Measurement of Oman’s Destination Image in the US
Hamed ...
Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison

and functional, psychological, unique, and common   ...
Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison

    Apart from the gender attribute, the respondent ...
Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison

revealed, US citizens were not able to differentiate...
Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison

PKF (2000). External Study. Available from the Minis...
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Al azri morrison 2006

  1. 1. TOURISM RECREATION RESEARCH VOL. 31(2), 2006: 85-89 Measurement of Oman’s Destination Image in the US Hamed I. Al-Azri Lecturer of Tourism Management, Department of Tourism, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, the Sultanate of Oman. e-mail: Alastair M. Morrison Distinguished Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management, School of Consumer and Family Sciences, Room 111A, Stone Hall, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907-2059, USA. e-mail: Introduction impressions, prejudices, and emotions they have of a The Sultanate of Oman, a small country at the eastern particular destination or place’. edge of the Arabian Peninsula, may be one of the best kept The overall image of a destination or place is formed by travel secrets in the world. Its small population and friendly two types of evaluations; perceptual or cognitive evaluations people, long history, rich culture, and diverse nature are like beliefs and knowledge, and affective evaluations in the elements that could attract various segments of the form of feelings or attachments (Baloglu and McCleary 1999: international tourism market. The US outbound tourism 868, 870). Perceptual/cognitive evaluations are influenced market is the largest spending in the world (World Tourism by the variety and types of information sources, and age and Organization 2004), and is a strong target market for many education level. These, plus tourism motives, together destinations. However, the current number of US visitors to influence the affective evaluations (Baloglu and McCleary Oman is small (PKF 2000), and US citizens’ images of Oman 1999: 890). Gartner (1993) talks about similar components of as a travel destination are unknown. This study analyze image formation, but adds a third component. He defined and measure Oman’s destination image in the US through a this as the co-native or the behaviour/action component, combination of qualitative and quantitative research. The which is directly related to the other two components. two main research questions addressed are: Perceptual or cognitive evaluations are critical in 1. What images do US citizens have of Oman as a travel forming destination images. External stimuli come from destination? different sources. Gunn (1988) divided these into two general 2. Are US citizens able to differentiate Oman from the levels, organic and induced. Organic stimuli are the result of major country destinations in the Middle East (Egypt, peoples’ assimilation of materials from various uncontrolled Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates or UAE) sources like newspapers, periodicals, and books. Induced in terms of culture, arts, and customs, and natural stimuli are derived from a conscious effort by destination attractions and scenery? marketers to develop, promote, and advertise their destinations (Gunn 1988: 24). Gartner (1993) explored this concept in more detail and further categorized these two Destination Image stimuli levels into eight levels or what he termed ‘image Many previous articles have been written about formation agents’. These represent a continuum of separate destination image and its measurement, and have been agents that act independently or in some combination to summarized by others (Gallarza et al. 2002; Ko and Park form a unique destination image (Gartner 1993: 197). 2000; Pike 2002). Baloglu and McCleary (1999: 871) conducted a brief analysis of the definitions of destination In order to understand the images held by a target image presenting definitions by Crompton (1979), Kotler et market, the first action is usually to measure the image using al. (1993), Fridgen (1987), Assael (1984), Lawson and Baud- proven research techniques. Here, an often cited research Bovy (1977), Oxenfeldt (1974), Dichter (1985), Mazursky and study is the one conducted by Echtner and Ritchie (1993), Jacoby (1986), and Dobni and Zinkhan (1990). For the which presented a practical framework to measure purposes of this study, the researchers’ definition of destination image. They suggested that to completely destination image was: ‘The perceptual representation in measure destination image, its different components must the mind(s) of an individual or a group of all the beliefs, be captured; attribute-based images, holistic impressions, ©2006 Tourism Recreation Research
