The Impact Of Destination Image On Tourist Satisfaction And Destination Loyalty
Tourist destinations with better diverse attractions have become more important than individual attractions due to better highways over the past few years in China. Destination image, tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty are vital factors which are used to explain visitor motivation or their intention to revisit a tourist destination (Chi and Qu, 2008). Tourist satisfaction is a post consumption assessment of the service received and is entirely dependent on destination image. As the number of areas developed for tourism increase, the choice of destinations available to consumers’ drastically expands. The main aim of this research is to examine the impact of destination image on tourist attraction and destination loyalty. According to the interviews, a number of facts about destination image, tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty can be deduced. First, it is clearly evident that tourists who have visited Forbidden City before are satisfied with the attractions available there. Their satisfaction makes them plan to revisit, thus showing their loyalty towards it. This can be deduced from the interviewee’s responses on their responses of their description of destination image and their responses of how satisfied they were when they visited Forbidden City. Conclusion and recommendation were made
1.1 Background to the Study
Tourist destinations with better diverse attractions have become more important than individual attractions due to better highways over the past few years in China. Destination image, tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty are vital factors which are used to explain visitor motivation or their intention to revisit a tourist destination (Chi and Qu, 2008). Tourist satisfaction is a post consumption assessment of the service received and is entirely dependent on destination image. As the number of areas developed for tourism increase, the choice of destinations available to consumers’ drastically expands. Furthermore, today’s tourists, encouraged by increased time devoted for leisure, increasing disposable income, and highly efficient transport networks, have ability and capacity to choose from various destinations available to them. As such, tourism marketing faces issues of influencing the consumer decisions in an ever increasing complex and competitive market place (Alexandris, Kouthhouris, and Meligidis, 2006).
One of the most striking challenges in tourism marketing is a need to effectively position a destination. To successfully encourage tourism in the targeted market, destination should be differentiated from its competitors, or otherwise positively positioned in consumers’ minds (Ekinci, and Hosany, 2006). A key strategic component in this instance is creation and enhancement of distinct, unique and appealing perception, or image, of that particular destination (Pike, 2002).
Prayang, (2008) posits that there exist negative and positive associations with a destination, its products, people, which are somewhat difficult to be altered. Destination images affect tourists travel decisions and behavior towards that destination as well as the level of satisfaction, recollection and the tourism experience (Naidoo, Ramseook and Ladsawut, 2010). Therefore, perceived images of the destination forms a backbone of evaluation and selection process and thus gives a link between motivation and destination selection (O’Leary and Deagan, 2003).
To understand the diversity of perceptions, images, and level of satisfaction vis-a-vis motivation towards a destination is pivotal in the understanding and prediction of tourism demand and its effects on local tourism destination. Simply put, the understanding of destination image and consumers’ perception is important to a destination and acts as a basis of more efficient and effective future strategic planning and decision making. Practically, it implies that image studies are necessary conditions for successful marketing strategy (Lai, Griffin, and Babin, 2009). This way, it is essential to understand timings of image formation, and the exact time when that image influence tourist satisfaction and hence motivation to revisit (Sirakaya, 2001). Essentially, those destinations with strong, positive images are likely to be chosen in making travel decisions (Heung, Qu, and Chu, 2001). Thus, destination image has a critical role in various travel models of making travelling decisions (Yoon, and Uysal, 2005). Once at the destination, tourists’ satisfaction entirely depend upon evaluation of expectations on previously perceived images and the actual reality the destination portrays (Prayang, 2008).
The important role of destination image, both in understanding tourist travel behavior and designing of efficient and effective tourism marketing strategies, emphasizes the need to create tactics so as to comprehensively and accurately measure this concept. To achieve this task, tourism scholars have the benefit of assessing the methods which have been created to measure destination image in general. However, since tourism destinations are complicated and vary in their diversity, it is important to develop more accurate, specific and complex conceptual frameworks so as to accurately measure destination image (Lee, 2009).
A number of studies have already been done to measure image destinations, such as regions, states and countries. However, to date, no serious effort has been put to fully examine this study in terms of its efficiency and effectiveness in measuring and defining destination image concepts. As such, the purpose of this paper is to review past destination image research with the goal of understanding how it impacts on tourists’ satisfaction, and destination loyalty. The term ‘destination’ in this study is limited to the study of Forbidden City in China.
