Date of Award

12-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

Shelia J. Backman, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Kenneth F. Backman

Committee Member

DeWayne D. Moore

Committee Member

Michael J. Dorsch

Committee Member

Jumanne A. Maghembe

Abstract

In the modern digital world, it is increasingly challenging for destination marketers to design integrated marketing communication (IMC) strategies. The spectrum of information sources has become broader, serving for wider market interests. The importance of information in the modern world is increasing exponentially, and the tourism industry is traditionally information intense. There is an endless list of information outlets, and it is impossible to be present in all the information platforms. The spectrum of outlets includes old-school prints like magazines and newsletters on the one hand, while on the other hand there are modern advanced Web 2.0 technologies like social media platforms and highly customized digital ads. The presence of many information outlets creates both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities could be considered as the presence and access of many promotion options for suppliers while the challenges would be which are the best options to use, why, how and when targeting which market segments. It requires a destination marketer to carefully choose a few information outlets with optimum outcomes individually and combined. Choosing the right outlets is one thing, developing/creating the right content for each outlet is another thing. This research is about how tourists search for destination information. Specifically, what information sources are mostly preferred by international tourists in a safari destination, how reliable are the preferred information sources perceived, and how often are these information sources used by the tourists. Additionally, this study uses the economics of information theory to investigate the relationship between the investment a tourist puts in searching for destination information across numerous information sources as well as the frequency of using such information sources with the satisfaction they get. Consumer involvement is used as an antecedent construct to investigate information search behavior and tourist satisfaction. A mixed methods research approach was used. A questionnaire was designed on Qualtrics and was conveniently distributed using iPads to international tourists exiting Tanzania at three international airports Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro, and Zanzibar. A checklist was prepared to guide interviews with a few participants who were also conveniently invited to be interviewed after having filled out the questionnaire. A total of 356 participants filled out the questionnaire, and 21 were further interviewed. Quantitative data was analyzed using structural equation modeling analytical approach, while qualitative data was analyzed manually after being transcribed. Results show that consumer involvement does not have a statistically significant effect on information search behavior. A safari tourist uses seven information sources on average when planning their trip. One of the reasons for using multiple sources of information is to validate information gained in one source across other sources to see if there is consistency. The most preferred sources of information are personal sources. There is a statistically significant relationship between the number of information sources a tourist uses with the satisfaction with information search. However, there is no significant relationship between the tourists' frequency of use information source and their satisfaction with information search. This means investing in the number of information sources is more effective than using one source more frequently. Generalization of the findings of this research is limited to safari destinations.

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