Special Session Summary Tourism Destination Images


Paul Williams (1996) ,"Special Session Summary Tourism Destination Images", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, eds. Russel Belk and Ronald Groves, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 90-91.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2, 1996      Pages 90-91



Paul Williams, Edith Cowan University

Images are the focal point when marketing of tourism destinations. Marketers attempt to create images of destinations which potential consumers use to develop expectations of a potential visit there. In fact, Hall (1995) argues that tourism is an industry built on the selling of images rather than the selling of products and services, which perhaps gives an indication of the importance of images for tourism marketing. It is these mental images that are the basis for the evaluation and selection of an individual’s choice of destination.

Images of tourism destinations are a pivotal aspect of marketing promotional strategy. From the traditional; sun, sand, surf and sex images of holiday destinations, to the more recent images of the natural environment, culture and heritage of those destinations. The diversity of images that can be created, and the often subjective mis-interpretation of some images by potential tourists, suggests that the image creation is the difference between success and failure of a tourism destination, (Chon, 1991).

A number of studies have attempted to measure tourist perceptions of various destination images, (Hunt, 1975, Echtner and Ritchie, 1993, Driscoll et al, 1994, Pritchard and Morgan, 1995). These studies attempted to investigate the influence of such images on consumer behaviour through various channels of communication. Unfortunately, no clear consensus can be drawn from the studies in terms of the image measurement, distribution or homogeniety.

Unfortunately, the images created by marketers can sometimes be misinterpretted and this leads to false expectations of the tourism destination by consumers. The Queensland Tourism Board, for example, has been using the slogan "Fabulous one day, perfect the next.....!" to promote images of a tropical paradise, with unspoilt and crowdless beaches, crystal clear ocean, and coconut palms all waiting to be discovered. Anyone who visits the Gold Coast of Queensland with these expectations will be sadly disappointed to find a oncrete jungle of high-rise buildings, obtrusive theme parks, unswimmable beaches and a huge number of people all seeking the same paradise.

Why does this misinterpretation occur ? Perhaps the present communication channels are inappropriate for the marketing of tourism destinations. For example, is it possible to create an accurate image of a destination with the traditional brochure used in travel agents ? Perhaps, as the tourism industry matures, consumers are becoming much more discerning in their choice of destinations. Tourism consumers are less easily swayed by the promise of two weeks in "paradise", when they’ve been to "paradise" five times before and will not be happy if the drains are still blocked, (Elliott, 1991). As such consumers are increasingly demanding more tangible forms of information and seek reassurances from suppliers and their agents about the destination prior to purchase.

The following papers present a range of views on the marketing of destination images and their effects on potential consumers. The paper by Williams looks at the role of information technology for image creation and distribution. It is argued that technologies such as Computerised Reservation Systems, the Internet and Virtual Reality have the potential to tangibilise tourism destination images. This will facilitate the marketing of tourism destinations since there is less potential for distortion of the images by intermediaries.

The paper by Carlsen investigates the process of consumer choice and decision making for consumers of tourism destinations. He argues that destination image creation is a complex process and subject to a number of distortions. This in turn can lead to customer dissatisfaction due to the image received not living up to its expectations. The paper uses the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as a case study to examine this contention. Similarly, the paper by Soutar and Ryan examines consumer choice for outbound tourism destinations. A perceptual space model is identified as a suitable mechanism for researchers to investigate how customers evaluate different holiday destinations. The results of their research study are outlined and the marketing implications are discussed.



Paul Williams, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

Tourism destination images have traditionally been marketed through travel brochures, which are distributed through intermediaries such as travel agents, (Holloway and Plant, 1992). The brochure acts a major point of contact between the potential consumer and the travel destination. In addition, travel guides, TV, radio, and verbal communication from agents, tour operators, suppliers and friends also play a significant role in image creation and distribution (Gunn 1972). The use of intermediaries, however, has tended to distort some destination images and consumers have not had their holiday dreams realised. This paper will evaluate the role of information technology in destination image creation and its increasing role in image distribution of tourism destinations thus bypassing intermediaries.

It is argued in this paper, that tourism destinations can be marketed more tangibly and perhaps more accurately, through more graphical and interactive representations of the images being promoted. Tour operators, travel agents and direct tourism suppliers can increasingly use information technologies to communicate destination images to prospective consumers. The advent of Computerised Reservation Systems (CRS) means that travel products can be marketed directly to the potential consumer. For example, American Airlines, through their SabreVision system, use information technology to show not only availability and prices of flights, but also shows photographs, videos clips, sound and graphical images of the destinations being serviced by the airline. This can help consumers to create a more accurate and more substantial image of their preferred destination.

The paper examines the Internet and the Worl-Wide Web network as a future catalyst for marketing of destinations through information technology. The distribution of colourful, graphical images to millions of homes around the world creates some exciting image creation opportunities. Many airlines, national tourism bodies and destination suppliers have created Web pages on the Internet. At the same time, the images created are being distributed globally to a potential audience of 40 million people. For example the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation (IOTO) and Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) have set up Web pages which market graphical images and supporting text of all the countries in their region.

