A conceptual study of airport experience and its relation to tourist experience

Pao Yue-kong Library Electronic Theses Database

A conceptual study of airport experience and its relation to tourist experience

 

Author: Wattanacharoensil, Walanchalee
Title: A conceptual study of airport experience and its relation to tourist experience
Degree: DHTM
Year: 2015
Subject: Airports -- Management.
Tourists -- Psychology.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: xiii, 226 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
InnoPac Record: http://library.polyu.edu.hk/record=b2832927
URI: http://theses.lib.polyu.edu.hk/handle/200/8402
Abstract: Since the early 2000s, airport experience has emerged as an important concept for airport operators.This has been due,in part, to the growing realisation that airport experience can enhance travel, create airport non-aeronautical revenue, and improve airports competitive position. The airport experience has become a crucial factor in airport management for various reasons 1) a positive airport experience is believed to enhance a passenger satisfaction, the potential of future revisit and the spreading of positive word-of-mouth 2) airport experience can increase non-aeronautical revenue 3) how travellers view their experience also influences their choice of airline and airport, and this also influences the airline's choice of choosing airport as a transit hub and 4) airport experience can be used as a key differentiator of airports especially when there are other key transit hubs to be chosen from in the same region. Despite its increasing adoption within industry, from an academic perspective, important questions remain about the nature of the airport experience as a phenomenon. Firstly, airport experience has not been comprehensively conceptualised. As a result, it remains unclear how the airport experience is being used in industry and what its defining characteristics are. Unlike other functions in airports, which have been thoroughly studied, planned, standardised, and regulated, the concept of the airport experience remains vague, subjective, and unsystematically understood. As a consequence, airports may be making decisions about the airport experience based on the availability of resources and a particular interpretation of what airport experience is. Secondly, the airport industry tends to talk about the airport experience from a commercial and business viewpoint, with airports mainly viewing passengers as customers who have become a significant source of non-aeronautical income. Consequently airports may be neglecting the fact that the majority of their passengers or customers are also tourists. This oversight is important because it risks downplaying or ignoring the psychological and sociological aspects of the tourists. According to IATA, around 3 billion people used air transport for business and tourism needs. And by taking the definition of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) into account, tourists are defined as an overnight visitor who travels "outside his or her usual environment for less than a year and for a purpose other than being employed in the place visited". Therefore, both business travellers and leisure travellers can be defined as tourists who travel to their destination with psychological and sociological influenced attitudes related to their destinations. These attitudes affect their cognitive and affective perception before they leave the destination. Since airports represent the first and the last part of the destination for air travellers, the creation of an effective experience in relation to tourism in the airport space can offer a potential to enhance the connection between the traveller/tourist, airport, and destination, thereby contributing to their willingness to return and promoting growth for both the airport and tourism industries. Nevertheless, airports seem to overlook this aspect and adopt a more limited definition which treats air travellers as customers who generate revenue for the airport.
This study aims to respond to these limitations. The study employs a qualitative research methodology to explore this phenomenon by using the constructivist/interpretivist paradigm, as it suggests that reality is socially constructed and largely depends on the participant's view of the situation in question. Airport experience can be perceived as a context-bound concept and is influenced by time and space. This social world of experience which exists in the airport is considered a complex phenomenon that requires further exploration. This study aims to understand how airport management (as in airport executives and the related department heads) from the selected airports in the case studies, construct particular concepts of what the airport experience means, as well as what the supporting and constraining factors are. Nevertheless two other important perspectives which are significant to the understanding of the term are also included, namely the general view of the overall airport industry and the perspective from air travellers. Therefore, the concept of airport experience was investigated according to the three perspectives in response to the interpretivist/constructivist paradigm. The study explores the concept of airport experience by applying the customer experience creation model by Verhoef et al. (2009) together with the review of extant literature in customer experience and tourist experience, and adapting them to the airport context. The analysis of content was conducted using Nvivo 10 software. The findings reveal that airport experience is similar to customer experience in the sense that it is holistic in nature and involves social, cognitive, affective and physical responses of customer or travellers to the airport functions, facilities and service. Its fundamental components include airport anxiety, airport fairness, service experience/encounter, servicescape/sensescape, and the co-creation with air travellers. These components reflect airport experience from the psychological aspect and the service marketing and management aspect. Nevertheless, the components relating to tourist experience can be found in the airport context from the proposition of some specific components namely sense of place and social interaction which reflect the sociological aspect, strongly discussed in the tourist experience literature, and components of destination image, co-creation, and sensescape/servicescape, reflecting service marketing and management aspect of tourist experience. Moreover, drawn from the findings of the three perspectives, the study reveals seven aspects of airport experience which act as an input to the aforementioned components. The finding from the air travellers also discloses the five main outcomes of experience (emotional, perceptual, knowledge, memory, and self-dignity) and their association with the seven aspects. The multiple case studies disclose the specific factors of each airport, driving the direction and the application of airport experience. These factors also make the two airports perform differently resulting to the different performance in the international airport ranking. The study proposes a conceptual framework for airport experience as a theoretical contribution. Additionally, airports can contribute to the tourism destination and tourist experience by acting in two roles - being an experience provider and an experience facilitator. These can be done through 1) setting airport terminal environment based on the concept of sense of place by providing physical settings, cultural artefacts, and cultural activities to connect travellers with the cultural elements of a destination 2) encouraging travellers to co-creation their travel experience with other travellers via the social media platform by facilitating the airport setting and the effective internet connection in the airport terminal. This will help instil a memory of travellers during the phases of leaving destination and the recollection 3) being aware that travellers connect the destination image and slogan with the airport performance, therefore airport must ensure to deliver those experience which is highly related to the destination image.

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