After deciding to take a vacation or trip, the second step is typically an information search about potential destinations. There are numerous information sources available to search for travel destination(s) information. A search for information may include internal sources (e.g., previous experiences) and external or those dominated by marketi

Introduction

After deciding to take a vacation or trip, the second step is typically an information search about potential destinations. There are numerous information sources available to search for travel destination(s) information. A search for information may include internal sources (e.g., previous experiences) and external or those dominated by marketing organizations and/or nonmarketing origins (Morrison, 2010). Those dominated by marketers include websites, visitor guides, and promotions of destination marketing organizations (DMO), such as convention and visitor bureaus (CVB). Nonmarketer-dominated examples include travel critiques and travelers’ personal blogs about destinations. As mentioned, internal information sources include one’s own travel experience(s), and subsequently memories of a destination. While Cook et al. (2010) also refer to information sources as internal and external, they build on external by further differentiating between personal and nonpersonal.

Examples of external personal information include friends or relatives, as well as individuals such as travel agents. Nonpersonal sources include any other source, such as travel magazines, visitor guides, and the Internet. After searching, Morrison (2010) indicates the next step is an evaluation of the prepurchase information, followed by the purchase should there be one.

With so much information available, it is important for destinations to understand which sources are important in terms of influencing the decision to visit.

People with varying travel experiences and demographics prefer using different destination information sources. For example, age has been identified as influencing how people decide whether to visit, or not, as well as plan their travel. Studies have found that for elderly travelers word of mouth from friends and/or relatives, as well as their own previous travel experience and mass media are important information sources in the decision-making process

Research has also indicated that older and less prosperous populations are less likely to use newer technologies, such as the Internet (Pew Research Center, 2014). The purpose of this study is fourfold. First, the study ranks the importance of information sources in the decision to visit the study destination of its visitor inquirers. Second, the study examines if visitor inquirers who visited the destination can be classified into groups based on the number of trips taken to the study destination and total trips over the two years preceding the study. Third, the study tests for associations in the prior travel experience groups with sociodemographic variables. Finally, the study tests for differences across the prior travel experience groups in terms of the importance of information sources.

Because of the influence of age on the use of new technologies, it is treated as a covariate to control for the age of respondents while testing for differences in the importance of information sources.

Literature review

Tourism information search Today tourists have a variety of information sources available regarding travel destinations. CVBs benefit from understanding how visitors search for information and how important the information is in terms of influencing the decision to visit a destination to be
effective and efficient with their marketing resources.

This has also been an area of interest for academic research. As a result, information search models have been developed and tested (Bieger and Laesser, 2004; Fodness and Murray, 1997, 1999; Gursoy and McCleary, 2004a; Vogt and Fesenmaier, 1998) as well as examined differences such as gender identity and the information search process (Ramkissoon and Cuckoo, 2012). Vogt and Fesenmaier (1998) adapted a consumer behavior model to apply to the information search process, suggesting the information fulfills multiple needs of travelers. The study identified 5 constructs and 16 sub-constructs after a review of literature, expert panel review, and pretest to develop several scale items.

The results indicated that the hedonic (e.g., personal experiences), innovation (e.g., exploring new information sources), and sign needs (e.g., social interaction) for information searching were positively related to tourists’ perceived experience and skill level. Results also suggested that compared to males, females have higher levels of functional information search needs.

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