Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Differences between Short and Long Break Tourists in Urban Destinations: The Case of Barcelona

Academic journal article European Journal of Tourism Research

Differences between Short and Long Break Tourists in Urban Destinations: The Case of Barcelona

Article excerpt

Introduction

Two significant trends of the last decade have been the growth of the capacity of attraction of urban centres, with the so-called city break (Dunne, Flanagan & Buckley, 2011), and the reduction of tourists' stay at the destinations (Alegre, Mateo & Pou, 2011). Among the factors that have contributed to this increase of tourist activity in Europe we can highlight the phenomenon of low cost travel, the increased number of trips and especially of short trips or short breaks, the changed perception of cities as attractive tourist destinations, and the Internet as a tool for information, planning and organisation of travel, among others (Dunne, Flanagan & Buckley, 2010).

The economic benefits generated by tourism, the shortening of the duration of the trip and the increased number of trips, have intensified competition between cities. An ever increasing knowledge of markets and consumers reveals substantial changes in the tourism consumer. Consequently, destinations that want to be competitive have no choice but to adopt strategies of super-segmentation in order to respond in a personalised manner to the consumers' needs (Raj, 2007). The segmentation criteria applied vary depending on the destination, the market or the positioning desired (Buhalis, 2001), and the principal characteristics of the segments are multiple and do not affect tourism consumption equally.

Thus, one of the research areas that has been studied in depth is the tourism consumers decision making process, and of all the characteristics studied, the duration of the stay stands out as especially important for the management of tourism destinations (Martínez-Garcia & Raya, 2008). A number of authors, including Alegre & Pou (2006), have pointed out the importance of the length of stay for tourist destinations. More recently, this particular variable has been the subject of renewed interest (Barros & Machado, 2010; Ferrer-Rosell, Martínez-Garcia & Coenders, 2014; Yang & Zhang, 2015).

This article focuses on short duration travellers (short breakers) and those of long duration (long breakers). In general, short breaks are recognised as a differentiated type of trip. The most widely accepted definition, also used in this article, considers a short break to be a stay between 2 and 4 nights with a non-professional motivation (Murphy, Niininen & Sanders, 2010). Despite the importance of the length of stay, usually practitioners use short breaks even there being a lack of agreement concerning what a short break is. Nevertheless, a certain amount of research into the short break, such as for example the previous study, has been carried out. Meanwhile, the long break has not been specifically studied as an aspect of city tourism. Therefore, the main contribution of this paper is to explain the differences between the between the two levels of tourist length of stay, an approach that has not been adopted before now.

The study analyses the main characteristics of travellers and their behaviour in the city of Barcelona, with the aim of defining the effect of the length of stay in urban destinations. To accomplish this purpose, nine working hypotheses have been drawn up, and will be tested using structural equations models (SEM), special attention being paid to the comparative lengths of stay of short and long breakers.

The article is divided into different sections. The section that follows reviews the duration of the stay and the five constructs. The model and the methodology used in the study are then introduced, followed by the results obtained and their interpretation. Finally, the conclusions, as well as the limitations of the study and the recommendations and implications deriving from it, are described.

Literature review

The length of stay: short break vs. long break In the current tourism context, there is evidence of a progressive reduction of the duration of the stay in tourist trips. …

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