Residents and destination brands : understanding residents' destination brand ambassador behavior and its antecedents

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Residents and destination brands : understanding residents' destination brand ambassador behavior and its antecedents

 

Author: Wassler, Philipp
Title: Residents and destination brands : understanding residents' destination brand ambassador behavior and its antecedents
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2015
Subject: Place marketing.
Branding (Marketing)
Tourism.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: xiv, 346 pages : illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2811145
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/7993
Abstract: Although residents have been widely recognized as an important destination brand stakeholder, their role in the destination branding process is still not fully understood (Braun, Kavaratzis, & Zenker, 2010; Eshuis & Edwards, 2012; Pike, 2009). Indeed, past studies have mostly conceptualized their position as a threat to a DMO due to their assumed intrinsically diverging interests. Only recently, scholars have detected the great amount of benefit that residents hold for the success of a destination brand through their involvement in the respective development and promotion (e.g. Braun, Kavaratzis, & Zenker, 2013; Konecnik Ruzzier & Petek, 2012a). Following the notion that through this engagement residents can be called 'brand ambassadors', this effective behavior has been defined as 'residents' destination brand ambassador behavior' (BAB). There is anyhow, in theory and in practice, a general lack of understanding of what causes this kind of behavior in residents (Braun et al., 2013) and the aim of this study is thus to propose and empirically test a framework explaining the antecedents of residents' destination brand ambassador behavior. As little is known in regard, a thorough literature review conceptualizes the notion of residents' destination brand ambassador behavior and aims at understanding how it has been used in past research. Also, possible antecedents of residents' destination brand ambassador behavior are introduced and hypotheses for a better understanding of the concept are developed. Factors identified as possible antecedents are: (1) Residents' destination brand self-congruity, (2) Residents’ psychological destination brand empowerment, (3) Residents’ public trust in destination brand authorities, and (4) Residents’ destination brand attitude, whereas (5) Residents' place attachment is identified as a likely moderator on the relationship among residents’ destination brand attitude and residents’ brand ambassador intention. The relationships among these constructs were finally conceptualized in 9 hypotheses. To achieve the aforementioned research objectives, this study adopted a structural equation modeling approach. Choosing the case of Hong Kong and the related destination brand 'Hong Kong - Asia's World City', Hong Kong permanent residents (HKPRs) were selected as the target population and a quota sampling approach based on age, gender and area of residency was employed through the use of online survey questionnaires. In order to validate the measurement items adapted from existing literature, a qualitative pre-study involving semi-structured in-depth interviews with 15 HKPRs was held, followed by a panel of experts with 7 topic-experienced scholars. Finally, a pilot study, which returned 199 valid questionnaires, was launched online. After the common procedures for validating a questionnaire, including principal component analysis, an improved version was sent for the main survey. 651 valid questionnaires were returned and after the proposed model was validated using cross-validation of a split data sample, the structural model was tested with the AMOS 20.0 software. The findings show strong support for the proposed model by supporting 8 of the 9 initially proposed hypotheses; only the moderating function of residents' place attachment on the relationship among residents' destination brand attitude and residents' brand ambassador behavioral intention was not supported. An added open-ended question also provided suggestions for other possible antecedents for residents' destination brand ambassador behavior. While the proposed model was found to explain up to 80% of the variance in the brand ambassador behavioral intentions construct, in particular self-congruity was found to be a strong related antecedent.
In addition to successfully reaching all the proposed research objectives, this study also leads to a variety of applications for both, academics and practitioners. First, the notion of residents' destination brand ambassador behavior was successfully conceptualized, aiding the understanding of the concept in related studies. Next, the findings offer a reliable framework to tourism scholars, which broadens the understanding of both, antecedents of residents' destination brand attitude and brand ambassador behavioral intentions. While this study introduces the notions of psychological empowerment and public trust into the field, in particular self-congruity is highlighted as a key concept to be considered when studying residents and destination brands. Finally, it is empirically proven that residents showing positive brand attitude can indeed aid DMOs through positive behavioral intentions, highlighting their role as a friend and not only foe in the destination branding process. This is also hoped to assist the destination branding process for practitioners by proposing important concepts which, when included in the brand, could diminish the risks for counter-branding campaigns and related public indignation. In particular for the case of Hong Kong, where the Tourism Board has claimed that resident involvement is crucial for their destination brand, the qualitative pre-study identifies several context-specific concerns and the related framework offers general concepts which could further foster this collaboration. This study finally acknowledges several limitations and offers directions for future research. First, brand ambassador behavior was measured as intentions, which might have biased residents towards responding more positively. Also, the study was held in Hong Kong and its respondents were largely mono-cultural, which opens the door for future research testing the model in other geographic and cultural contexts. The choice of an online panel and quota sampling is also a limitation in capturing the heterogeneity of the highly complex resident stakeholder. It is hoped that future studies can bridge this gap, as well as test the other identified possible antecedents in a follow-up empirical research.

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