As Pine and Gilmore (1998) coin the concept of a new economic era: the “experience economy” when customers are looking for exceptional and unforgettable experiences, it is obvious that tourism, like many other industries, is incessantly getting involved in experience economy and must generate more experience products. Many countries throughout the world have targeted tourism as a driving-force for development, and Vietnam is not an exception. However, there is lack of academic research on the relationship of the experience economy and the tourism development in Vietnam. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to study the case of Cu Chi, where experience economy has changed a war-devastated area in Southern Vietnam into a popular tourist destination. Hence, the objective of this paper is twofold: to investigate the affect of experience economy on Cu Chi, and to identify the experience products of this destination. Based on the findings, some practical approaches for tourism sustainable development planning of Cu Chi are then proposed.
In the ‘experience economy’, Pine And Gilmore (1998) reveal a new era of economy in which people are attracted by meaningful experiences and intangible things instead of tangibles like years before. This experience economy is growing very fast thanks to the great need of customers for affective memories, sensation and symbolism which combine to create a holistic and long-lasting personal experience. New marketing approaches also shift from product attributes and quality to experiences that dazzle customer’s senses, ‘engage them personally’, ‘touch their hearts’ and ‘stimulate their minds’ (e.g. Schmitt, 2003; Gentile, Spiller and Noci, 2007). Therefore, Pine and Gilmore (1998) suggest businesses or destinations should add extra value to their offerings in order to provide unforgettable, satisfactory experiences to their customers. If companies can create personal experiences to customers, they will have sustainable competitive advantage (McCole, 2004; Prahalad and Ramaswany, 2004; Shaw and Ivens, 2005). The experience economy also employs the concept of the “Creative Class”, which has been named by Richard Florida in his book – The Rise of the Creative Class (2002). The Creative Class are not restricted in any set plan, but they have freedom to perform a more flexible one. This distinction still makes up the core meaning of the experience economy: The industry grows by a flexibility dictated by the interests and curiosity of its customers.