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The Role of Emotions in Online Travel: Development of Romantic Travel Consumers Douglas, Doctor of Philosophy, Purdue university West Lafayette, Indiana, December 2008 http://www. Purdue. Due/policies/pages/teach_ rest_outreach/c_22. HTML Introduction Online travel has become the most common distribution channel used by leisure travelers to research options, seek out the best prices, and book reservations (Lauded & Travel, 2002).

The Web is now widely viewed as a powerful and prominent marketing communication tool for hospitality and tourism brands (O’Connor & Murphy, 2004; Kim & Shin, 2004) with evidence of Its widespread use throughout arioso segments of the Industry, Hotels, airlines. Travel agencies, convention and visitors bureaus and other destination marketing organizations each have executed various Web-marketing strategies resulting in a substantial online presence. The Travel Industry Association (TIA, 2005) notes that 79 million travelers used the Web to search for destination information or to plan trips with 64. Million confirmed bookings for leisure-based travel. The average leisure traveler spends $2,146 annually for the purchase of online travel products and services (TIA 2004), while the mantic traveler, a subset of the leisure travel market, are willing to spend approximately $4,000 annually on exclusive getaways Monsoons, 2004). Honeymooners in particular may spend as much as three times more than the average leisure traveler with totals annual earnings of $12 billion (Hill & Bowling, 2006).

While there is evidence that romantic travel consumers are engaged online (see Agrarians, 2004), little Is known about their interaction with destination management organizations (Dooms). Limited research exists on the romantic travel consumers’ Intention to seek Information, to purchase travel, or on their length and frequency of browsing at DEMO Websites. Moreover, it is unclear if, and to what extent, destination Websites use emotional features that are appealing and connect on a deeper level with the romantic travel consumer.

The marketing challenge is to create that desire or persuade visitors to the Website that they need to take a romantic vacation. For this study, It Is being argued that the destination’s Website should consistently cater to fulfilling the Innermost needs and desires of romantic travel consumers through the revision of environmental or atmospheric cues, contents, and features with an emotional appeal to forge a deeper connection with the brand.

According to Lynch, Kent, and Cravings (2001) findings from previous research has suggested that emotions, often times referred to as affect in consumer research, are a critical determinant of whether consumers make or repeat a purchase In an online environment. Dutton and Garcia (1999) note that online travel consumers resort to using emotionally descriptive terms such as adventure seeking, Innovative, and impulsive when summarizing their online experiences. Emotions, though difficult to define, are usually activated by an individual’s response to stimulus in his/her environment.

Gleaning and Gleaning (1981) describe emotions as an intricate set of interactions that result in affective experiences such as feelings of arousal or differing degrees of pleasure. Emotional reactions can also “generate cognitive resulting in expressive, goal-directed, and adaptive behavior” (Gleaning & Gleaning, 1981). Traditional marketing research indicates that an emotional connection on the part of the consumer with a particular product or service can template buying interest, guide choices, arouse buying intentions, and influence future buying decisions (Gaucheness’s, 2003).

In the context of advertising research, the manipulation and study of emotions can help to explain incremental variance in the purchase behavior of consumers (Holbrook & Gaucheness’s, 1984). For example, in a robust study of over 23,000 responses to 240 advertising messages, Morris, Woo, Gleason, and Kim (2002) concluded that emotional response, or affect, was a powerful predictor over cognition as it accounted for more of the variance ranging from (3% to 0% in various product categories) towards connotative attitudes such as purchase intention and brand interest.

Cognition on the other hand explained only 2% to 13% of the variance in connotative attitudes for the same product categories. Recent developments in brand management, particularly consumer-brand relationship, have focused on the importance of emotions giving rise to a new era in consumer marketing. This new approach to branding has introduced concepts such as “emotional branding” (Gobo, 2001) and “love marks” where emphasis is placed on forging deep and enduring emotional bonds between the brand and its customers Roberts, 2004).

In the online travel industry, most Websites are primarily designed around pricing and place (Hotel News Resource, 2006; Greeter & Fastnesses, 2003). This characteristic of travel Websites reflects more of the supply side of the business as users execute simple online activities (Greeter & Fastnesses, 2003). According to Hedonistic (2006), today’s online travel consumers demand rich, immerse, and engaging online experiences including streaming video, audio, and interactive photo galleries among other multimedia elements.

