Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Revisiting the Commitment-Loyalty Distinction in a Cruising Context

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Revisiting the Commitment-Loyalty Distinction in a Cruising Context

Article excerpt


The bonding mechanisms between individuals and different objects (e.g., other individuals, political figures, organizations, places, products and brands, and so on) have drawn multi-disciplinary interests for years (Figure 1). For instance, marketing scholars have long been interested in customers' bonds to products (i.e., involvement) (Laurent & Kapferer, 1985; Zaichkowsky, 1986) or brands (i.e., loyalty) (Copeland, 1923; Day, 1969; Oliver, 1999). Psychologistsand sociologists have studied the bond between human beings in terms of attachment (Bowlby, 1969; 1973; 1980), interpersonal commitment (Johnson, 1973; Levinger, 1965; Rusbult, 1980a), and side bets (Becker, 1960). In the fields of organizational behavior and management, employees' commitment to organizations has been a central research focus for decades (Allen & Meyer, 1990; Fullagar & Barling, 1989; Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1979; Payne & Huffman, 2005). Human geographers and environmental psychologists (Low & Altman, 1992; Tuan, 1974; 1977) are also interested in people's bonding with places (i.e., place attachment). Sports marketing researchers (Funk, 1998; Heere & Dickson, 2008) have focused on the concept of fan or team loyalty, whereas leisure and tourism researchers have studied a variety of issues from destination loyalty (Kozak, Huan, & Beaman, 2002; Niininen & Riley, 2003; Oppermann, 2000) to recreationists' commitment to public agencies (Kyle &Mowen, 2005).

Due to substantial differences in research objects and disciplinary barriers, no consensus has been reached on how to term these bonding forces (hence a "black box" in the figure), not to mention how these mechanisms work. Nevertheless, it seems make intuitive sense that these constructs could belong to the same nomological network (Dimanche & Havitz, 1994; Moráis, 2000; Pritchard et al., 1992). One might further postulate that, beyond differences in terminology and research methods, there might be some generic theoretical principles working across different contexts, and investigating the commonality and differences of these constructs may provide researchers new theoretical ground and refreshing perspectives. The present paper attempts to decipher one small piece of this jigsaw puzzle by examining the nature of the relationship between customer loyalty and commitment.

Customer loyalty is one of the most important concepts in the field of marketing (Dimanche & Havitz, 1994; Oliver, 1999; Sheth & Sisodia, 1999; Shugan, 2005). In the leisure and tourism field, the increasing attention on revisitation/ repurchase has also given rise to a growing body of literature on recreationists' and tourists' loyalty (Backman & Crompton, 1991b; Iwasaki & Havitz, 2004; Kyle, Graefe, Manning, & Bacon, 2004; Oppermann, 2000; Pritchard & Howard, 1997). With the advent of the so-called "relationship marketing paradigm"(Gronroos, 1994; Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995), loyalty seems to have drawn even more research attention in recent years.

Despite its popularity as a research topic, over the years, loyalty research has suffered from "definitional inconsistencies and inadequate operationalization" (Knox & Walker, 2001, p. 112), as well as difficulties in its conceptualization (Jones & Taylor, 2007; Oliver, 1999). Researchers have used the term "loyalty" to refer to a variety of things. Thus, it comes as no surprise that, after a review of the history of "brand loyalty," Hofmeyr and Rice (2000, p. 87) complained that, "There is so much confusion because we do not have any consistent way of referring to all these different types of consumer," and asked "Wouldn't it help if we could develop a common language, once and for all?"

One concept frequently used as synonymous to loyalty is commitment (Lee, 2003). The conceptual proximity of loyalty and commitment could make it tempting to equate the two constructs as the same (Pritchard, Howard, & Havitz, 1992), although many researchers have argued that commitment and loyalty are distinct constructs (Dick & Basu, 1994; Gustafsson, Johnson, & Roos, 2005; Iwasaki & Havitz, 2004; Kyle et al. …

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