Heritage tourism on route 66: Deconstructing nostalgia

Kellee Caton, Carla A Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many scholars have criticized the phenomenon of heritage tourism, arguing that it is driven by nostalgia, the desire on the part of heritage tourists to relive a glorified, misremembered version of the past; however, few studies have examined the actual experiences of heritage tourists. Employing a framework of heuristic inquiry, this study explores nine tourists' experiences traveling along the Route 66 National Historic Corridor, using methodological techniques of in-depth active interviewing, personal reflection, narrative inquiry, and photo elicitation in order to begin to evaluate the explanatory power of nostalgia theory in this context. Study participants identified various meaningful elements of their travel experiences, including historical education, interaction with diverse landscapes, interaction with hosts, and personal growth; however, their experiences did not appear to be characterized by nostalgia, as it is conceptualized in the tourism literature. The study thus emphasizes the importance of considering tourists' interpretations of their experiences when generating theory about tourism phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-386
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Travel Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2007


  • Heritage
  • Nostalgia
  • Route 66

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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