The discussion which ensues identifies important concerns with respect to the present knowledge base on how Forbidden City’s destination image can be measured and the level to which tourists are satisfied and show loyalty towards it. In lieu of this, four major objectives are covered. First, the literature concerning the impacts of destination image on tourist satisfaction towards the Forbidden City tourism destination in China is summarized. Second, the impacts of destination image on destination loyalty towards the Forbidden City in China are discussed in detail. Thirdly, the level of tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty towards the Forbidden City in China is fully examined. Finally, this study recommends viable destination image strategies for the achievement of tourists’ satisfaction and destination loyalty towards Forbidden City in China.
Literature review is primarily limited to the above objectives and some empirical studies in tourism which relates Forbidden City’s image. It is understood, however, that significant study of image destination has been carried out in various disciplines, for instance psychology, marketing, environmental planning and geography (Bigne, Sanchez, and Andréa, 2009). While a comprehensive review of these wide bodies of literature is beyond the scope of this study, certain critical findings related to destination image from these fields are incorporated so as to understand the basic issues of destination image and how it impacts on the two variables: tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty.
In this context, proper understanding of how tourists perceive a destination is pertinent to a destination. Practically, this could be important for Forbidden City, one of the most popular tourist attraction regions in Asia and China’s greatest tourism treasure because of its ornately painted royal architectural wonders and palatial architecture. Besides these, this region has several scenarios, such as cultural attractions, the Palace Museum, religion, ceramics and many more others. This makes the destination amazingly attractive for tourists (Jang, and Feng, 2007).
Forbidden City continues to attract several tourists from different countries basing on its offerings and strong positive image, consolidated in tourist’s minds. This destination evokes images in tourists’ minds as the worlds’ famous museum associated with luxurious historical halls, gardens, and pavilions and well over one million treasures (Chen and Tsai, 2007). The success of Forbidden City is evident due to its status as World Heritage Site, accorded by UNESCO in 1987( Chi, and Qu, 2008). So, the strong image of this place has a vital role in decision making process of nearly 8 million tourists visiting each year (Chen and Tsai, 2007. The tourists identify Forbidden City as philosophical and religious place in China. Forbidden City is also synonymous of prestige and luxury, even if it is affected by other tourist market segments. Its image as a luxury and historical destination is in the minds of most of the tourists. Finally, the motivations of tourists to travel to Forbidden City is influenced by cultural and historical attributes of this destination, more especially the art collections, paintings, ceramics, Jade, mechanical timepieces, and bronze ware. This attraction has been depicted in film, literature and popular art. For instance, The Forbidden City (1918), a fiction film about Chinese emperor and an American has successfully encouraged tourists to visit this place.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Most recent theories are concerned with tourist satisfaction and repeat visitation (Mat Som and Baderneh, 2011); strategic dimension of destination image (Di Marino, 2012); and the meaning and measurement of destination image (Echtner, and Ritchie, 1991). Limited researches have been conducted to succinctly discuss image destination and how it impacts on tourists’ satisfaction and destination loyalty. Existing relevant researches are focused with evaluating the relationship between customer satisfaction and revisit intention (Mat Som and Baderneh, 2011); relationship between destinations reflects tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty (Maroofi, and Dehgan, 2012). Others emphasise on evaluating a single factor influencing destination, and tourist satisfaction, which have rarely incorporated other factors (Gallarza, 2002). Additionally, no research, to date, has comprehensively analyzed how destination image influences destination loyalty in the context of historical and religious attraction site, not to mention in the China’s national setting. As such, this study is helpful in discussing how Forbidden City’s image influences tourist satisfaction and loyalty, plus recommending strategic options on how to create a difference in tourists’ perception and motivation through the use of destination image.
The vital significance of this research exists in capacity of providing Forbidden City’s tourism boards and agencies with strategic suggestions about viable destination image strategies for the achievement of tourists satisfaction and destination loyalty. As mentioned earlier, Forbidden City is a famous tourism destination due to positive image it has created in the minds of the tourists and as such enhancing this image in context of achieving greater tourism satisfaction, and hence destination loyalty will be the major focus of this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main aim of this research is to examine the impact of destination image on tourist attraction and destination loyalty.