  2. 2. Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison and functional, psychological, unique, and common as the sample because of the convenience, and also since characteristics. ‘A combination of structured and they were demographically similar to those who visit Oman unstructured methodologies is necessary to measure (older, more educated, and earning relatively high salaries). destination image’, according to Echtner and Ritchie (1993: The questionnaire was sent to 1,900 e-mail addresses, from 3). which 150 completed responses were collected, constituting a response rate of around eight percent. The first three The Destination questions were open-ended (unstructured) and intended to gather the first-hand images, ideas, and thoughts Oman is a relatively unknown and emerging participants had about Oman (Echtner and Ritchie 1993). destination (PKF 2000: 42), with a low awareness level in The attribute-based questions, on a seven-point semantic the source markets (International Development Ireland differential scale, presented descriptors on general country 2002a: 10). The tourism sector in Oman contributes only characteristics, attractions, accessibility, political situation, around one per cent to its national income (Pers. comm. 2003). and comparisons with the major destinations in the region. However, tourism is gaining more importance as an Participants were asked to express how favourably or economic sector (Pers. comm. 2003). It could be argued that unfavourably they thought of Oman for each of these Oman has the greatest diversity of products in the region descriptors. (Parsons International Limited 2002: 1), including outstanding natural, heritage, and cultural assets located throughout the country (Parsons International Limited 2002: What images do US citizens have of Oman as a travel vi). The tourism challenges for Oman are now on the demand destination? and not on the supply side. The respondents in the online survey were relatively old, mostly male, highly educated, had moderate to large Recently, Omani authorities have been trying to families, and earned high incomes (Table 1). improve tourism marketing by striving to positively establish Oman on the world tourism map (Pers. comm. 2003: 2). ‘The Table 1. Online Survey Respondents’ Demographic essence of Arabia’ is a newly adopted slogan to distinguish Profile Oman’s tourism product by positioning Oman as an exotic, Demographics n % authentic Arabic destination with diverse tourism Age (n = 138) experiences (Parsons International Limited 2002: 1, 7), and 21-35 16 11.59 as a true Arabian retreat that is exotic and charming, 36-44 28 20.29 authentic, luxurious, adventurous, and safe (International 45-65 79 57.25 Development Ireland 2002b). Some of the challenges with 65 or over 15 10.87 Gender (n = 136) this strategy include whether the slogan and induced image Female 30 22.06 is exclusive to Oman, how much the target markets actually Male 106 77.94 know about Arabian culture, and possible connections with Education (n =139) the Middle Eastern crisis (International Development Ireland Doctorate degree 122 87.77 2002c: 7, 31). Master's degree 17 12.23 Household size (n = 139) Research Methodology 1 13 9.35 2 64 46.04 The research design was organized into three major 3-5 60 43.17 steps. The study started by exploring the images that US More than 5 2 1.44 citizens have about Oman as a travel destination through a Income (n = 118) focus group. The second step used content analysis of two $10,000-19,000 1 0.85 main information sources (general media coverage and travel $20,000-39,999 0 0.00 $40,000-79,999 29 24.58 providers’ print materials) from which the US market $80,000-99,999 26 22.03 acquires information about Oman. The third step was the $100,000-119,999 30 25.42 measurement of the image of Oman among potential US $120,000 or above 32 27.12 travellers through an online survey. This note only reports Note: on the results of the online survey. 12 among 150 repondent ignored their age. 14 among 150 respondent ignored their gender. Online Survey 11 among 150 respondent ignored their education 11 among 150 respondent ignored their household size Faculty members, at a major US university, were chosen 32 among 150 respondent ignored their income. 86 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 2, 2006
