Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Information Sources and Planning Horizons for Southern Utah Visitors

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

Information Sources and Planning Horizons for Southern Utah Visitors

Article excerpt


Understanding consumer decision-making is important for any organization that needs or wants to influence outcomes. With regard to tourism-based businesses, as with other businesses, it is beneficial to know what information is desired by potential customers, when it is most relevant to the decision-making process, and where customers seek out or are otherwise exposed to such information. Spending resources to provide information to potential customers too early or too late, or in the wrong places, is wasteful and ineffective. This information is important to public policy makers, as well (Hyde, 2009; Schmidt & Spreng, 1996; Srinivasan, 1990).

In Utah a visitor profile study commissioned by the Utah Office of Tourism was undertaken by the Southern Utah University Hospitality Research Center. Visitors were surveyed over a two-week period during each of four seasons, beginning July 2010 and ending May 2011. The purpose of this paper is to report findings regarding tourists to southern and central Utah concerning their planning horizons and the importance of various sources of information. The specific research questions addressed here are as follows:

When do visitors to southern and central Utah begin to plan vacations, and is the planning horizon a function of demographic variables?

What sources of information are perceived as most influential, and does this vary as a function of demographic variables?

For the purposes of this study the planning horizon is the time that elapses between trip planning and trip departure.


There is a growing body of literature on tourist decision-making and information search. Travel-planning theories have been developed to replace or augment established decision- making frameworks. While decision-making theories focus on choosing among alternatives, travel-planning theories focus on the process by which tourists handle multiple interrelated decisions and goals over time (Jun, Vogt & MacKay, 2007).

Decisions and information search have been categorized as occurring pretrip, during trip, and posttrip (Choi, Lehto, Morrison & Jang, 2012; Hyde, 2009; Jun, Vogt & MacKay, 2007). In a slightly different classification scheme, Becken and Wilson (2007) distinguished among three types of decisions with regard to New Zealand tourists: core decisions, which are made in advance of travel and concern destination and length of stay decisions, loose plans, which are general plans regarding what to do during their trip, and unplanned behavior, which concern local activities and attractions. Core decision are typically made well in advance of travel, while loose plans made be made anywhere between days to months before travel, and unplanned decisions are made within hours or minutes of the activities and attractions. No specific distributions or timelines were recorded in their research.

In an empirical study of tourists to Olympia in Greece, Zouni and Kouremenos (2008) found that the most common response, consisting of 30.3% of their respondents, to the query regarding when planning was initiated was between 1 and 6 months prior to travel. In a study of Chinese visitors to Macau, the mean planning initiation time was 3.8 weeks prior to travel and that the destination decision mean occurred 3.4 weeks prior to travel. The mean number of days for the total trip was 3.58 days, and the mean value for the number of nights spent in Macau was only 1.21 (Choi, Lehto, Morrison & Jang, 2012).

Hyde reports, in a review paper, that personal sources of information appear to be the most important, and that information search is positively related to education, income, and distance traveled (2009). When Hyde surveyed first-time visitors to New Zealand, mostly from Australia, he found that 30% used the Internet, 40% used friends, and 42% used guidebooks and brochures for information. Becken and Wilson report that previous travel experience and wordof-mouth were extremely influential in making core decisions (2007) prior to travel. …

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