The paper also investigates the opportunites of Virtual Reality (VR) simulations that can be used to market tourism destinations. Although VR technology is rather primitive at present, it is argued that through its ability for interactivity, consumers will be able to "experience" a destination without having to leave their living room. This may even create whole new marketing opportunities through the creation of artificial and alternative travel experiences. Imagine being able to "experience" a destination without having to leave the comfort of your own home, the marketing implications are endless. The result is that information technology has huge potential to facilitate the creation of more graphical, more interactive, more user-specific and more accurate images of destinations to help reassure consumers and let destinations live up to their promises.



Geoffrey Soutar, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

Maria M Ryan, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

Holiday makers have to decide between a variety of possible destinations when choosing where they will spend their vacation. This choice process is important to travel marketers, tourism companies, associated industries and government planners.

In Western Australia, international tourists make up 8% of the market, tourists from other Australian States make up 7% of the market, while intrastate tourists constitute 85% of the State’s tourist market (Western Australian Tourism Commission 1993/94). Therefore, an understanding of the way in which "local" or "domestics" tourist make destination decisions is important as they are likely to decide success or failure for many vacation destinations.

Goodrich (1977) found that perceptions of tourist regions influenced outbound travellers’ choice of holiday destinations. The perceptual space approach he suggested provides an appropriate base from which to examine domestic tourist decision making. Perceptual space modelling is useful when researchers examine particular set of options, such as holiday destinations. Each potential holiday destination offers a vacationer an expected experience depending upon the vacationer’s beliefs about the presence (or absence) of a variety of destination attributes and the importance the vacationer attaches to these attributes.

A sample of 401 residents in Perth, Western Australia participated in this study. Respondents rank preferences of eight popular Western Australian holiday destinations, was collected to determine groups of respondents with similar holiday preferences. In addition, respondents were asked to provide perceptions of the four holiday destinations they knew the best from the eight included in the study. A set of general lifestyles statements, attitudes to holiday, leisure activities and a typical set of demographics were also included in the questionnaire. This data provided profiling information on the various "similar holiday preference" groups, a discussion on the marketing implications is included.



Jack Carlsen, Edith Cowan University, Western Australia

This paper examines the process of consumer choice in tourism an the specific role of destination images. The emergence of tourism, as a leading global activity has attracted research interests in a number of disciplines, including economics, marketing, sociology, anthropology, psychology and consumer research in understanding and evaluating tourist behaviour. Unlike other products and services, the tourism market place and industry is not well defined for research purposes, as it involves an amalgam of businesses (transport, accommodation, restaurant and retailing) that provide tourism services as part of their general business. Furthermore, tourism products can be purchased as packaged from dedicated tourism businesses in travel agencies or from tourism wholesalers such as airlines or unpackaged in the form of independent travel and accommodation arrangements. However, tourism is an area that ripe for consumer research and this paper is a small contribution to that end.

Ashworth’s simple model of tourism place images (Sinclair 1991) provides an analysis of the complex process of tourists’ ideas, images, preconceptions, intentions and expectations that are conceived in the destination choice process.

The images that a destination promotes (termed projected images) are subject to a process of distortion, selection and credibility before potential tourists create their own image (termed received images). Images of destinations are not just within the role of the marketing, but also designers for these projected images to be distorted by tourists so that the received images may not in fact match the reality of the destination. This can lead to dissatisfied consumers and adverse word of mouth transmission of destination information resulting in destinations being stuck with a poor image from the consumer’s perspective. There is therefore a need to examine destination image not only from the marketing perspective, but also from the consumer’s perspective.

Destination image projection is examined in the case of an emerging tourism destination in the Indian Ocean, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The promotional brochures have projected images of a tropical island paradise in a brazen attempt to attract the 4S’s market (sun, sand, surf and sex). In some cases the projected images do not match the reality of the destination, leading to the need for a discussion of the ethical dimensions of destination image projection. A research project for the investigation of received images is outlined, with some discussion of the likely outcomes of such a project based on observations to date.


Chon, K.S. (1991) Tourism Destination Image Modification Process: Marketing implications. Tourism Management, Vol. 12 No.1, pp.68-72.

Driscoll, A., Lawson, R., and Niven, B. (1994) Measuring tourists’ destination perceptions. Annals of Tourism Research, Vol.21 No.3 pp.499-511.

Echtner, C.M. and Ritchie, J.R.B. (1993) The measurement of destination image: an empirical assessment. Journal of Travel Research, Spring, pp.3-13.

Elliott, M. (1991) The Pleasure principle. The Economist, Travel and Tourism report, March, p.3.

Goodrich, J.N. (1977) An investigation of consumer perceptions of, and preferences for selected vacation destinations: a multidimensional scaling approach. Unpublished PhD thesis. State University of New York, Buffalo, N.Y.

Gunn, C. (1972) Vacationscape. Austin:Bureau of Business Research, University of Texas.

Hall, C.M. (1995) Introduction to Tourism in Australia: impacts, planning and development. Longman, Melbourne.

Holloway, J.C. and Plant, R.V. (1992) The marketing of tourism, 2nd edition Pitman Publishing, London.

Hunt, J.D. (1975) Image as a factor in tourism development. Journal Travel Research, Winter, pp.1-7.

Pritchard, A. and Morgan, N. (1995) Journal of Vacation Marketing, Vol.2 No.1, pp.23-38.

Sinclair, T.M. and Stabler, M.J. (1991) The tourism industry: an international analysis. CAB International, Wallingford, U.K.

Western Australian Tourism Commission (1993/1994) Statistical review. Perth, Western Australia



Paul Williams, Edith Cowan University


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 2 | 1996

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