Journal of Tourism Research & Hospitality ISSN: 2324-8807

Research Article, J Tourism Res Hospitality Vol: 6 Issue: 4

Destination Attracting from Online Imagination

Ching-Cheng Shen and Chien-Chi Yeh*

Graduate Institute of Tourism Management, National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, Taiwan

*Corresponding Author : Chien Chi Yeh
Graduate Institute of Tourism Management, National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, Taiwan
E-mail: [email protected]

Received: June 13, 2017 Accepted: August 16, 2017 Published: August 22, 2017

Citation: Shen C, Yeh C (2017) Destination Attracting from Online Imagination. J Tourism Res Hospitality 6:4. doi: 10.4172/2324-8807.1000174

Abstract

The research goal of this study was to investigate how motivation, consumption, and recommendation online affect the destination choice. Samples from the online travel communities were collected by mailing a questionnaire survey to participate. In total, 2,100 invitation messages were mailed to the members of the three travel communities. Of these, 456 were returned completed (a return rate of 21.71%). From the flow perspective, the information about destination will have an impact on the travelers’ cognitive image of destination when a traveler visits an online travel community. Tourism marketers need to understand that the mental images that come to mind make travelers feel as though they were actually experiencing the destination featured in the advertisement. Moreover, Destinations should redouble their efforts in using advertising to grow destination advocacy through the integration of online travelers’ contact points.

Keywords: Online travel communities; Consumption vision; Recommendations; Decision making

Introduction

Travel has become a favorite global leisure activity. Previous research has indicated that travelers behave differently in an exciting, leisure, non-home environment. The motives of travelers while on holiday include seeking unique travel destinations [1], travel products [2,3], and souvenirs related to the locations visited.

Moreover, travelers not only read and use information fromonline advertising during their choice-making, but also post theircomments on travel products and services on the virtual environment [4]. Previous research stated online advertising credibility is core toconsumer search and consumption behaviors that allow advertisersto harvest value from online communities [5]. That is, travelers’opinions posted on leading travel communities are analyzed to gainan understanding of the destination experience being manifested; Thus, the purpose of the study is a need to understand how therecommendations from an online community acts as a catalytic agent for travel decisions.

Traditionally, destination marketing has included improvingthe image of an area to attract travelers and increasing the range offacilities and amenities available to the local community. From the onlineperspective, travelers navigate through the Internet to obtain e-tourismrelatedcontent. Travelers not only read and use information from online advertising during their choice-making, but also post their commentson travel products and services on the virtual environment [4]. Thus, the main advantage of recommendations for travel destination is that large amounts of content can be accessed quickly, and the organization of such content is flexible for travelers. Accordingly, the value of online advertising in supporting vacation planning is determined by its ease ofaccess and navigation [6-9], and is uniquely related to its hypertext nature and the searcher’s navigation behavior.

The research goal of this study was to investigate how motivation, consumption, and recommendation in the online environment affect the destination choice of travelers. We formulated the destination choice model from the perspective of flow experience and social identity theory, and we collected online travel community participation samples by mailing a questionnaire to those memberswho posted more than five recommendations on the European part ofthe travel communities regarding their travel experience.

Theoretical Background and Literature Review

The research model of this study comes from a flow experienceand social identity perspective, whereby consumption vision has apositive relationship with the destination image and choice.

Flow experience

Flow is defined as the holistic experience that people feel when theyact with total involvement, and it is also regarded as a psychological condition in which the person simultaneously feels cognitively efficient, motivated, and happy [10,11]. This definition suggests that flow comprises four components: control, attention, curiosity, andintrinsic interest. When in the flow state, people become absorbed intheir activity; their awareness is narrowed to the activity itself, theylose self-consciousness, and they feel in control of their environment.

Flow has been studied in the context of information technologyand is thought to be useful for understanding consumer behaviorof online travel-community members [12,13]; From the flowperspective, the enjoyment of information about destination will havean impact on the travelers’ cognitive image of destination when atraveler visits an online travel community, and the online advertisingwill be enhanced desires to travel of tourists, make tourists want to seesomething different that they don’t normally see.

Tourism marketers will promote the destinations via onlinecommunities; hence, it is important that it should make travelers feelinvolved and enjoying when they search online for travel productsand information around the virtual environment. That is, an onlinecommunity places high value on enabling participants to achieve thebest possible solutions, and a funny destination image can influencetourists’ destination preferences. Moreover, knowing that travelersthemselves become the technical and ethical basis for travel decisionsmade from virtual environment, online travel communities serve as areference group that could significantly influence the beliefs, attitudes,and choices of travelers.

