Destination Marketing: why do tourists like a destination?


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Which reasons do make a destination worth to be visited? Is there a correspondence between how tourists perceive a destination and how the Destination Management Organization (DMO) promotes it?
The main purpose of this research is to identify which are the reasons that make a destination — in this case, the Republic of Malta — worth a visit from the tourists’ perspective. The study aims on one side, at recognizing and analyzing the main arguments used by tourists — the demand side — when reporting on their experiences on a specific destination, and on the other side to compare the found arguments with those used by the DMO — the supply side — to promote itself.
The arguments have been identified through an argumentative analysis of the User Generated Contents about the destination, they were retrieved from the Travel fora of Trip Advisor. Afterwards the arguments used by Malta’s DMO to promote the destination have been analyzed and then compared with those used by the demand side to verify the correspondence between them.
The results make it possible to identify strengths and weaknesses of the destination, and additionally to get information on what the DMO should focus on to improve its performances.
The understanding of opinions, preferences and perceptions of tourists is a valuable starting point for the development of more effective online marketing strategies by DMOs: before speaking they need to listen carefully to their visitors!

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Destination Marketing: why do tourists like a destination?

  1. 1. November 2010Destination Marketing: Why do tourists like a destination? A research in eTourism and Argumentation Lorenzo Cantoni, Sara Fedele, Silvia De AscaniisExecutive summaryWhich reasons do make a destination worth to be visited? Is there acorrespondence between how tourists perceive a destination andhow the Destination Management Organization (DMO) promotes it?The main purpose of this research is to identify which are the reasonsthat make a destination — in this case, the Republic of Malta — wortha visit from the tourists‘ perspective. The study aims on one side, atrecognizing and analyzing the main arguments used by tourists — thedemand side — when reporting on their experiences on a specificdestination, and on the other side to compare the found argumentswith those used by the DMO — the supply side — to promote itself.The arguments have been identified through an argumentativeanalysis of the User Generated Contents about the destination, theywere retrieved from the Travel fora of Trip Advisor. Afterwards thearguments used by Malta‘s DMO to promote the destination havebeen analyzed and then compared with those used by the demandside to verify the correspondence between them.The results make it possible to identify strengths and weaknesses of thedestination, and additionally to get information on what the DMOshould focus on to improve its performances.The understanding of opinions, preferences and perceptions of touristsis a valuable starting point for the development of more effectiveonline marketing strategies by DMOs: before speaking they need tolisten carefully to their visitors! Università della Svizzera italiana Via Giuseppe Buffi 13 CH – 6904 Lugano, Switzerland (e) (w) (t) +41 (0)58.666.4788 (f) +41 (0)58.666.4647 1
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  3. 3. IntroductionWhere to go on holiday? This is the first question of online Europeans now engage with socialwhich arises when planning a trip. The answer to media on a regular basis (a number that in somethis question can influence positively or countries, such as the Netherlands, increases upnegatively the performance of that ―couple of to 74%).weeks‖ that are considered sacred by so many These trends were initially intended as a threatworkers around the world. for companies and Destination ManagementToday, most of the travellers who have Internet Organizations but recently they have given themaccess look for online information and tourist the opportunity to create new marketingservices, frequently asking for help and vehicles with significant effects on theirsuggestions to travellers who have already been businesses: they are starting to create theirin a destination. personal profiles on Trip Advisor or Facebook, answering to the posts of their customers,Recent studies have highlighted that travellers, updating their ―status‖ constantly, providing newbefore choosing a destination or tourist service stimulus to their customers for visiting a hotel, prefer to receive recommendationsfrom those who have already experienced that The value of the information contained in the thedestination or hotel. They tend to check more online comment and feedback