PurposeThe Royal Opera House, located at the epicentre of Covent Garden, stands as the UK’s leading provider of opera and ballet performances. Having been extensively redeveloped, its front facade is not visible from the area’s central market place and the perceived exclusivity and elitism commonly associated with its art forms also impose a challenge. This study aims to analyze the influence that the Opera House exerts on the tourist’s perception and experience of the world-renowned London’s “Theatreland”.Design/methodology/approachIn all, three hundred and six semi-structured interviews with domestic, international, first-time and repeat tourists were conducted in six different locations throughout the area and inside the flagship building using a convenience sampling approach. These were then analyzed with the assistance of qualitative data analysis software (QSR N*Vivo) in two stages leading to an initial set of categorical topics that derived in a number of findings related to the factors that influence the tourist’s perception and experience of place.FindingsThe Opera House’s perceived urban concealment proved to have an impact on its influence on Covent Garden’s sense of place. But its social inclusion and audience development initiatives that foster a new generation of opera and ballet theatre-goers emerged as important findings as the House’s open door policy for daytime visitors along with live relays of current opera and ballet productions in other locations spark an interest in experiencing the building from the inside.Research limitations/implicationsThis paper focuses exclusively on findings related to audience development and social inclusion initiatives currently used at the Royal Opera House and their impact on the tourist’s perception and experience of place. However, many other factors influence these processes and scope for further research is highlighted.Practical implicationsThe Royal Opera House’s perceived urban concealment imposes a challenge to the task of developing new audiences for its current and future productions. Its learning and participation unit must endeavor to engage younger and international markets by focusing on the quality of the House’s performances, its heritage and added facilities of the venue such as exhibitions and shop.Social implicationsThe Royal Opera House’s creed of “excellence, access and artistic development” is implemented by extending opportunities to younger target markets to engage with its cultural produce.Originality/valueThis paper addresses the gap in knowledge related to the development of the niche Opera House tourist segment of the cultural tourism market.
International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research – Emerald Publishing
Published: Aug 7, 2017