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Influence of an Online Travel Community on Travel Decisions

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Title: Influence of an Online Travel Community on Travel Decisions


1
Influence of an Online Travel Community on Travel
Decisions
  • Irem Arsal
  • Sheila BackmanElizabeth Baldwin
  • iarsal_at_clemson.edu, back_at_clemson.edu,
    ebaldwn_at_clemson.edu
  • Clemson University

2
Introduction
  • Tourists obtain information from
  • Personal sources such as friends and relatives
    with personal word-of-mouth
  • Marketer-dominated paid forms of communication
    such as information retrieved from hotels,
    airlines, resorts and destination marketing
    organizations
  • (Fodness and Murray,1998)
  • The Internet is another information source for
    travel information search.

3
Types of Travel Decisions
  • Attractions
  • Information
  • Services
  • Transportation

4
Online Information Search
  • May lead to information overload and retrieving
    irrelevant information due to the vast amount of
    information available on the internet. (Good et
    al, 1999 Pan Fesenmaier, 2005).

5
Online Communities
  • Virtual communities can be defined as groups of
    people with common interests and practices that
    communicate regularly and for some duration in an
    organized way over the Internet through a common
    location or mechanism (Ridings, Gefen Arinze,
    2002)
  • Examples MySpace, YouTube, eBay, Trip Advisor,
    wikitravel.

6
Online Travel Communities
  • Postings in online communities are considered as
    a form of word-of-mouth (WOM) communication and
    thought to be more credible than supplier
    produced information.
  • In online WOM previous visitors to a destination
    are found to be more influential source of
    information in travel planning (Crotts, 1999).

7
Word-of-mouth
  • Informal communications between private parties
    concerning evaluations of goods and services
    (Anderson, 1998).
  • Previous research has shown the impact of WOM on
    consumer choice (Arndt, 1967 Katz Lazarfeld,
    1955 Richins, 1983) and perceptions of
    post-purchase product (Bone, 1995).

8
Online WOM
  1. Online WOM has a larger scale due to the
    Internets low-cost and communication
    capabilities
  2. Online WOM gives the ability to organizations to
    monitor and control their operation
  3. The absence of contextual cues and not knowing
    who the information provider is makes it harder
    to interpret the subjective information in online
    interaction.

9
The Influence of Online WOM
  • Influence is the act or power of producing an
    effect without apparent exertion of force or
    direct exercise of command
  • Consumers use online reviews to guide their
    buying decisions across a wide variety of product
    classes (Guernsey, 2000) .
  • Online consumer reviews of video games positively
    affect purchasing behaviour (Bounie, Bourreau,
    Gensollen, Waelbroeck, 2005).
  • Average online movie ratings are better
    predictors of future movie revenues (Dellarocas,
    Awad, Zhang, 2004).

10
Participants in online WOM
  • Experienced travellers participate in online
    travel communities to share their knowledge
    gained from a previous trip.
  • Potential travellers participate to gain
    information for travel planning and reduce
    uncertainty
  • Online communities provide residents the
    opportunity to share their knowledge about the
    destination.

11
Residents vs. Experienced Travellers
Potential Traveller
Experienced traveller
Resident
12
Purpose of the Study
  • The purpose of this study was to explore whether
    residents or experienced travellers were more
    influential in pretrip travel decisions of
    inexperienced travellers to a destination.
  • Specifically types of travel decisions were
    examined to determine if residents or experienced
    travellers influence varied by travel decision
    type.

13
Methodology
  • The present study was conducted on Lonely
    Planets Thorn Tree forum located at
    http//thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/.
  • In order to identify which country forums to
    collect data Microsofts Treemapper was used.

14
Treemap of Africa
15
Methodology
  • Africa and Western Europe were chosen as a result
    of their discussion topics to maximize variation
    in data.
  • The countries that were analyzed were Morocco,
    South Africa, Guinea, Ghana, Spain, Belgium,
    Netherlands, and Germany.
  • Data from chosen countries and topics was
    collected for three month period that represents
    eight months of postings.

16
Data Analysis
  • Data was analyzed using thematic networks.
  • The data is categorized in three steps (i) Basic
    themes are lowest-order themes that are evident
    in the text (ii) Organizing themes are the
    categorization and grouping of basic themes that
    summarize more abstract principles (iii) Global
    themes are the conclusion of the text that
    indicate the meaning of the whole text
    (Attride-Sterling, 2001).

17
Thematic Networks
18
Results
  • In the 81 threads that were analyzed there were
    713 members that contributed to 1691 postings.
  • The members are classified as Original Poster
    (OP), residents, experienced travellers,
    potential travellers and unknown members that
    post messages in this online community.

19
Modes of Influence
  • Out of 81threads included in the study 23 of them
    showed a clear evidence of influence.
  • The number of members who answer the OPs question
    in addition to their classified member type was
    identified and counted until the OP indicated
    that he/she will include the recommendation in
    the postings in his/her travel plans.
  • Results were categorized based on a traveller
    being influenced by either residents or
    experienced travellers in their travel decisions.

20
Residents
  • More influential in food and beverage
    recommendations, discussions about safety issues
    at the destination and travel itinerary
    refinements including things to do and places to
    see at the destination.
  • The residents were also influential in
    accommodation recommendations and destination
    information as well.

21
Experienced Travellers
  • Experienced travellers were more influential in
    accommodation recommendations, transportation,
    monetary issues.
  • When there were no residents in the thread the
    experienced travellers influenced decisions about
    destination information including tourist hassle
    at a specific destination and things to do.

22
Conclusion
  • Getting information from online communities
    reduce the information search time as well as
    gives the option of customizing questions
    according to travellers needs.
  • Residents and experienced travellers have
    different perspectives on destination as a result
    of their motivations. Thus their influences are
    on different travel related topics.
  • Residents influence on-site travel decisions
    whereas experienced travellers influence travel
    decisions up to the time that traveller is onsite.

23
Limitations
  • This study explored Thorn Tree travel community
    and the results may be different on other travel
    communities.
  • This study looked at the influence of online
    travel communities from the members perspective
    by analyzing the postings.
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