  3. 3. Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison Apart from the gender attribute, the respondent pool unique to the destination. The most mentioned attractions seemed to very closely match the current and targeted market were comprised of two main groups: sea and history-related. sought by the Omani government. Responses to the attribute-based (structured) questions: Besides images drawn from media, some US citizens The attribute-based, semantic differential section of the had somewhat more informed and specific images of Oman questionnaire covered a wide range of characteristics, and based on information acquired from friends and relatives, also compared Oman with three major and similar the Internet, visits to the region, self study, and other sources. destinations in the region. Table 2 provides the means, In general, other than those who knew almost nothing about standard deviations, and other descriptive statistics for the Oman, the country had the broad image of a Middle Eastern, respondent ratings of Oman’s attributes. Arab, desert-oriented, hot, and dry destination. Probably Table 2. Ratings of Attributes of Oman more so for people who had no clear image about Oman, it was seen as hostile and anti-American. For some others, it Attributes of Oman Mean Positive or S.D. Max Min Mode Negative (σ) σ was seen as a hospitable, friendly, yet cautious destination. Climate* 4.44 Negative 1.44 7 1 4 For the majority, it had no unique tourist attractions or Wildlife 4.28 Negative 1.39 7 1 4 activities. For others, it had a considerable array of unique Safety* 4.26 Negative 1.49 7 1 4 and interesting activities based upon its diverse natural and Information 4.24 Negative^ 1.63 7 1 4 cultural resources. The following is a summary of the specific Exciting* 4.18 Negative^ 1.51 7 1 4 results for the main survey questions: Hospitable* 4.07 Negative^ 1.34 7 1 4 Relaxing* 4.03 Negative^ 1.17 7 1 4 Responses to open-ended (unstructured) questions: Diversity 3.96 Positive^ 1.43 7 1 4 Question 1: What images or characteristics come to mind when Friendly 3.92 Positive^ 1.44 7 1 4 you think of Oman as a travel destination? Here the Visa* 3.86 Positive^ 1.25 7 1 4 respondents’ answers represented three major ideas and Political stability* 3.79 Positive^ 1.55 7 1 4 thoughts. The first was of images of the basic stereotypical Nature 3.77 Positive^ 1.45 7 1 4 Accessibility 3.76 Positive^ 1.5 7 1 4 picture ascribed to neighbouring Arab countries, i.e., images Development 3.6 Positive 1.65 7 1 4 of desert, hot weather, and an exotic atmosphere. The second Pollution* 3.49 Positive 1.08 6 2 4 group of ideas was related to the Middle Eastern region, Value for money 3.49 Positive 1.17 7 1 4 while the third indicated that the respondents knew nothing Culture 3.47 Positive 1.45 7 1 4 about Oman. Adventure* 3.46 Positive 1.36 7 1 3 Cleanliness* 3.45 Positive 1.35 7 1 4 Question 2: How would you describe the atmosphere or Shopping 3.45 Positive 1.53 7 1 4 mood that you would expect to experience while visiting Oman? Food (cuisine)* 3.38 Positive 1.49 7 1 2 In more than 28 per cent of the cases, respondents raised History 3.38 Positive 1.48 7 1 4 some security issues regarding the atmosphere in Oman. Restaurants 3.28 Positive 1.37 7 1 4 Yet, in about half that amount, images of hospitality and Accommodation 3.26 Positive 1.58 7 1 4 Overall Scores 3.76 1.4 6.96 1.04 3.88 friendliness were expressed. In another 13 per cent of responses, feelings of experiencing specific attractions and * Reverse coded for the analysis activities were also expressed. However, around 22 per cent ^ Insignificant at alpha = 0.05 indicated knowing nothing about what atmosphere they For the 24 attributes of Oman, the means ranged between would experience. This indicated that the majority of potential 3.26 and 4.44, with a high concentration on the middle, US travellers do not know enough about Oman, which in neutral score. As for the distribution of the responses light of the surrounding political environment, creates a fear throughout the scale, there was a bell-shaped normal of the unknown on how they would be treated. Yet, there distribution in almost all questions. The mode was almost was a considerable share of respondents who seemed to have always equal to the value of four, while the range was almost some information or some interest in Oman and associate it always equal to six. The ratings were inconsistent among with feelings of friendliness and interesting tourist the respondents. attractions. Are US citizens able to differentiate Oman from some of the Question 3: Please list any distinctive or unique tourist attractions/activities that you can think of in Oman. Around 60 major country destinations in the Middle East in terms of per cent of respondents recalled no unique attractions or culture, arts, and customs; and natural attractions and activities in Oman, while around 40 per cent of them scenery? mentioned different activities and attractions they considered As the analysis of the six comparison questions Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 2, 2006 87