In order to achieve the aim of the study, four specific objectives have been addressed:
- To establish the impacts of destination image on tourist satisfaction towards the Forbidden City tourism destination in China
- To establish the impacts of destination image on destination loyalty towards the Forbidden City in China
- To report the level of tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty towards the Forbidden City in China
- To recommend viable destination image strategies for the achievement of tourists satisfaction and destination loyalty towards Forbidden City in China.
1.4 Significance of the Study
The present study is useful for tourism decision makers in both private and public sectors so as to understand the potential of destination image of not only Forbidden City but other tourists’ destinations. Its findings will provide advices for planning, marketing and developing appropriate resource allocation strategies. This study is also a powerful input for destination promotion and positioning activities. The study also can be used as a means of persuasion in addressing tourism development issues in other destination communities.
1.5 Research Question
The study attempts to answer the following research questions
- How destination image impacts on tourist satisfaction?
- How destination image impacts on destination loyalty?
- What is the the level of satisfaction and loyalty?
- What can be done to improve tourist satisfaction and loyalty?
1.6 Scope /Limitation of the Research
This paper reported an attempt to assess the impact destination image on tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty towards Forbidden City. Analyzing the role and formation of destination image has highlighted the need of a distinctive image that attracts, satisfies visitors and enables them to develop loyalty. Additionally, this paper gave recommendations on how the image of Forbidden City should be improved.
However, just like any other research, some challenges marred the effectiveness and efficiency of the research. First, the study was confined to a relatively small sample of eight interviewees and hence the images portrayed in this study do not adequately represent the overall destination image of Forbidden City. Secondly, insufficiency of funds implied that the research had to be carried out within the researcher’s financial capability. To overcome this financial challenge, the research used a small and a convenient sample size. But since the small sample size was not representative of the whole population as stated earlier, a situation of inaccurate data analysis and incomplete research findings challenged this study. To avoid inaccuracy of data analysis, the researcher provided theoretical literature obtained from reviewed articles and books by different authors. Thirdly, data collection was affected by cost and time implications. The researcher had to buy airtime and allocate time to interviewees but time and finances were inadequate. To overcome this, some interviewees were requested to avail themselves physically for the interviews, hence lowering cost implications.
Conclusion and Recommendation
5.1.1 Impact of Destination Image on Tourist Satisfaction towards Forbidden City in China
Destination image influences the degree of satisfaction that visitors receive and can show whether the destination is attractive to tourists or not. Whereas most tourists interviewed indicated that they were satisfied with previous and present visits, those who had not yet visited before had a desire to revisit. Destination image, according to Pike (2004) has a role to play in enhancing the satisfaction and loyalty of visitors. Most interviewed visitors had experienced high level of satisfaction with the image of Forbidden City. Their responses agree with Ryan and Cove’s (2005) postulation that satisfaction is based on the good feelings that enable visitors to relive the experience gained at the destination. The findings also agree with Beerli and Martin’s (2004) position that when visitors’ expectations are met (or exceeded) they become satisfied. Satisfaction of visitors also manifests itself in terms of emotional response that is derived from travelling experience and the nature of attractions at the destination (Pike, 2004).
Visitors experience different levels of satisfaction in different destinations due to the nature of their perceptions concerning the destination. As much as the visitors at Forbidden City are driven by the diverse and pleasant attractions available, some visitors have different reasons as to why they are satisfied with the destination. For example, some state that it is because of friendly nature of staff, others talk about clean environment, others talk of magnificent architecture, while others combine all the aspects these aspects. The above analysis indicates that visitors become satisfied if the destination’s characteristics satisfy their perceptions prior to visits. Visitors become satisfied when what they expect is really available at the destination. Most of them indicate that while at Forbidden City, their level of satisfaction increased due to favourable prices, diverse attractions and friendly staff. This finding is in agreement with Govers, Go, and Kumar’s (2007) postulation that the satisfaction of visitors at a destination depends entirely on its perceived quality of services. Most interviewees also stated that staff were able to assist them when in need and showed empathy to them thus justifying Jang and Feng’s (2005) dimensions of service quality that encourage customer satisfaction (reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and tangibles). Interviewees also were greatly satisfied with the pricing of the tickets. This finding is in agreement with Kotler, Bowen and Makens’ (2006) statement that overall satisfaction of tourists is influenced by price and perceived value of the products and services.
