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Experience design and the dimensions of transformative festival experiences

Barbara Neuhofer (Department of Innovation and Management in Tourism, Fachhochschule Salzburg GmbH, Puch bei Hallein, Austria)
Krzysztof Celuch (Faculty of Economic Sciences and Management, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Torun, Poland)
Thuy Linh To (Department of Innovation and Management in Tourism, Fachhochschule Salzburg GmbH, Puch bei Hallein, Austria)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 10 August 2020

Issue publication date: 21 August 2020




In the emerging transformation economy, there is a shift from staging memorable experiences for many to eliciting life-transformative events for one. This study aims to understand how transformative experiences can be guided and what prerequisites are needed to elicit human transformation when designing experiences. This study borrows positive psychology as a theoretical lens to explore festivals as a prime context for liminal transformative experiences in the hospitality context.


A constructivist qualitative research design was used through 31 in-depth interviews. To ensure experience recollection, memory formation and integration of the experience into long-term transformative effects, all interviewees had attended an electronic dance music festival in the past 12 months.


Guided by the positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments (PERMA) model, the thematic analysis revealed a series of psychological and contextual dimensions around PERMA and liminality that need to occur for transformative experiences, personal growth and self-transcendence to happen.

Practical implications

This study provides a guideline for event organisers and experiences designers to intentionally design and occasion positive human experiences in temporal and spatial liminal hospitality consumption contexts. Psychological and contextual dimensions are identified as critical factors in facilitating human transformation.


This paper bridges the emerging transformation economy, experience design and positive psychology. Grounded in PERMA, the study offers a novel theoretical model that serves as a framework for both transformative experience research and practical experience design.



Neuhofer, B., Celuch, K. and To, T.L. (2020), "Experience design and the dimensions of transformative festival experiences", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 32 No. 9, pp. 2881-2901.



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