Social identity theory

Social identity theory is defined as the individual’s knowledge that he/she belongs to certain social groups, together with some emotional and value significance of this group membership to the individual [14-16]. It can be used to understand the role of country of origin and foreign branding in consumer behavior. The social identification of members through their online travel community experience andits positive behavioral outcomes, as well as the loyalty to an online travel community, would lead members to purchase travel products. In addition, online communities provide a potential environment to affect sales by spreading recommendations.

From the perspective of social identity theory, prior research has shown a consumer’s judgment of an event (e.g., travel destination) tobe contingent on the psychological distance from the event [17].The traveler also considers whether his or her self-concept canaccommodate that role while making the decision. In addition,online advertising relies on the use of images to convey messagesto the audience and offers opportunities for individuals andgroups to provide alternatives to the existing set of dominant ideas [18]. The content of online advertising is developed to appealand provide information to specific groups of Internet users, andonline community members rate reviews containing identitydescriptiveinformation more positively [17]. The prevalenceof reviewer disclosure of identity information is associated withincreases in subsequent online product sales.

Travelers’ desire to travel

In tourism research, the motivation to travel refers to the set of needs that predispose a person to participate in a touristic activity [1,19]. With the desire to travel, tourists actively search for information and use induced sources The most effective types of information sources for forming images are word-of-mouth communication [4], especially from family and friends, and the tourists’ onsite experiences. Previous research shows that one of the important tools for destination managers in the information and promotional mix is marketing and advertising.

Cognitive image of destination

A destination image constitutes the beliefs, ideas, and impressionsa person holds with regard to a certain destination [20]. Travelers areinitially pushed by internal desires or emotional factors [21], suchas their personal escape [22], psychological or physical health [23], thrill and adventure [24], and social interactions [23], and then arepulled by external or tangible resources, such as natural or artificial attractions that destinations possess; travelers’ motive has a significant influence on the image of destination and revisit intention [21,25]. The following hypothesis is thus proposed:

Hypothesis 1: The desire to travel of a tourist is positivelyassociated with the cognitive image of the destination.

Consumption vision of advertising

A consumption vision consists of a series of vivid mental images of product-related behaviors and their consequences [26,27]; this vision allows consumers to more accurately anticipate the actualconsequences of product use. From the flow experience perspective, online advertising provides the opportunity to experience a differentartistic sight about the destination [12,13], and emphasizes on history, heritage, and knowledge of the travel destination. That is, online travelcommunities basically place a communication environment; whentravelers search the travel community for the destination they need, they are influenced by the message via advertising. The following hypothesis is thus proposed:

Hypothesis 2: The consumption vision of advertising is positivelyassociated with the cognitive image of the destination.

Recommendations in online travel communities

Recommendation is defined as the opinion a person providesto users about the items of his/her interest based on his/her pastpreferences, history of purchases, demographic information, andother relevant information [11]. Travelers may employ a commonexternal search strategy, conferring with a perceived expert on the Web site when they make a decision. Thus, tourism marketers havetrumpeted the importance of recommendations in creating the imageof the destination. This leads to hypothesis 3.

Hypothesis 3: Recommendations in online travel communitiesare positively associated with the cognitive image of the destination.

Destination choice

Destinations can be classified on the basis of their componentsor tourist orientation [28]. Destination image provides a theoretical foundation for the assessment of the image potential tourists haveprior to visitation. The cognitive image impacts affective image, thecognitive image change among visitors, and its relationship to theirloyalty to a well-established destination brand [29-31]. In short, the image of a destination plays an important role in predicting destination choice. Travelers can search online for travel destination and information in the popular travel forums, and the image of the destination will impact on the behavior intention to choose a traveldestination. This leads to hypothesis 4.

Hypothesis 4: The cognitive image of a destination is positivelyassociated with the destination choice of travelers.

Research Methodology

A survey program was developed to handle the data-collectionprocess using the My3q Web site (http://www.my3q.com). The designof the questionnaire linked it to the invitation message on three travel communities: BACKPACKERS (http://www.backpackers.com.tw/forum/), EUROTRAVEL community (http://www.eurotravel.idv.tw/), and TRIPADVISOR (http://www.tripadvisor.com.tw/).

The questionnaire was constructed based largely on existing measures that were identified as suitable for this study. An English version of the questionnaire was first compiled and modified to suit the context of destination choice and then translated into Chinese; from content validity perspective, two professors in tourism management and one professor in information management verified and refined the survey items for translation accuracy. A pretest of the Chinese version of the questionnaire was performed, with five managers inthe travel and tourism industry assessing its logical consistencies, ease of understanding, sequence of items, and contextual relevance. The comments collected from these managers led to several minor modifications of the wording and the item sequence. Furthermore, a pilot study was conducted involving 30 Master’s students who were members of various online travel communities. Comments and suggestions on the item contents and structure of the instrument were solicited.