Online travelers also crave more interactive exchanges that “show and tell” the “real-life” elements of the travel experience (Boon, 2006). Additionally, Site. Com, a last-minute travel Website, indicates that the most popular response, by consumers, to what influences booking decisions was “waiting to be inspired”, outranking “waiting for the best deal” (Hospitality Net, 2005). Further, a study conducted by Forrester Research revealed that 34% of online travel consumers were more willing to pay for a quality travel product while 41% stated that travel is where they “indulge” themselves (Hedonistic, 2006).

In both the Site. Mom and Forrester Research studies, online travel consumers used emotionally descriptive terms to express motivational factors that drive their purchase of online travel products. Igniting and fueling the passion between the online destination and the romantic travel consumer is important for building and maintaining the consumer-brand relationship. Research of several tourism organization Websites in Australia, Greece, Taiwan, Turkey, and Russia revealed that these organizations were ineffective in their use of the Internet for Web-based marketing and E-commerce (Steeplechase, 2005; Bologna Pecan, 2006).

As the tourism product is hedonistic by nature, destination Websites should strive to represent the richness of the physical experience by using multistory, fantasy, and emotional cues (Covers & Go, 2004). Although not the first point of contact (the romantic travel consumer will have with the destination and is the start of what could DEMO Websites that are uniquely designed with emotional features can motivate romantic travel consumers into making an online purchase and ultimately visiting that destination.

With the potential to yield unprecedented branding opportunities he benefits of targeting romantic travel consumers may yield greater rewards for Dooms evidenced by the romantic travel consumers’ are profound for Dooms since there is evidence of their tendencies for researching and planning their travel online, spending more for the product, and staying longer at the destination (Agrarians, 2004). The use of Websites as an important official destination sites managed by Dooms are the only travel Websites that have experienced consistent declines in its use over the last three years.

Use of destination Websites by consumers have decreased from 55% n 2003 to 50% in 2004 and is now at 46% for 2005 tool to market destinations has been on the increase (Lee, Cat, & O’Leary, 2006). However, according to a report by TIA (2005), the (TIA, 2005); a nine percent decrease over the three year period. While there was no explanation for the decline, there is sufficient theoretical and practical basis to suggest the need for more emotional connections with the traveler visiting the Website.

Dooms are now concerned about how to change the course of this downward slope by improving their Web development and online marketing strategies (Hedonistic, 2006). Should this decline in Website visits continue, serious questions may be raised about the Dooms effectiveness as a marketing body when online travel consumers are refraining from travel planning at destination Websites (Hedonistic, 2006)?

By understanding the desire for emotional and hedonistic) features that make the online experience more pleasurable, Dooms have an opportunity to capture the hearts of the romantic travel consumer keeping him/her from searching elsewhere. Less is known as to whether the emotional needs of travel consumers, in particular romantics, are being catered to within the online destination environment. Their use of emotional features that elicit hedonistic motives in prospect travelers is questionable.

There is a need to examine and measure how environmental features with an emotional appeal experienced at DEMO Websites influences Judgments made by romantic travel consumers towards the destination. A need also exists to determine the impact on romantic travel consumers’ emotions that in turn influence their approach/avoidance behaviors. Internet: A massive networking infrastructure connecting millions of computers together globally thus building a platform on which any computer can communicate with any other so long s they are both connected.

Official destination Website: A Website that is owned, designed, and maintained by a local, regional, or national tourism office whose sole responsibility is to market and promote the travel destination as well as to assist travelers by providing official, unbiased travel information. Romantic Tourism: Tourist activities surrounding the travel of couples without children to a destination outside their usual environment specifically for the purposes of celebrating their relationships.

For example, getting engaged or married, honeymooning, or celebrating an anniversary. Romantic travel consumer: A tourist who is seeking to travel to a romantic getaway (destination) for the sole purpose of discovering and making emotion. Romantic Travel Vacation: A trip taken by an intimately involved adult couple to a destination outside their usual environment specifically for the or to simply rekindle the love and affection in their relationship.

Tourism: As defined by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, (UNTO) (2002), tourism comprises “the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and there purposes not related to the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited. ” Travel: In the tourism context, travel is the transport of people on a trip/Journey or the process involved in making a Journey from one place to the next for the purposes of recreation (Golden & Ritchie, 2006).

