Tapping the invisible market: the case of the cruise industry
Park, Sun Young
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The definition of business success has evolved from winning larger market share in fierce competition to creating one?s own markets. Exploring new markets is crucial especially for tourism businesses, as one of the basic motives for leisure travel is seeking new or different experiences. Nonetheless, current non-customers have rarely been studied in the context of tourism. Using the cruise industry as a case, the first purpose of this study was to enhance the understanding of current non-customers (i.e., ?the invisible market?). Current noncustomers of the cruise industry were defined as leisure travelers who take other leisure vacation types, but have not taken a cruise vacation in the last five years (i.e., pastcruisers) or have never taken a cruise vacation (i.e., non-cruisers). The second purpose was to propose practical approaches for the cruise industry to utilize to tap the invisible market based on the findings. This study consists two phases using a sequential study design. In Phase 1, 22 guided conversations were conducted with people with and without cruise experiences using a modified Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique to explore their images of cruise vacations. The findings suggested that current non-customers had different images of cruise vacations than current customers. In Phase 2, a conceptual model was developed based on the findings of Phase 1 and the literature on destination image and choice, the Model of Goal-directed Behavior and the leisure constraints model. Eleven hypotheses were tested with data collected from a survey of U.S. leisure travelers using descriptive statistics and structural equation modeling. Most relationships (e.g., directions and valence) among constructs were found to be in accordance with previous studies. Further, results suggested that current non-customers were more similar to than different from current customers in terms of socio-demographics and general vacation behavior. However, results implied that current non-customers? biases or negative images of cruise vacations could be the underlying factors that influence their decisions not to choose cruise vacations over other leisure vacation types. Practical recommendations for innovative marketing strategies are presented for the cruise industry.