by the travellers,and more online comments and opinions that also called User Generated Content, is crucial forcan help them to make the right choice, trusting DMOs and tourism managers because, thanks tomore the word-of-mouth by people having their it, they are able to better shape marketingsame ―status‖ of travellers than suggestions by strategies for their products and services,professionals. Besides this trustworthiness, another increasing their online reputation andreason of preference is that such information is consequently their value. Still Crotts (1999)cheaper and faster. underlines that travel fora and travel blogs ―areBecause of the personal relation involved, word- an inexpensive means to gather rich, authentic,of-mouth is viewed as a more reliable source of and unsolicited customer feedback. Informationaccurate consumer information than marketing technology advances and increasingly largeinformation obtained through mass media (Pan, numbers of travel blogs facilitate travel blogMcLaurin, Crotts 2007). Travellers want to talk monitoring as a cost-effective method forabout their good or bad experiences and share destination marketers to assess their servicetheir travel know-how on one or more social quality and improve travellers‘ overallwebsites and blogs. experiences.‖Tourism is an experience worth to be Thus, the internet plays an important role both forcommunicated, since once back from a trip, the travellers and the tourism industry: DMOs andtourists are usually glad to talk about it. Tourism Marketing Managers are increasinglyThus, it is important to know what travellers think understanding the importance of onlineabout the destination and to understand which marketing and they are consequently adoptingis its reputation on the market: if travellers share new and more efficient online marketingonline negative or positive comments about a strategies.hotel or a destination, this can influence the On these bases, the goal of this study is todecision of prospective travellers. A trend of investigate the UGC as a manifestation ofgood or bad comments would very likely hurt or individual travel experiences. This paper presentshelp the business. an analysis of 4,764 posts retrieved from the Malta‘s forum in TripAdvisor, selected in 5A study of the Internet World Stats on the different languages. By analyzing the postsEuropean market has demonstrated that social written on travel fora by tourists, using themedia activities have overall increased and the approach of Argumentation Theory, the studyonline European usage of social networks has aims at highlighting aspects of travellers‘grown significantly in 2009: around 30% of users opinions that are usually underestimated butconnect regularly with social networks, with an hide a strong potential for destinationincrease of 18% from 2008, and more than 60% management. 3
  4. 4. MethodologyThis study suggests a methodology that DMOs analysed: in fact only posts exclusivelyand Tourism Marketing Managers can use to concerning the destination have been counted,estimate the perception that travellers have of avoiding those about transportation,their product, as well as their positioning in the accommodation or other issues. A secondmarketplace. filtering has been done to sort out onlyThe purpose of the research was a) to improve argumentatively relevant posts.the understanding of people‘s reasons for visitinga given destination, and b) to enhance the Argu- TA Name Threads Relevant Posts mentseffectiveness of destination promotional strategy, 4,577 1,185 201by suggesting a method to discover tourists‘opinions, and consequently adapt the offer. 67 81 41The study has been performed on the Republic 29 8 6of Malta. The country has been chosen because 7 10 10of its natural physical boundaries, proper of an 84 11 16island, that identify it as a defined destinationand allow a circumscription of the tourism Fig.2 — Argumentatively relevant Threadsphenomenon. Posts on have been categorized In order to understand which is the perception together with the label ―US+UK‖. Posts onof the destination from the tourist perspective,,,,online comments and feedback by the travellers have been categorized with thehave been analysed. label ―Europe‖. Results have been dividedUGC have been collected on TripAdvisor (TA), according to these two main groups.that is deemed to be among the most popular The analysis of the ―supply side‖ has beenand complete social network websites for travel performed on the advertising brochure ―Malta –and tourism. The data collection has been Gozo – Comino‖, used by Malta‘s DMO; theperformed also on TripAdvisor‘s sister sites in brochure is written in English and is distributed bydifferent languages, namely English, Italian, the destination management website.German, French and Spanish, having consideredthat, according to the last annual