An Examination of Destination Competitiveness from the Tourists' Perspective: The Relationship between Quality of Tourism Experience and Perceived Destination Competitiveness
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Destination competitiveness has become a critical issue in today's increasingly challenging tourism market. Many studies have indicated that tourists and their needs stand as the ultimate driving force which influences competition and competitiveness in the tourism destination. Today, destinations eventually compete on the quality of tourism experience offered to visitors. However, limited research has been undertaken to examine destination competitiveness from the tourists' perspective. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of quality of tourism experience on tourists' perception of destination competitiveness. A destination competitiveness model based on the perceptions of tourists and a measurement instrument to assess the constructs of the model were developed for this study. The model proposes that tourists' perceived destination competitiveness is affected by the quality of tourism experience, which includes the experience in pre-trip planning, en-route, on-site, and after-trip (reflection) phases. Furthermore, tourist involvement, as an important salient dimension of consumer behavior, is introduced into the model as a moderating factor in the relationship between quality of tourism experience and perceived destination competitiveness. The sample population of this study consists of residents of Virginia who are 18 years old or above and took at least one leisure trip away from home in the past 18 months. Three hundred and fifty-three usable questionnaires were utilized in the data analysis of the study. Canonical Correlation Analysis (CCA) and Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) analysis were performed to test the study hypotheses. The results indicated that the quality of tourism experience and tourists' perception of destination competitiveness do relate to each other as substantiated by the existence of shared common variances between these two major constructs. The study also revealed that tourists' perception of destination competitiveness is positively influenced by the quality of tourism experience in terms of different phases (pre-trip planning, en-route experience, on-site instrumental experience, on-site expressive experience, and after-trip reflection). Furthermore, tourist involvement appears to have a moderating effect on the relationship between pre-trip planning experience, en-route experience, on-site expressive experience, and perceived destination competitiveness. The study also provided managerial implications to destination managers and marketers based on the research findings.