In total, 2,100 invitation messages were mailed to the members ofthe three travel communities. Of these, 456 were returned completed (a return rate of 21.71%). About 54.4% of the respondents weremales and 45.6% were females. Majority (50%) of the subjects were between the ages of 31 and 40 years. They were also frequent users and experienced members of the communities. Around 39.4% of the participants visited online travel communities for more than 6years, and 68.2% reported that the frequency of using online travel community was more than 4 times per week.

Measures

We first conducted literature reviews on related topics to examinethe external validity of our research model. We then developed the questionnaire items based on the literature. The measures used to operationalize the constructs in the research model were mainlyadopted from some of the related studies conducted in the past, withminor wording changes tailored to the interviewees. This resultedin the identification of 23 potential research items. These scales are summarized in Table 1.

Factor Item Reference
Desires to Travel 1. I want to see something new and exciting. Sangpikul 
of Tourist 2. I want to see something different that I don’t normally see. (2008)
(DTT) 3. I want to experience cultures that are different from mine.  
Cognitive Image 4. This destination offers a lot in terms of tourist facilities. Walters, 
of Destination 5. This destination provides a variety of recreation activities. Sparks &
(CID) 6. This destination has a variety of travel services. Herington,
  7. This destination lets me think of local culture. (2007)
Consumption Vision 8. The mental images that came to mind formed a series of events in my mind in which I was a part of. Walters,  Sparks &
(CV) 9. The mental images that came to mind made me feel as though I was actually experiencing the destination featured in this advertisement. Herington, (2007)
  10. This advertisement made me fantasize about having the opportunity to experience the featured destination.  
  11. I could easily construct a story about myself and the featured destination based on the mental images that came to mind.  
  12. It was easy for me to imagine being at this destination.  
  13. Whilst reviewing this advertisement I found myself daydreaming about the featured destination.  
  14. Whilst reviewing the advertisement many images came to mind.  
Recommendations 15. Recommendations about destination online will affect destination choice of mine. Cheung et al., (2008)
(RECM) 16. Recommendations about destination online will provide me with different advisory opinion.  
  17. Recommendations about destination online will change my traveling intention.  
  18. I will make decision by the recommendations from virtual environment.  
  19. Recommendations online will change the destination I intend to travel.  
Destination Choice 20. My destination choice was affected by the low price of infertility treatment. Moghimehfar & 
(DC) 21. My destination choice was affected by lack of expertise. Nasr-Esfahani,
  22. My destination choice was affected by legal restrictions. (2011)
  23. My destination choice was affected by tourist attractions.  

Table 1: Scale development.

Analysis and Results

We follow the two-step procedure to analyze the collected data [32,33]. Specifically, before incorporating the structural restrictions,we estimated and re-specified the measurement model. The LISREL8.50 program was used to perform confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to test the convergent and discriminant validity of the remaining items and scales.

As shown in Table 2, all the λ values in the CFA model exceeded 0.5, the model fit for CFA was reasonable, with a root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.07, and a comparative fit index (CFI) of 0.91. All loadings are of a reasonable magnitude and are significant at p < 0.05. This pattern of strong loadings provided preliminary evidence of scalevalidity. Further, the construct reliabilities were in a reasonable range between 0.87 and 0.93. Except for environmental uncertainty, the averagevariance extracted (AVE) of the remaining constructs was greater than 0.5 (Table 3). In general, these results suggest acceptable unidimesionality, internal consistency, and adequate reliability for these measures.

Hypothesis t-value Standard coefficients Results
H1 Desires to Travel of Tourist  -> Cognitive Image of Destination 1.73 0.08 Not Supported
H2 Consumption Vision -> Cognitive Image of Destination 7.98* 0.55 Supported
H3 Recommendations  -> Cognitive Image of Destination 2.63* 0.10 Supported
H4 Cognitive Image of Destination -> Destination Choice 6.30* 0.41 Supported

Table 2: Hypothesis and Results.

Construct Mean S.D. Composite Reliability AVE DTT CV RECM CID DC
DTT 4.59 0.56 0.93 0.77 0.87        
CV 3.29 0.90 0.91 0.66 0.225 0.81      
RECM 4.42 0.69 0.92 0.69 0.280 0.318 0.83    
CID 3.29 0.90 0.91 0.58 0239 0.525 0.307 0.75  
DC 3.37 1.09 0.87 0.66 -0.73 0.292 0.079 0.352 0.81

Table 3: Reliability, Correlation Coefficients, and AVE Results.

