The Impact of Perceived Destination Service Quality on Destination Brand Loyalty: The Mediating Role of Relationship Quality
- Currently, Destination Marketing Organizations face increasing and intensive competitions as more destinations open their doors to the worldwide. To handle the competition, Destination Marketing Organizations have turned to branding the destinations as their most powerful marketing weapon.
A number of Chinese outbound tourists have been increasing at an average annual rate of about 20% in the past 10 years (China Tourism Academy [CTA], 2017) and it reached 83 million in 2015 (United Nations World Tourism Organization [UNWTO], 2017). Therefore, many countries are trying to entice Chinese tourists to travel to their destinations (Shankman & Ali, 2013). This research tried to help the destination marketing organizations to attract more loyal Chinese outbound tourists.
Brand loyalty has been extensively investigated but has rarely been the focus of destination studies, for example, Customer-based brand equity for tourism destination (CBBETD) (Pike, 2007). CBBETD is used to measure the effectiveness of destination brand campaigns by destination marketing organizers (Pike, 2007), the conceptual model of CBBETD consists of four dimensions: awareness, image, perceived quality and loyalty, and the destination brand loyalty (DBL) have adopted as the dependent variable. The destination brand loyalty represented by repeat visits (Pike, 2007), and is a good predictor of future tourism choice (Knecnik & Gartner, 2007).
Many factors contribute to the competitiveness of destinations (Richie & Crouch, 2003), destination service quality (DSQ) is increasingly being viewed as important for the attainment of competitive advantage. Tourists perceptions of service quality are important to successful destination marketing because of their influence on destination selection (Ahmed, 1991), and the decision to return to a destination (Stevens, 1992), some prior researches tested the direct relationship of destination service quality with destination loyalty, however, there is a lack of exploring the mediating effects between destination service quality (DSQ) and destination brand loyalty (DBL).
From a customer’s perspective, high relationship quality can be achieved when the provider reduces perceived uncertainty (i.e., potential for service failure or negative outcomes) (Crosby et al., 1990; Roloff and Miller, 1987). Therefore, it is meaningful to exploring the relationship quality in the service/tourism context. Relationship quality is a constructs includes multiple factors, Whereas Kumar et al. (1995) conceptualized relationship quality as encompassing conflict, trust, commitment, willingness to invest in a relationship, and expectation of continuity. Relationship quality has been defined as “the degree to which buyers are satisfied over time” (Huntley, 2006, p. 706). In tourist context, Bhattacharya and Sen (2003) suggest that resilient relationships frequently are the consequence of tourists’ satisfying one (or several) essential self-definitional needs through the identification phenomenon. This study specifically investigates tourist satisfaction and identification with a destination as relationship quality variables.
The purpose of this study is try to offer value to destination management organizations(DMO) who have been increasing investment in destination development by providing and testing a model that examines two relationship quality constructs (tourist satisfaction, tourist-destination identification) as mediating variables between Chinese tourists' destination service quality (DSQ) perceptions and destination brand loyalty (DBL).
A research model was proposed in which six hypotheses were developed. The research model investigates the relationships among the constructs by using a structural equation modeling approach (SEM). The results of this study with Chinese outbound tourists (n=311) provide support for the proposed model. Previous research on relationship quality has tended to ignore the role of tourist-destination identification even though it represents deep, committed, and meaningful relationships (Bhattacharya & Sen, 2003) and a close bonding (Keh & Xie, 2009) between a destination and its tourists. The result of this study indicated the tourist-destination identification fully mediates the relationship between perceived destination service quality (DSQ) and destination brand loyalty (DBL). Some of prior studies have tested the relationships between destination service quality perceptions, tourist satisfaction, and destination loyalty. However, the results of these studies have not been consistent. Some studies indicate that tourist satisfaction has a full mediating role, but the result of this study indicated that tourist satisfaction not mediates the relationship between perceived destination service quality (DSQ) and destination brand loyalty (DBL) that the result different from prior researches.
Tourists with greater identification with a destination are more likely to exhibit actions that reduce negative effects on and/or benefit the natural environment, according to the research result, I suggest that tourism managers and marketers should consider the level of resources required to incorporate into their strategy decisions the elements that drive tourist-destination identification. Considering the role of tourist-destination identification occurs when a tourist perceives a sense of belongingness with a destination, and the findings suggest that tourists have a greater likelihood of identifying with a destination that they having a positive destination service quality perception, therefore, investing to improve a destination’s service quality can increase identification with that.
This study also has some limitations. First, there exist some limitations in the sampling methods. The data were collected after respondents had left the tourism sites, not at the actual tourism sites. Second, the sample of this study was collected from the tourists of travel to destinations that 13 famous in the world, it could gather enough sample data for one destination or a few destinations. Third, the current study tests its hypothesis with domestic Chinese tourists as the samples. Evidence of model stability and generalizability can only come from performing the analysis on additional samples in other contexts. Fourth, relationship quality is a higher order construct that consisting of several distinct but related components or dimensions. This study examined two distinct constructs (satisfaction & identification) of the relationship quality. Fifth, this research model is not an integrated model, it was not tested all of the variables in the model, especially, I did not tested the direct relationship that between perceived DSQ and DBL. This gap may have to be filled in the future research. Sixth, this study does not consider the moderating effects which might influence the relationship quality and/or destination brand loyalty.
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