report of theMalta Tourism Authority (MTA), the main tourism Data Collectionmarkets of Malta are UK, Italy, Germany andFrance. The Spanish language one has been The identification of the arguments has beentaken into consideration due to the relevant done thanks to an accurate argumentativenumber of UGC in that language. content analysis. Analyzing tourism-related UGC with the lenses of argumentation theory seems toThe collection of data has been accomplished be particularly appropriate, given that this kindfrom the 9th of March 2010 to the 13th of May of texts have a strong deliberative aim, that is to2010: all the posts written until that date in the help prospective tourists in taking a decisionsection ―Travel Forum‖ have been analysed. about their trips. UGC, in fact, cannot be considered just as online information because they don‘t simply aim to transmit the message TA Name Threads from the sender to the receiver: on the contrary, 4,577 they influence the receiver‘s attitude towards 67 the decision, that is to say that they may give rise 29 to a behavioural change. Therefore the 7 argumentative analysis of tourism-related UGC, 84 helps to find out the main reasons why Fig.1 — TripAdvisor Threads (arguments), according to tourists, a destination worth a visit.Nevertheless, not all the threads (discussion The discourse present in each relevant post hasamong the users in the forum) have been been deconstructed and reconstructed through 4
  5. 5. the syllogism, a kind of logical argument in corpus of datawhich the conclusions are deducted or inducedby premises. The arguments have beenrecognized through the identification ofargumentative keywords, those words having Atmospherethe specific function of pointing and unlocking Beachthe arguments in a discourse. CultureThe main interest was to find the reasons insupport of a main claim, “Malta is worth a visit‖, Dimensionsthat was defined at the beginning of the Historyanalysis. Only posts advancing such claim were Landscapetaken into account; the analyst had to consider Nightlifethat many times the standpoint was formulatedwith a different wording (e.g. ―I loved Malta‖, Quality of Life―We had a great time in Malta‖). SightseeingThe following are example posts containing a Variety of Activitiesmain claim ―Most of us love Malta‖, supportedby arguments:Example 1 (from Fig.4 — Argument Heads“Malta - trip report - Sep 16, 2008, 3:58 PM”Hi, welcome to the Malta forum, so glad to hear you The Atmosphere head contains all thosehad a lovely holiday. Most of us love Malta and go arguments, which refer to the aesthetic quality,back year after year. There is always a lot to see and the emotional and intellectual attitude,do and the locals are very friendly. Many people especially distinctive and pleasing, of themake friends there and go back to see them too.” destination. The Beach head comprehends theExample 2 (from arguments that classify the destination as the“Visiting Malta” - May 12, 2009, 4:44 PM” typical ―sun and sea‖ resort. In the Culture oneHey travelingmac, Ive recently returned from a are the arguments referring to the uses andholiday to Malta […]. Other than that Malta is a safe costumes, the traditions and ways of living of thedestination to choose because crime is low and very inhabitants. The Dimensions head refers to thesee-able on your own. distances among the hot spots of the destination and the perceived dimensions of the island. InIn the first case there are three arguments such History are considered those arguments whichas: ―(in Malta) there is always a lot to see‖, ―(in refer to the historical heritage in terms ofMalta there is always a lot to) do‖, ―(in Malta) architecture and works of art. The Landscapelocals are very friendly‖. The three arguments head, comprehends the morphological aspectsgive deliberative information about the and the panorama, while Nightlife comprehendsdestination, pointing at the fact that ―Malta is clubbing and entertainment activities. Quality ofworth a visit‖ for three independent reasons. In life consists in all those arguments that refer to thethe second example there are two main standard of living in the destination, whilearguments in favour of visiting Malta: ―Malta is Sightseeing and Exploration refers to all thosesafe (because crime is low)‖ and ―Malta is very activities made by tourist to see and discover thesee-able‖. destination. Finally under the head Variety of Activities, are inserted those arguments that refer to theFindings activities made by tourists to entertain themselves while at the destination.All the arguments found in the posts have beenclassified according to 10 argument heads The following map shows all the argumentativedefined by considering their frequencies in the keywords with the respective arguments found 5
