US tourists’ travel behavioral intention to Singapore: The effects of country image and destination image with the moderating role of familiarity




Wang, Dimin

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Tourists’ perceptions of country image and destination image are important factors that guide their travel behavior and decision-making. Understanding these images enables destination management organizations (DMOs) to set themselves apart from competitors and capture prospective tourists. Despite the importance of understanding the images of country and destination, there is still a lack of consensus on how to measure these two constructs when it comes to study tourists’ behavioral intention. This study is designed to build a conceptual framework by integrating country image along with cognitive, affective, and conative destination image to deepen the understanding of US tourists’ travel behavior toward Singapore as a tourism destination. In addition, by applying halo effect and summary construct as a theoretical foundation, this study examined the moderating effect of familiarity on the relationships among proposed variables. Data was collected through the Qualtrics survey pool with a total of 313 usable responses. The generalized structure component analysis (GSCA) approach was applied to test the hypothesized relationships proposed in the conceptual model. A multiple group analysis was conducted to test whether US tourists’ levels of familiarity toward Singapore plays a moderating role in the relationships among the country image, destination image, and travel behavioral intention. According to the results of the data analysis, overall, Singapore’s country image components of country character, people character, country competence, and people competence influence potential US tourists’ cognitive destination image evaluation. Cognitive destination image is a valid antecedent of affective destination image; and cognitive destination image also directly influences tourists’ travel behavioral intention. Additionally, the multiple group analysis reveals that there are group differences in terms of hypothesized relationships in the proposed conceptual model between low and high familiarity groups. The low familiarity group relies more on country image to evaluate destination image than high familiarity group. The findings demonstrate that country image and destination image are distinct constructs, and that tourists’ country image perceptions can predict their cognitive evaluation of a destination. Furthermore, based on the multiple group analysis, this study confirms the application of halo effect and summary construct when tourism destinations are regarded as tourism products. Tourists with low familiarity would likely to use country image as a halo to evaluate destination image, whereas the halo effect lessens among tourists with high familiarity who may use country image as a summary construct to encapsulate their destination image evaluations. Despite the fact that the study results addressed the research questions, there are currently still gaps and uncertainties after examining the proposed conceptual framework. More research is warranted to further investigate the inter-relationships among country image, destination image, and tourists’ travel behavioral intention, preferably in different destination contexts. Several managerial implications are provided on how to promote destination marketing and encourage international travelers to Singapore. First and foremost, it is paramount for destinations to promote positive country image, which is imperative to influence tourists’ perception toward the destination image regardless of their levels of familiarity. Secondly, destinations may need to put more emphasis on promoting cognitive destination image. Promoting destinations via affective destination image may be more effective to attract returning travelers. Last but not least, it is worth noting that tourists with high familiarity tend to have higher travel behavioral intention. DMOs need to set up proper plans to enhance potential tourists’ destination familiarity.

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Country Image, Destination Image, Country of Origin Effect, Travel Behavioral Intention, US Tourists, Singapore