Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Loyalty to Rural Tourism Destinations: A Causal Study of Determinants Using a Transactional and Relational Marketing Approach

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Loyalty to Rural Tourism Destinations: A Causal Study of Determinants Using a Transactional and Relational Marketing Approach

Article excerpt

Goal and objectives of the dissertation

Rural tourism is a multidisciplinary research field of significant import that has seen a quantitative increase in its literature, although causal studies in destination marketing are still missing. A deepening of this subarea of research can result in a better understanding of the behaviour of rural tourists, resulting in a more effective and efficient management and marketing of rural tourism destinations and associated companies.

In the current context of competitive markets, relationship marketing stands out as a strategy capable of ensuring the continuity of organisations through strategies based on establishing long-term relationships, which seek to foster customer loyalty. This research studies the determinants of loyalty to rural tourism destinations, based on a literature review and previous studies (Campón et al., 2012, 2013a, 2013b), which found that past researches lacked a relational marketing approach. For this reason, this research seeks to integrate a transactional marketing focus with a relational approach, in a structural model.

The general objective (GO) of this doctoral thesis is: 'the proposal of a research model of the factors that generate loyalty to rural tourism destinations. It seeks to enrich a transactional perspective on marketing with a relational approach, based on theoretical justifications'. The specific objectives (SO), arising from the general objective, are:

SO1. To reach a deep knowledge of the scientific literature related to this topic.

SO2. To identify the methodologies and causal models used for this type of studies.

SO3. To study a structural model proposed on the basis of the literature review.

SO4. To empirically test the structural model and the research hypotheses proposed.

SO5. To highlight the theoretical and practical implications of the results.

SO6. To offer recommendations to develop rural tourism destination loyalty.

This thesis offers a proposed model that seeks to be comprehensive and integrative. Within this model, a transactional submodel is delineated, which includes the variables 'image', 'quality' and 'value'. In addition, the model incorporates a relational submodel, which contains 'trust', 'attachment' and 'mixed satisfaction'. This last variable encompasses satisfaction with relationships with tourism providers and local residents, as well as satisfaction with destination attributes. The results of both submodels point to the result variables of marketing as overall satisfaction with, and loyalty to, rural tourism destinations. The main novelty of this proposal is its focus on filling an important gap in the literature by including a relational perspective in this kind of model, which has mainly been approached through transactional marketing.

Methodology

The study was developed in Spain, a country where rural tourism has experienced exceptional growth in recent years from the supply and demand point of view (Hernández et al., 2011). A quantitative methodology through on-line survey was used. The sample universe was composed of people who engage in rural tourism with some frequency (i.e. at least once every two or three years). The fieldwork was carried out from April to June 2013, gathering a non-probabilistic convenience sample of 464 rural tourists.

The theoretical model assessment was conducted using structural equation modelling (SEM). SEM is configured as the only multivariate statistical method that allows researchers to test causal relationships between dependent and independent variables simultaneously (Martínez-López et al., 2009). Given that this study is exploratory - since it introduces some novelties that need to be tested - and has a complex structure, the use of Partial Least Squares (PLS) was identified as a suitable technique for its resolution, according to Hair et al.'s (2011) specifications.

Results

The results of the proposed model indicate a moderate to substantial explanatory power for overall satisfaction and moderate power for loyalty. …

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