Escaping from the event? Residents' perception of Christmas markets in Northern Italy
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Christmas markets as annual cultural events are constantly changing and have become a mass phenomenon of our day. Even though they represent a promising strategy to extend low seasons in tourism, the growing number of visitors can negatively impact residents’ perceptions of the event and its authenticity. The central purpose of this study is to gain a new perspective on Christmas markets as cultural events focusing on residents by considering them as important actors within a tourism destination. Qualitative interviews with residents of Meran, a Christmas market destination in Northern Italy, explored their meaning for the locals and the impact of increasing numbers of visitors on their loyalty to the event, by implementing the GABEK qualitative research strategy. The results give insights into central aspects of the events’ authenticity, show a shift to less commercial settings in rural areas, and highlight some negative impacts.