Structural equation modeling was performed to test the hypothesized model; the overall goodness-of-fit was assessed in terms of the model fit measures: Our finding that GFI is 0.87, IFI is 0.91,CFI is 0.91, AGFI is 0.83, RMR is 0.045, RMSEA is 0.078 PNFI is 0.72 and PGFI is 0.64. The results of this hypothesized destination choicemodel indicate an acceptable fit of the model.

Results for hypotheses testing through structural modelestimation are summarized in Table 3. Among these hypotheses, threeare supported, and Hypotheses one is not supported in the study.

Conclusions and Implications

First, the findings of this study provide interesting insights forconsumption vision created in destination choice. As our analysis, thedesire to travel of a tourist is positively associated with the cognitiveimage of the destination was not supported. Compared with pushmotivation was directly influence destination loyalty and satisfactionof customer. That is, desires to travel will be positively associatedwith the cognitive image of the destination; however, there are othervariables that may replace the motivation of travel in the study.

Tourism marketers need to understand that the mental imagesthat come to mind make travelers feel as though they were actually experiencing the destination featured in the advertisement [27]. That is, online advertisements make travelers fantasize about the opportunity to experience the featured destination. Thus, tourismmarketers should create attractive advertisements in the online travel communities, and the destination images that come to the mind of travelers form a series of events in their mind, events of which they are a part.

For example, in maintaining a good relationship and clear communication between destination marketers and their customersin online travel communities, marketers in the online environment should make and keep promises by providing full artistic advertisement about the destination, delivering the right travel product to the travelers, and offering unfailing travel service, which includes clear guide information.

Second, our findings indicate that the recommendations in anonline travel community will positively influence destination choice behavior. Recommendations from members play a role of knowledge contributor between conformity in virtual communities [11], whichtourism marketers should employ as a marketing tool. Although travelers with a high level of interest in selecting possess a strong motivation and desire to find a desirable travel destination, travelers view recommendations as travel seers and expect them to provide unique opinions before a wonderful journey.

For example, tourism marketers provide diverse means of viewingand customizing several features of a travel product, and through online travel communities travelers are likely to feel more satisfied with their experiences. Additionally, these positive recommendations, combined with the strong motivational tendencies and heightened involvement with advertisement previously described, are attractiveto potential travelers.

Third, the findings of the study suggest that the cognitive imageof a destination is positively associated with the destination choice of travelers. A destination image constitutes the beliefs, ideas, andimpressions that a person holds with regard to a certain destination [31]. If the tourism marketer provides a variety of recreation activities as the image of a destination, travelers will feel more attracted when choosing an entity with a name they know and trust. Likewise, we argued that the image of a destination online greatly involves recommendations to buy or try a brand when compared with other recommendations about destination. Destinations should redouble their efforts in using advertising to grow destination advocacy throughthe integration of online travelers’ contact points. Recommendations also can be created online by offering Web visitors the ability to accessthe opinions of satisfied travelers.

For example, a tourism marketer can create a graphical depiction, in advertisements, of travelers discussing brands orseeking information from online travel communities as a strategyof destination choice. Moreover, recommendations influence notonly flows from the opinions of online members to travelers but also spread as a result of relationships among travelers. In other words, the promotion techniques of tourism marketers that raise the interest of travelers in a destination are important in the online travel environment.

Finally, the transfer motivation of a traveler becomes a challenge for tourism marketers. As the result of the study, the factor of failing desires to travel among tourists will be transferred by advertisementor recommendation online. The results suggest that tourism marketers play a catalyst’s role in increasing the transfer travelintention in the virtual environment. An online travel business may adopt different methods to enhance its customer satisfaction level. For example, linking the government to a travel company may entailusing the online travel Web site as its official Web site to retain atraveler by keeping personal data. Various incentive mechanisms thatfocus on relationship building may be provided, as when a potential traveler enters a significant amount of personal data or positivere commendation about a target destination at a Web site. The result of recommendations online on a destination will provide travelers with different opinions, and change their travel intention.

Limitations

First, while this study has produced meaningful data for thedevelopment of multi dimensional measures of factors that influence destination choice behavior, the data come from members of online travel communities, the conclusions and implications cannot begeneralized to other professional online communities. Second, as Senecal and Nantel (2004) stated, online recommendation source scan be sorted into three broad categories. As a result, we recommend future researchers to investigate the effects of various types of online recommendation sources on the destination choice with online advertising.

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