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Examining visitors’ experience with Batu Cave, using the four realm experiential theory

Ghazali Musa (Department of Business Strategy and Policy, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Shahrul Najmin (Department of Business Strategy and Policy, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Thinaranjeney Thirumoorthi (Department of Marketing, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.)
Azni Zarina Taha (Department of Business Strategy and Policy, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

International Journal of Tourism Cities

ISSN: 2056-5607

Article publication date: 5 June 2017




City has a continuous need to diversify its products and services to ensure longer tourists’ stays and a profitable tourism industry. Kuala Lumpur is one of the most popular cities in the world, and within its vicinity, Batu Caves are not only an important Hindu religious site, but also a popular tourist attraction. Guided by the four realms of experience dimensions (Pine and Gilmore, 1998), the purpose of this paper is to analyze 54 essays written by university students, to examine the experience of their visit to Batu Caves. The findings confirmed the application of all the four realm dimensions – entertainment, educational, esthetic and escapist – revealing both positive and negative aspects of the experience. Batu Caves may capitalize on the positive experiences as pointers to create an effective marketing communication, while negative experiences are opportunities to devise appropriate corrective measures, and perhaps further develop tourism products and services that would appeal to the visitors’ experience.


This study employed a qualitative research strategy to examine visitors’ experiences at Batu Caves using the four realms of experience theory as coined by Pine and Gilmore (1998). A total of 54 undergrads were asked to describe their visit to Batu Caves (Lucia-Palacios et al., 2016) providing a complete insight of their opinions, feelings and perceptions (Jüttner et al., 2013) using the essay writing method.


The authors discovered firm evidence of the theory’s application, revealing the expected four experiential dimensions in explaining experience at a cultural religious site, extending the description to include its positive and negative aspects, all of which are useful for destination management. The study points out a lot of aspects that must be managed by the site, such as the poor esthetic experience (e.g. smell, rubbish, graffiti, etc.), controlling the animal aggression (i.e. monkeys) and perhaps develop new products and services which could enhance some experiences (e.g. cultural escapism through cultural performances in which visitors could participate).

Research limitations/implications

The main weakness of the research is perhaps the qualitative research work in which data were collected from essays written by the university students. Data of this nature prevent us from being able to generalize the findings and reflect on the experience to the general public.

Practical implications

Tourist stays in Kuala Lumpur could be enhanced by providing meaningful, deep and memorable experiences. Tourist attractions such as Batu Caves should continuously examine the experience that they provide to the visitors. Batu Caves’ management could continuously measure its tourists’ experience provisions, as tourists’ needs evolve over time. From the results they could revamp their products and services offering to ensure the sustainability of Batu Caves’ natural and cultural appeal among visitors and tourists alike.


The outcome provides a better understanding of the current tourism product and services at the destination that have an impact on a visitor’s experience. The findings will assist the Batu Caves’ management to revise and develop the products and service offerings to the visitors.



Musa, G., Najmin, S., Thirumoorthi, T. and Taha, A.Z. (2017), "Examining visitors’ experience with Batu Cave, using the four realm experiential theory", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 105-120.



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Copyright © 2017, International Tourism Studies Association

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