  6. 6. during the analysis of the posts in Tripadvi- shows all the Argument Heads and the (including the UK and the US markets). It percentages of arguments. 6
  7. 7. The “demand side” results ―Culture‖ (18%). Also ―Variety of Activities‖ (11%)The results have been divided according to two ―Landscape‖ (10%) and ―Sightseeing‖ (10%) havemain groups, depending on the linguistic and high scores. This could mean that people comingcultural similarities within TripAdvisor‘s sister sites. from continental Europe are more interested inIn, comprehending the UK and such characteristics. It is relevant to mention thatUS sister sites, the most frequent argument heads ―Beach‖ is important especially for Italians. In ad-were: ‗Culture‘ (22%), ‗Atmosphere‘ (16%), dition, the Spanish public is formed specifically by‗Variety of activities‘ (13%), and ‗History‘ (10%). young people, which look for friendship while atThis result can be interpreted as a preference of the destination.British and Americans to choose Malta for theirholiday because they appreciate customs andpopular traditions as well as its historic heritage,its pleasant atmosphere and the offer of enter-tainment activities. Fig.7— TripAdvisor EU Arguments Arguments were usually put forward in a very general form, without adding details or evidence to further support the standpoint (e.g. ―Meglio se andate di sera per godere la magica atmosfera Fig.5— TripAdvisor US+UK Arguments della città silenziosa―; ―Valletta è una città meravigliosa, con una storia molto interessante eBritish and Americans, appreciated particularly unica al mondo‖ ― ―Better to go there at night tothe friendly attitude of the locals (37% of the ar- enjoy the magic atmosphere of the silent city‖ ,guments classified the ‗Culture‘ head), the ―Valletta is a marvellous city, with a very interest-sense of safety of the island (16% of the argu- ing history, it is one of a kind‖).ments classified ‗Quality of Life‘ head), its beau- Therefore it has not been possible to classify anytiful natural views (15% of the arguments classi- sub-argument and it seems that for continentalfied ‗Sightseeing and Exploration‘), and the au- Europe tourists, Malta is a destination of interestthenticity, not touristy taste of the destination above all for the ―relaxing atmosphere‖, the(13% of the arguments classified ‗Atmosphere‘). ―sandy beaches‖ and the ―welcoming‖ locals. The “supply side” results The analysis of the supply side has been per- formed by using the same technique of the de- mand side. The promotional message used for Malta DMO focuses on arguments related to cul- tural and historical aspects of the island, beside presenting its numerous touristic attractions. Arguments are first put forward in very general Fig.6— US+UK Sub-Arguments terms – e. g. ―our islands have an astonishing con- centration of unique cultural and historical attrac-Differently from, in TripAdvisor EU tions‖ – and they are then supported with de-(comprehending,, and scriptions of peculiar attractions or aspects of thethe most frequent argument heads are islands, which function as sub-arguments.―Atmosphere‖ (20%), ―Beach‖ (20%) and 7
  8. 8. The main arguments used by the DMO to pro- Cultural events. On the contrary, ―Culture‖ resultsmote the destination can be grouped as follows: to be very important, getting respectively the first position in and the second in TripAdvisor EU. Particularly appreciated were the ―attitude of the locals‖, the ―food experience‖ and the ―language‖. Both for The analysis shows that there is only a partial match between the perception of the destination and the way the DMO advertises it. In conclusion, the study gives useful information about tourists‘ preferences: the results gathered Fig.8— Malta‘s DMO Arguments could be complementary to the data already obtained by Malta‘s DMO with different studies,Not all the arguments supported by tourists are and could be useful for creating new marketingcovered in the analysed promotional material. strategies focused on product differentiation ac-The main arguments used by the supply side are cording to the nationality of the tourists. More-―Culture‖ and History‖ and they are supported over, by knowing the preferences of the targetby a brief description of the megalithic temples, markets, the DMO could better identify its weak-the baroque capital Valletta and the walled nesses and strengthens, shaping its image andmedieval city of Mdina. Two parts of the bro- reputation focusing on the customers‘ percep-chure are dedicated to present the many kinds tion.of sport that can be practiced on the island(argument head ‗Variety of activities‘), espe-cially during Summer, and the many culturalevents that are organized, both at the local(e.g. popular feasts) and the international level(e.g. music festivals) (argument heads ‗Culture‘and ‗Variety of activities‘).ConclusionsAs seen above, the brochure of the DMO fo-cuses above all on two factors: ―Culture‖ and―History‖. Nevertheless, from the analysis of thedemand side came out that tourists are also in-terested in other aspects of the destination(depending on the nationality), while they donot mention at all some other aspects of thedestination that are advertised by the DMO,such as events or sport activities.Comparing the results between the demandand the supply, it emerges that the historicalside of the destination is felt as less importantthan other aspects to tourists: in fact, ―History‖got a fourth position in and thetenth one in TriAdvisor.EU. In addition, only fewtimes the demand side argues about sport and 8
