The effects of selected visual cues on tourists' perceptions of quality and satisfaction, and on their behavioral intentions



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In tourism, the product is the experience. The destination sets the stage, which facilitates the experience. First impressions, based largely on visual cues in the environment, help to determine the level of quality tourists should expect from their encounter. While much research has focused on destination image in advertising, little attention has been given to on-site assessments of tourists? perceptions of the visual environment. This study had three specific objectives. The first was to determine if changes in the visual environment affect respondents? attitudes, perceptions of quality and satisfaction. The second objective set out to determine which visual quality elements have the strongest influence on respondents? attitudes, their perceptions of quality and satisfaction. The final objective was to explore the interrelationship between attitudes, quality, satisfaction and behavioral intentions. Utilizing a series of digitally modified photographs and an experimental design approach with three treatments, this study examined how selected visual environmental cues affected respondents? perceptions. The relatively high adjusted R2 values across the three treatments suggests the strong influence of visual quality elements on hedonic (R2 values ranging from .16 to .27) and utilitarian attitudes (R2 values ranging from .16 to .24), and particularly on satisfaction (R2 values ranging from .31 to .44) and overall quality (R2 values ranging from .28 to .35). The visual cues having the strongest influence on perceptions were level of crowding, available seating, maintenance and upkeep, and type of signage. Utilizing structural equation modeling, this study examined the interrelationship between the endogenous variables in the model. The influence of hedonic attitude on overall quality and satisfaction was confirmed, but the influence of utilitarian attitude on overall quality and satisfaction was not. This suggests that some tourism experiences are more hedonic in nature. This research supports previous literature suggesting that a high level of quality will result in a high level of satisfaction for the visitors (significant path estimate of .422). Additionally, standardized path coefficients indicate that overall quality (.416) and satisfaction (.486) were both related to behavioral intentions, with satisfaction being a stronger predictor.