Sensation Seeking and Customer Perceptions of Thematic Entertainment: Evidence from Theme Motels in Taiwan

Article excerpt

Sensation seeking is viewed as a personality trait since it profoundly affects individual attitudes, choices, and preferences (Pizam, Jeong, Reichel, & Boemmel, 2004; Weisskirch & Murphy, 2004), and researchers often apply it to segment the market and analyze sexual and risky consumer behavior (Mashegoane, Moalusi, Ngoepe, & Peltzer, 2002; McDaniel, 2002). Hence, sensation seeking is an important predictor of actual behavior (Bancroft et al., 2003).

The human desire for variety, novelty, and stimulating experiences--which is an aspect of sensation seeking--often leads to regular participation in, purchase or visiting of, theme entertainment (Ancess & Allen, 2006; McDaniel, 2002), which provides fantasy- and novelty-provoking experiences and atmosphere. Therefore, theme entertainment is often used as a marketing strategy by enterprises to attract customers and differentiate their products (Ancess & Allen, 2006; Wanhill, 2002). Motel managers in Taiwan have applied such strategies to develop unique themes to provide experiences for customers with unusual sexual preferences. Theme motel customers can experience local or international movie scenes, the culture or history of different countries, fairy tales, or unusual settings such as outer space, prison cells, boxing rings, casinos, or velodromes (China Times, 2007). Visiting theme motels are an emerging leisure activity in Taiwan (Taiwan Tourism Bureau, 2007). Since leisure activity is a social behavior reflecting individual personality, the relationship between leisure and personality traits is an important research topic (Hou, Tu, & Yang, 2007).

Mihalic (2000) asserted that leisure, tourism, and entertainment industries must understand customer preferences to obtain a competitive advantage. In this study we used sensation seeking to segment the consumer market in order to identify target and potential customers of theme motels, and investigated whether different sensation-seeking personality traits lead to different perceptions of themed entertainment.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND HYPOTHESES DEVELOPMENT

Development of Theme Motels

A theme is the meaning, attraction, and unspoken code of an enterprise. According to market theory, an appealing theme can promote product quality, increase customer loyalty, and avoid offending those who view such establishments with distaste. Specifically, interest in a theme is a common criterion for selecting a brand, enterprise, or destination (Ancess & Allen, 2006; Wanhill, 2002).

Themes are often applied in hotels and the entertainment industry (Dale & Robinson, 2001). After noting that United States motels offer convenience for drivers, Taiwan motel managers began to adopt similar operating practices in motels built near highways to provide drivers with a temporary resting place. Because they offer privacy and anonymity, Taiwan motels gradually evolved into popular venues for lovers or couples. Recognizing this shift in their consumer base, motel managers began to introduce themes by modifying their decor and facilities and even applying modern 3D virtual reality technology to make the theme "come alive" (China Times, 2007).

To implement a theme credibly, the building and rooms must be designed in an appropriate style, and employees must dress in suitable attire and comport themselves in a manner compatible with the theme. The huge investment required to carry out these physical and personnel-related adjustments considerably increases the cost of establishing a theme motel. Motel managers should identify specific themes for different customer groups so they can differentiate their products, enhance the loyalty of existing customers, and develop new business opportunities (Wanhill, 2002; Xu, 2006).

Sensation-Seeking Segmentation and Customer Perceptions of Themed Entertainment

The term sensation seeking describes the individual pursuit of sensory stimulation (Martin, Sherrard, & Wentzel, 2005). …