  4. 4. Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison revealed, US citizens were not able to differentiate among Implications Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, but were able to The results indicated that the position of Oman as a distinguish between Oman and Egypt. A probable reason is destination in the US is very weak. However, some US that Egypt is better known and more frequently visited by travellers are interested in visiting Oman. It does not appear US citizens, and hence, it is clearer to them that Egypt is that a major investment in promoting Oman in the US is different from an oil-dependent, desert-like, Middle Eastern justified at the present time. For the near future, tourism destination (Table 3). authorities’ focus should be on continuously improving Table 3. Comparisons of Oman, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Oman as a destination for current visitors as word of mouth UAE will probably serve Oman very well (Hsu et al. 2004: 125). Nature vs. UAE 4.54 Identical* 1.17 7 1 4 Also, cooperation with regional destinations should be Culture vs. UAE 4.46 Identical 1.23 7 1 4 increased, especially with the UAE. For the longer-term Nature vs. Saudi Arabia 4.31 Identical 1.27 7 1 4 future, when the US market could have greater potential for Culture vs. Saudi Arabia 4.22 Identical 1.27 7 1 4 Oman, it is suggested that safety be emphasized, along with Culture vs. Egypt 3.07 Distinctive 1.37 7 1 4 the diversity of culture and nature, and modern facilities Nature vs. Egypt 2.98 Distinctive 1.42 6 1 2 and services. If there is a limited budget to spend on Mean for Saudi Arabia & 4.34 1.25 7 1 4 promoting Oman in the US, then this should be within UAE Washington, California, New York, and Florida as these were Mean for Egypt 3.76 1.42 6.96 1.04 3.88 the states in which tour operators and travel agencies * Insignificant at alpha = 0.05 featured Oman in their programmes. References ASSAEL, H. (1984). Consumer Behavior and Marketing Action. Boston. Kent. BALOGLU, S. and MCCLEARY, K. (1999). A Model of Destination Image Formation. Annals of Tourism Research 26(4): 868-897. CROMPTON, J. (1979). Motivations for Pleasure Vacation. Annals of Tourism Research 6(4): 408-424. DICHTER, E. (1985). What is an Image? Journal of Consumer Marketing 2: 39-52. DOBNI, D. and ZINKHAN, G. (1990). In Search of Brand Image: A Foundation Analysis. Advances in Consumer Research 17: 110-119. ECHTNER, C. and RITCHIE, B. (1993). The Measurement of Destination Image: An Empirical Assessment. Journal of Travel Research 31(4): 3-13. FRIDGEN, J. (1987). Environmental Psychology and Tourism. Annals of Tourism Research 11: 19-39. GALLARZA, M., SAURA, I. and GARCIA, H. (2002). Destination Image: Towards a Conceptual Framework. Annals of Tourism Research 29(1): 56-78. GARTNER, W. (1993). Image Formation Process. Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing 2(2/3): 191-215. GUNN, C. (1988). Vacationscape: Designing Tourist Regions (2nd edition). New York. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. HSU, C., HSU, K. and KANG, S. (2004). Image Assessment for a Destination with Limited Comparative Advantages. Tourism Management 25(1): 121-126. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IRELAND (IDI) (2002a). Action Plan for Developing the Tourism Economy: Part A – Action Narrative. Ministry of Tourism, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IRELAND (IDI) (2002b). Action Plan for Developing the Tourism Economy: Part B – Action Plans and Time Schedules. Ministry of Tourism, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IRELAND (IDI) (2002c). Marketing – A Campaign Approach. (Available from the Ministry of Tourism, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman). KO, DONG-WOO and PARK, SUK-HEE. (2000). Five Aspects of Tourism Image: A Review. International Journal of Tourism Sciences 1(1): 79-92. KOTLER, P., HAIDER, D. and REIN, I. (1993). Marketing Places: Attracting Investment, Industry, and Tourism to Cities, States and Nations. New York. The Free Press. LAWSON, F. and BAUD-BOVY, M. (1977). Tourism and Recreational Development. London. Architectural Press. MAZURSKY, D. and JACOBY, J. (1986). Exploring the Development of Store Images. Journal of Retailing 62(2): 145-165. OXENFELDT, A. (1974). Developing a Favorable Price-Quality Image. Journal of Retailing 50(4): 8-14. PARSONS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED (2002). Final Priority Action Plan for Tourism Development in Oman – Implementation, Priority Areas and Projects, Deliverables 14. Ministry of Tourism, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. PIKE, S. (2002). Destination Image Analysis – A Review of 142 Papers from 1973 to 2000. Tourism Management 23(5): 541-549. 88 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 2, 2006
  5. 5. Oman’s Destination Image in the US: H.I. Al-Azri and A. M. Morrison PKF (2000). External Study. Available from the Ministry of Tourism, Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION (2004). Tourism. A. Accessed on 27 April 2004. Submitted: March 27, 2005 Accepted: March 02, 2006 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 2, 2006 89