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We’re going on holiday – but where? - New model shows process of choosing holiday destinations

Marketing has concentrated on our tastes and choices as consumers over recent years. Now two economists from the University of Alicante have tackled the same questions from a tourism perspective, using data from the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS), and have devised a model that shows how we decide upon a holiday destination.

In the study, published in the magazine Tourism Management, Juan Luis Nicolau and Francisco Más analysed data from 2,491 people gathered by the CIS, and reached the conclusion that the choosing of a holiday destination has various stages, which follow a hierarchy.

“People have a limited capacity for analysis, and this leads them to break down complex decisions into hierarchical processes and take into consideration a small number of critical variables at each level to make the decision-making process more manageable,” the authors of the study tell SINC.

“When confronted by a complex problem, the human brain ‘satisfies’ more than it ‘optimises’,” explains Nicolau. In this situation, “the individual will try to choose an option that is sufficiently satisfying, regardless of whether or not it is the best choice”, adds the scientist.

Alternatives to the traditional “sun and sand”

Out of various possible models, Nicolau and Más have drawn up one with a sequential structure. First a person decides whether or not they will go on holiday, and then they decide upon the type of destination. In this case, the researchers looked at two pairs of possible destinations within Spain – coastal or inland, and city or village.

Analysis of the data shows that tourists first choose whether the destination will be seaside or mountains, and then look at the urban features of the area. This order shows that “in countries such as Spain, inland tourism is firmly established in tourists’ minds as an alternative to traditional sun and sand holidays”, says Nicolau.

The research also covers two combinations of factors that influence tourists’ decisions – how much money they are prepared to spend in relation to their salary (price-salary) and also in relation to their motivation in choosing a particular destination (price-motivation).

The tourist/purchaser behaves in the same way as he or she does with any other consumer good, and tends to choose economic destinations. Even tourists with a higher income level prefer cheaper places, whether inland or on the coast. If a person is looking for peace and quiet, they are prepared to pay rather more, especially for a beach destination. Where the prime motivation is cultural interest, there does not seem to be any general trend.

“The results of this research have important strategic implications”, remarks Nicolau. Understanding tourist choice processes would enable tourism organisations to “design better marketing strategies, adapting them to those features they consider most important”, among them “tourists’ sensitivity to changes in prices”, stresses the researcher.

SINC Team | alfa
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