries to shed some light on these issues.

In the context of digitalization, one of the main challenges in tourism research is to find effective approaches to study the changes in peoples’ behaviour and the new landscape of tourism information sources. Departing from an understanding of technology as both material and immaterial, the present research focuses on objects of tourism and the tourists’ relationship with them. Paradoxically, both materiality and immateriality are at the essence of technology: the functionalities, intangible and immaterial, are what we use to do things, but the objects’ materiality, the thing, tangible and material, is what allows us to use them and is deeply intertwined with our behaviour.

In order to explore the phenomenon of tourism information search in situ through smartphones, a specific methodology has been developed to capture tourists’ information behaviour during their travel experience. Within a qualitative research design, this study borrows the tools of the experience sampling method (ESM) from the field of clinical psychology in order to study smartphone experiences during people’s travels. The tool used for this purpose is an application that participants download to their own smartphones. During the trip, the app sends them periodical reminders (once or more per day or per week) to fill in a short survey on how they have been using their phone to collect tourism information about their destination. Despite this tool coming from a quantitative methodology, the present research is inspired by ethnography and adopts a qualitative approach. Therefore, the data collected with this tool is then expanded with follow-up in depth interviews with the same research participants.

The study proposes the concept of ‘planned serendipity’ as a way to explain the temporal shift of tourists’ information needs. Thanks to the ubiquitous access to online information, it is not only the decision, but also the need to access information that is postponed until right before consumption: there is a serendipitous element within travel planning that previous research has not acknowledged.


  • Institutionen för tjänstevetenskap






Konferensbidrag: abstract


  • Other Social Sciences

Conference name

28th Nordic Symposium on Tourism and Hospitality Research

Conference date

2019-10-23 - 2019-10-25

Conference place

Roskilde, Denmark