Included in the term travel are transportation, vacations, resorts, and any other direct passenger elements, including but not limited to national parks, attractions, and auto use for any of the above purposes (Golden & Ritchie, 2006). Tourist: Someone who travels from place o place for non-work reasons and stays for periods more than one night and less than one year (Golden & Ritchie, 2006). In the context of this study, the term tourist and traveler are used interchangeably.

From an academic standpoint, this study contributes to building a body of knowledge in the travel literature about the romantic travel market and the role of emotions in the online destination environment. Human appreciation of emotional aesthetics influences the selections consumers make in daily life in designing their environments and choosing what to buy (Gaucheness, 2003). Romantic travel consumers are assumed to have higher than normal emotional buy-in when purchasing travel products for an engagement, a wedding, a honeymoon, an anniversary or a romantic getaway.

Therefore, emotions are important to this study because they affect all decision-making processes; a distinct human characteristic that some academics forget, only to view the consumer as an emotion-free calculating machine (Gaucheness’s & Gaucheness’s, 2003). As Copious, Bergsten, Larsen, Policeman and Tit (2000) state “emotions guide, enrich and ennoble life; they provide meaning to everyday existence; they render the ululation placed on life and property” (p. 173). This argument illustrates that emotions play an important role throughout the span of our lives.

The emotional appeal of destination Website is being argued as a decisive factor when seeking information on or purchasing the travel product. The Price Motivated Online Travel Consumer of the Internet as a universal and interactive means of communication, created a change in consumer behavior and attitude which has shifted the traditional way tourism and travel products are distributed (Worthier & Klein, 1999; O’Connor & Free, 2000). Online travelers (both lookers and bookers) hold the claim that guaranteeing the lowest price will influence their booking decision (Hospitality business Strategies, 2002).

Added to price is the practice of last-minute booking by both leisure and business travel. For U. S. Travel consumers, the Internet continues to be the number one source for information used to plan travel over traditional forms of advertising and in 2002, online travel increased from $18. 6 to $27. 0 billion (Marcus, 2003; World Tourism Organization Business Council, 2001). The Travel Industry Association (TIA, 2004) estimates that of the 98. Million travelers who are online more than 60% report that they used the Internet to make travel plans in 2004.

Of this figure, 70 percent of those classified as frequent travelers use the Internet for travel planning. Although airline tickets are the most purchased online travel product destinations Websites to increase. According to TIA (2004), types of trips planned online by leisure travelers include trips for entertainment/vacation purposes and visiting friends and relatives. One of the most popular elements of online trip planning was reportedly destination activity searches. The emergence of online travel

Websites not only increased competition but also created a mechanism to make travel information processing faster, generate more search results and provide more readily available content speaking to the functional approach towards Website design. The Current State of Online Travel: The Internet has become more important for research and booking travel, several factors have been identified as having significant contributions to the proliferation of travel on the Internet (Transportation Group International, L. C. 2002).

Among these factors include improvements in Websites that make them easier to use; improvements in the amount of information available on travel Websites and the interactivity involved; an increase in the functionality of travel sites such as advance check-in, the printing of boarding passes and flight status checks which make the use of electronic access to information more of an entrenched habit; and the development of intelligent profiling software designed to anticipate the wants of individuals based on their preferences and travel history (Transportation Group International, L.

C. , 2002). Conclusion Travel and tourism products are inherently hedonistic and naturally exude a high emotional appeal to the would-be traveler. Several studies have shown that tourism products have a higher tendency to be comprised of hedonistic attributes (Bator & Total, 1990; Voss, Scavengers, & Groomsman, 2003) suggesting that travel and tourism products are capable of eliciting emotions.

The focus on emotions in the promotion and delivery of travel-related goods and services ranging from product development, pricing, promotion, the focus on attracting the right employees, and the packaging of travel products. The value of this research is not only in its ability to expand upon current knowledge of DEMO Website design but also in its ability to draw attention to the importance of design features in the marketing of general travel products; whether these are the actual service setting or print advertisements etc.

There are also implications for incorporating emotions into the branding of travel- related products as well as for the actual physical design elements of the service setting. The current research is a testament to the types of emotional design strategies that can be employed in the online travel and tourism environment and should encourage thought about how the service setting has a strong influence on he customer’s emotions, attitudes, and behavior.