THE IMPACT OF DESTINATION IMAGE ON TOURIST SATISFACTION, AND DESTINATION LOYALTY
1.1 Background of 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 Research Aim
The aim of this research is to examine the impact of destination image on tourist attraction and destination loyalty.
1.3 Research Objectives
In order to achieve the aim of the study, four objectives have been addressed:
i. To establish the impacts of destination image on tourist satisfaction towards the Forbidden City tourism destination in China.
ii. To establish the impacts of destination image on destination loyalty towards the Forbidden City in China.
iii. To report the level of tourist satisfaction and destination loyalty towards the Forbidden City in China.
iv. To recommend viable destination image strategies for the achievement of tourists satisfaction and destination loyalty towards Forbidden City in China.
1.4 Research Rationale
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.