Date of Award

5-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Dr. Sheila Backman, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Kenneth Backman

Committee Member

Dr. James Sanderson

Abstract

In recent years, numerous sources of social media have increasingly played an important role in tourism marketing, and have had a profound effect on Destination Management Organisations' ability to effectively promote their destinations. With the emergence of more social media platforms, there are more tourism stakeholders recognising the increased importance to access information for tourists related to their destinations of interest. For example, tourist destination managers use Social media to provide information about their travel and tour packages, specific tourist attractions, accommodation costs, guiding services, and all other travel related information. Tourists use social media in their planning process to help them identify destinations of interest, to get feedback on what they should expect, as well as to make contacts with the service providers involved in their travel plans. Tour operators use it to market their tour packages, as well as for pre and post-tour interactions with tourists. However, little is known about the influence that Social Media has on the decisions of tourists who travel to specific destinations of interest, and the use of social media in their travel plans and activities. Tourism suppliers have limited knowledge of the tourism market and the opportunity for tourism growth in destinations. The aim of this study therefore, is to explore the role that selected social media platforms serve in the travel of tourists to visit, and their overall experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda (BINP), which is well known for its gorilla tracking experience. The primary interests and activities of most of the tourists who visit the park is to track gorillas, bird watching, and forest hikes. This qualitative study applied semi-structured interviews, which were face to face with thirty- four participants. Participants in this study included tourists visiting BINP, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) that manages BINP, lodge managers, and tour operators who link tourists to the park and have the greatest potential to influence tourist decisions. This study also used Radian6, a social media monitoring software to retrieve Facebook and Twitter posts. In addition, this study analyzed forum posts from the BINP TripAdvisor page.

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