Author: Pavesi, Anna
Title: Social interaction and destination image formation
Advisors: Denizci-Guillet, Basak (SHTM)
Law, Rob (SHTM)
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2016
Subject: Tourism -- Social aspects.
Tourism -- Marketing.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: School of Hotel and Tourism Management
Pages: xi, 253, 26 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: This study investigates the role played by social interaction in the process of destination image formation in a group vacation travel context. Prior research largely neglected the investigation of destination image formation as a process, the dynamic nature of the phenomenon and the social context in which it takes place. In light of the identified gaps, this study examines and reports the process of destination image formation in its development in a group vacation travel context; it determines what role intra-group social interaction plays in the destination image formation process; and finally, it suggests an integrated approach to further investigate the process of destination image formation in a group vacation travel context, which accounts for social interaction. The social representation approach explains how groups and individuals as components of a group, understand and co-create reality. With this theoretical support the process of destination image formation is approached as an ongoing, dynamic and relativistic phenomenon, which is indivisible from its social context. The person-centered stance adopted in this study constitutes a drastic shift in perspective in comparison to the destination-centered research on destination image to date. In order to grant the necessary flexibility, this investigation adopts a combination of qualitative data gathering methods: participant observation of a ten-day group tour was conducted in between two rounds of semi structured in-depth interviews. The selected group tour, composed of ten Italian participants, excluding the group coordinator, the local travel guide and the researcher, travelled together to Jordan, in the Middle East.
Findings show the role of social interaction at the roots and throughout the whole process of destination image formation. Evidence showed that individuals belonging to the same group do influence each other's destination image formation through verbal and non-verbal communication among themselves and in relation to the destination. Destination image formation emerges as a social phenomenon indivisible from the social and physical environment in which it occurs. Finally, an approach for the investigation of destination image formation as dynamic and social, in a group vacation travel context, is proposed and explained. The current study had primarily theoretical significance, although practical and methodological implications were also identified. The shift to a person-centered, sociological and dynamic approach deepens the understanding of the processes concurring to destination image formation revealing the influential role played by social interaction in the process. The approach aided to better understand some typical findings of destination image research, including the phenomenon of word of mouth and the inter-cultural variations of a same destination's images. Lastly, the introduction of collage creation, an original method of in-depth knowledge elicitation, displayed its potential in the investigation of complex tourism phenomena. Practical implications interest destination management organizations and tour operators and highlight the evident importance of a consistent and systematic tour guide training that includes people and group dynamics management.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: open access

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