As mentioned in the interviews, the tour operators stated that Forbidden City is fast gaining popularity because the visitors’ expectations on their satisfaction is met and even exceeded altogether. Thus increased popularity is linked to visitor satisfaction and the ability of the destination to justify itself as an attractive and a pleasant destination for tourists.
5.1.2 The Impact of Destination Image on Destination Loyalty towards Forbidden City
Destination loyalty is expressed through a desire to revisit and recommend to others the experience one had in a particular destination (Pike 2004). Through advertising attractions packages over the internet and charging favourable ticket prices, what the administration of Forbidden City is aiming at is to ensure that visitors show loyalty to the destination, thus increasing the revenues. Forbidden City currently boasts of receiving up to 80000 visitors per day. According to Lai, Griffin, and Babin (2009), destination loyalty relates directly with the visitors’ behavior immediately after completing their trips, and is one of the indicators that is used to measure marketing strategy success so as to improve competitiveness. Forbidden City’s diverse attractions, friendly staff and favourable pricing are responsible for loyalty that visitors show towards it. An increase in number of visitors received at Forbidden City is a clear indicator of loyalty that is as a result of satisfaction that they have realized when they visited the destination. Destination loyalty influences the reason why visitors should revisit the destination and recommend to others to visit (Bigne, 2005). According to the interviewees, their continued visits stem from the fact that Forbidden City’s diverse attractions are pleasant, interesting and captivating. Most tourist destinations globally compete for customers, but visitor loyalty towards them determines whether they receive more visitors or less.
Forbidden City tries as much as possible to present itself as the leading tourist destination in China through focusing on strategies that ensure greater visitor satisfaction, retention and thus developing loyalty. This is in accordance to marketing manager’s views on the popularity of the destination to tourists. Positive experiences realized by visitors enhance not only their revisit intentions, but ensure that they recommend to others the interesting things about the place to their families, relatives and friends (Jang and Feng, 2007).
5.1.3 The Level of Tourist Satisfaction and Destination Loyalty towards Forbidden City
When interviewed, most visitors used the adjective ‘very’ to explain how satisfied they were when they visited Forbidden City. The high level of satisfaction is prompted by positive perceptions being duly met by the positive image of a destination. Visitors who had chance(s) to visit Forbidden City before recount how satisfied they were and how ready they were to visit. Most of them prefer visiting Forbidden City than any other destination, as per their responses during the interview. Their responses are in agreement with Malhotra’s (2004) statement that brand loyalty is linked to consumers’ self-image and brand attitude. When visitors have a positive perception concerning a destination, they develop positive attitude towards it. It should also be understood that the level of satisfaction and loyalty depends on the tourists’ perception about the place and how potential tourists perceive of information provided by those who have already visited (Yoon and Uysal, 2005). Most visitors interviewed indicated that they were really satisfied and would recommend the experience to their friends and relatives. This is a manifestation of greater levels of satisfaction and loyalty that is developed when the destination provides the attractions in accordance with the visitors’ expectations.
The attractiveness of Forbidden City has led to satisfaction of tourists’ expectations and has thus led to improved loyalty towards it. According to the information from the marketing manager and tour operators of Forbidden City, there exists a low season which starts from November to March. To overcome the repercussions that come with off-peak periods, the management is currently making ticket prices even lower so as to attract more visitors.
Furthermore, the destination is not actually the only one in China that offers attractive packages for visitors, but through determined efforts to market their products and services, they are able to attract more customers. With increased number of tourists requiring searching for suitable vacation destinations, it is the duty of the management of Forbidden City to ensure that they enhance the image of Forbidden City through advertising, charging favorable prices and offering diverse attractions packages. The Forbidden City management should also ensure that they increase the infrastructure so as to ensure efficiency of tourism activities. The choice of the destination by some as a wedding venue should be enhanced through publishing magazines that bear photos of weddings that took place there. Developing visuals play an important role in destination evaluation by potential visitors, thus the management should embark on them as they will help form the image of Forbidden City that is more than just an historical place but a place where visitors realize the warmth and friendly nature of Chinese hospitality industry.
By decreasing prices during the low season, the destination is able to attract a considerable number of tourists. This should be communicated over the internet to visitors concerning the low prices so that they can be attracted by the offer. Off-peak packages must be aggressively promoted by not only lowering their prices, but also highlighting attractions and entertainment that can be enjoyed during this time.
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