Accepted Paper:

Localising experience economy in the post-socialist countryside: guided explorations of body and soul in rural Estonia  
Maarja Kaaristo (Manchester Metropolitan University)Ester Bardone (University of Tartu)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses contemporary post-socialist post-modern Estonian countryside that is (re)constructed by rural tourism entrepreneurs as a site for diverse leisure activities, where the practices of everyday life are transformed into guided experiences of rurality.

Paper long abstract:

Rural places have long history of being recreational environments where one can retreat from the urban environment to relax and celebrate nostalgic longing for (idyllic) nature and (peasant) traditions. In the context of experience economy, variety of services are provided by the hosts in which personal guidance plays a crucial role.

After the collapse of Soviet Union, Estonia has adopted neoliberal economic and agricultural policies that have discouraged small-scale production and encouraged the establishment of rural tourism and hospitality enterprises in the countryside, taking advantages of both natural and cultural resources as well as of entrepreneurs' creativity. Former farmsteads have become farm tourism establishments and some hosts have come up with novel experiences services. The contemporary post-socialist post-modern Estonian countryside is (re)constructed as a site for diverse leisure activities where the practices of everyday life - such as taking a sauna or having a walk - have transformed into experience-providing tourism services. We are focusing on two types of such services that combine the traditional and novel cultural elements: the designed auditory experience of "silence" and the multisensory experience of taking the sauna. Drawing on our fieldwork conducted in Estonian rural tourism establishments in 2008-2014, we examine the experiencescapes of these two services in regard to the idea of spirituality and personally perceived experiential authenticity of the hosts.

Panel P004
Tourism in (post)socialist Eastern Europe (Anthromob; IUAES-TOURISM; EASA Europeanist Network)