  9. 9. Authors Publications Prof. Lorenzo Cantoni is scientific director Selected books: of, professor and Dean of Cantoni, L., N. Di Blas, S. Rubinelli, S. Tardini (2008). Pensare e the faculty of communication sciences comunicare. Milano, Apogeo at the Università della Svizzera italiana (Lugano, Switzerland). He graduated in Cantoni L., Tardini S. (2006). Internet. [Routledge Introductions Philosophy and holds a PhD in Educa- to Media and Communications]. Routledge, London (UK) –tion and Linguistics. He is also director of the laborato- New York (NY).ries, NewMinE Lab (New Media in Edu-cation Lab) and of eLab (eLearning Lab). His researchinterests range from eTourism to eLearning, up toeGovernment and Usability.Lorenzo Cantoni is overall chair of the ENTER2011—18th International Conference for Information Technol-ogy and Travel & Tourism—, that brings together inter-national experts in all aspects of Information andCommunication Technologies in Travel and Tourism. Bibliography: Sara Fedele, is a Research Assistant at De Ascaniis, S. (2009). Integrating Content Analysis and Argu- Her research activities Argumentative Analysis to reconstruct a Media-supported deal with online destination marketing Public Debate. Studies in Communication Sciences 9(2): 113- and communication, web 2.0, argumen- 130. tation theory applied to the online tour- ism domain, specifically to UGC. She De Ascaniis, S: (forthcoming). Argumentation in Tourism: anholds a Master degree in Economics and Communi- analysis of User-Generated-Contents about Luganocation, major in International Tourism, a study program (Switzerland). In F. van Eemeren, et al. (Eds.), Proceedings ofof the Università della Svizzera italiana with a thesis on ISSA 2010, the 7th Conference on Argumentation of the Inter-Online Destination Marketing: the research will be pre- national Society for the Study of Argumentation, Amsterdam,sented in Innsbruck at ENTER20011 and it will be pub- June 29 to July 2, 2010.lished in the proceedings. Crotts, J. (1999). Consumer decision making and prepurcha- Silvia De Ascaniis, is a PhD candidate in se information search. Consumer behavior in travel and tou- the doctoral school Red-Ink, funded by rism. Y. Mansfield and A. Pizam. Binghamton, N. Y., Haworth the Swiss National Research Fund. Her Press: 149-168. research topic sets at the crossroads of argumentation theory, tourism and digital Fedele, S. (2010). Destination Marketing and Users Appraisal: technologies. Since January 2008 Silvia De an Argumentative Analysis. Master thesis. Università dellaAscaniis has been part of the staff of eLab, the labora- Svizzera italiana, Lugano.tory for e-learning applications of USI/SUPSI, where sheworks as instructional designer and assists teachers Inversini A., Marchiori E., Dedekind C., Cantoni L. (2010). Ap-and academic staff in developing and managing plying a Conceptual Framework to Analyze Online Reputa- tion of Tourism Destinations. In Gretzel U., Law R., Fuchs (eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tour- ism 2010 (Proceedings of the International Conference lab Lugano, Switzerland, February 10-12, 2010), Springer, Wien –The academic laboratory is part of the New York, pp. 321-332.faculty of Communication Sciences at the Universitàdella Svizzera italiana (USI), based in Lugano, Switzer- Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and Malta National Statisticsland. is specialized in research and Office (NSO), (from 2007 to 2010). NSO Monthly News Relea-development in the field of online communication ses. Republic of Maltaand ICT in general, stressing the human side of it.Most activities focus on analysis, design and promo- Pan, B., MacLaurin, T. & Crotts, J. C. (2007). Travel blogs andtion of the online communication for hotels, destina- the implications for destination marketing. Journal of Traveltions cruise companies and other travel and tourism Research, 46(1), 35-45.players. Its main field of research is nowadays NewMedia in Tourism Communication and it combines a Xiang, Z., U. Gretzel and D. R. Fesenmaier (2009). Semanticstrong academic background with a relevant business Representation of Tourism on the Internet. Journal of Travelexperience. Research; 47; 440 9