To read this content please select one of the options below:

Visitor discourses on experiences: reasons for festival success and failure

Maarit Kinnunen (Multidimensional Tourism Institute, University of Lapland, Helsinki, Finland)
Antti Haahti (Multidimensional Tourism Institute, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland)

International Journal of Event and Festival Management

ISSN: 1758-2954

Article publication date: 19 October 2015




The purpose of this paper is to unfold factors anchored in visitors’ experiences possibly determinant of the success or failure of cultural festivals.


The studied data included 931 experience descriptions, 23 interviews and 51 empathy-based stories collected from 17 cultural festivals around Finland during the summers of 2012 and 2013. The nature of the study was exploratory, the theoretical framework was social constructionism, and the analysis was done using Foucauldian discourse analysis. The Method of Empathy Based Stories, a non-active role-playing technique, was used in the data collection.


The identified success factors were the programme, good quality food, sense of community, chill-out opportunities and building blocks of one’s identity. The factors that might cause failures were commercialised and low-quality programme, the low quality of services, commercialism demonstrated by elevated ticket and service pricing, VIP services confronting egalitarianism, crowd control and queueing and anti-social behaviour.

Practical implications

Three areas of particular interest were: how to nurture identity construction and personal well-being, how to enhance egalitarianism within the festival community, and how to promote the desired code of conduct without applying unnecessary rules and restrictions. If successful in these, the festival could boast of features that are not easy to replicate and that could create a competitive edge.


Empathy-based stories combined with discourse analysis contributed new insights on the issues of the success and failure of festivals. The empathy-based stories were particularly useful in retrieving informants’ perceptions of the future and for identifying factors that might cause failures.



In memory of Professor Dr Seppo Aho.


Kinnunen, M. and Haahti, A. (2015), "Visitor discourses on experiences: reasons for festival success and failure", International Journal of Event and Festival Management, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 251-268.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles