Activity-Based Market Sub-Segmentation of Cultural Tourists

By Dolnicar, Sara | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, June 2002 | Go to article overview

Activity-Based Market Sub-Segmentation of Cultural Tourists


Dolnicar, Sara, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


The group of cultural tourists has received a lot of attention in the past decades. Nevertheless only few attempts have been made to study the characteristics of the "cultural tourism market segment". Besides, it is often implicitly assumed that this segment is a homogeneous group of tourists. The contribution of this article is twofold: first, the assumption of one homogeneous market segment is questioned by searching for sub-segment among cultural tourist in a data-driven manner; second, this data partitioning task is achieved by using a topology representing network (TRN), methodology that allows additional insight into the similarity structure of the sub-segments identified.

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As Dewar (2000, p. 125) puts it in his entry in the encyclopedia of tourism:

   Definig what cultural tourism constitutes is a continuing debate....
   culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English
   language ... As a result, there is no shortage of attempts to define this
   phenomena ... The majority of definitions suggests learning about others
   and their way of life as a major element.

The confusion about what cultural tourism precisely means is well mirrored in the two definitions provided by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO; 1985, in Richards, 1996, p. 23). On the one hand cultural tourism means "movement of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visits to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art, and pilgrimages", whereas from a broader perspective it implies "all movements of persons ... because they satisfy the human need for diversity, tending to raise the cultural level of the individual and giving rise to new knowledge, experience and encounters" are seen as cultural tourism.

The multitude of different definitions of cultural tourism clearly is not the best starting point for an empirical investigation. Nevertheless it is necessary to learn about the market segment of cultural tourists, as these visitors represent a highly attractive market segment (Dolnicar & Ender, 2000). Not only are cultural tourists known to spend more money per day at the destination, they are also less dependent on the main seasons in winter and summer. So, from the point of view of the consumers, the segment is worth empirical investigation in order to learn as much as possible about this group of tourists and offer them the perfectly suited product. From the supply side, cultural tourism does not suffer from a lack of attractiveness as cultural heritage usually represents a "natural" unique selling proposition that can hardly be imitated by the vast amount of competitors in the global tourism industry.

Keeping in mind the extremely high variability of definitions of cultural tourism itself, the main assumption of this article is that there is a high probability that "the" cultural tourist does not exist as such. Instead it could be expected that the entire group of cultural tourist might be heterogeneous. This heterogeneity can be used to investigate if sub-segments of cultural tourists can be identified. The first contribution of this work thus consists of investigating empirically if the group of cultural tourists in Austria can be further split in sub-groups. Secondly, methodology is used that not only splits the respondents in groups but also orders the resulting segment to best represent similarities between groups. The empirical basis is provided by the Austrian National Guest Survey database. The results, therefore, should not be generalised beyond the borders of Austria without caution. This study provides insights into cultural sub-segments that can be used effectively as a solid analytic foundation for target marketing action by both the Austrian National Tourism Organisation and regional marketing organisations.

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