A Prevailing Myth in the Tourism Industry

“Evaluation of Segment Attractiveness by Risk-Adjusted Market Potential: First Time vs. Repeat Visitors” by Amir Shani, and Arie Reichel, both of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Robertico Croes of the University of Central Florida, was recently published in the January 2011 issue of “Journal of Travel Research.” Professor Shani has kindly shared a reflection on the article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

 Any researcher or practitioner, who is interested in market segmentation and techniques for selecting the most attractive market segment, is likely to find this article useful and stimulating. In addition, the article can also be of interest to scholars and industry professionals who are debating regarding the profitability of repeat visitors versus first time visitors to tourism destinations.

What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

 In my view, one of the fundamental functions of academia is to challenge common – but untested perceptions – and examine them empirically. In this paper we investigated the prevailing myth in the tourism industry, according to which repeat (or loyal) visitors are always preferable to first time visitors (mainly since they presumably spend more and constitute a more stable source of revenue). Nevertheless, in the current research, we found that caution should be exerted when associating high profitability with repeat visitors, as it depends on several criteria such as the unit of analysis (whether the entire destination or individual tourism sub-sectors are concerned), as well as considerations of per-trip vs. per-day expenditures.

Were you surprised by some of the findings?

It was quite interesting to discover – in contrast to the common perception – that under certain circumstances, first-time visitors actually constitute a more attractive market segment, in comparison to the segment of repeat visitors.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

In the article we mentioned a few potential directions for future studies that we hope will be taken into consideration by destination marketing researchers. For example, despite the comprehensive approach to assess segment attractiveness that was adopted, additional indicators (such as sales promotion, and operational and service costs for first-time vs. repeat visitors) should be obtained and utilized to determine more accurately the most attractive target market.

How does this study fit into your body of work/area of research?

 One of my main fields of focus as a tourism researcher is contemporary issues in tourism marketing, such as destination loyalty. This paper, which applies innovative technique to evaluate the value of repeat visitors, is one of a number of studies that I have written on destination loyalty.

How did your paper change during the review process?

Fortunately, we had excellent reviewers for this paper, who made some very useful and constructive comments, which greatly helped improve the earlier version of the manuscript. For example, thanks to the reviewers we made the description of the research process much clearer and added graphic illustrations to guide the readers throughout the process.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could go back and do this study again?

More information regarding several variables could have helped us in the analysis, as well as obtaining more accurate estimations as to the attractiveness of the segments. We clearly mentioned in the paper future steps that should be taken to further advance this subject.

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