Tourism Market Segmentation, Benefit Segmentation, and Destination Image

Regional tourism development and the delivery of various tourism products and services, in accordance with the principles of tourism marketing, should take into account that: (a) the tourism market consists of different tourist groups and (b) every tourist or each segment of the tourist market is a different entity, characterized by a mixture of subjective experiences, motivations, and desires.

Segmentation provides knowledge that can help develop strategy. Cooper et al. (1993) argue that in the minds of those who belong to the same market segment (e.g., same social group, education, and lifestyle) are likely to exist similar images of a certain travel experience. A careful study of the existing clientele can indicate the variables of a destination that mostly appeal to it and might guide marketers to offer a more desirable product. In addition, travelers shaping the markets are those who compare the advantages and disadvantages of competing destinations. Therefore, they are the best source of information not only about the image of tourism products and services but also to characterize the competitors’ image.

Moreover, the target markets are image makers because they contribute to the formation of the naive image. Specifically, after the visit, the reevaluated image could serve as a secondary information source for the future travelers. The market segmentation can be based on socioeconomic criteria such as age, income, education level, among others, but also psychographic criteria such as needs, motivations, desires, and so on. In practice the selection of target markets is a complex study and requires critical analysis of all the above (Mohsin, 2004).

There are a lot of techniques of segmenting markets. Nevertheless, as marketing faces increased competition, the segmentation techniques have to increase their effectiveness and efficiency. The segments that combine several characteristics are of great importance, because they reflect a real representation of the market. The image formation process, as perceived by such market segments, reveals aspects that can be used as a basis for management and marketing strategies.

In this context, a segmentation technique that has attracted an increasing interest throughout the years is that of benefit segmentation. Benefit segmentation has long been considered an effective means of grouping tourists based on their attitudes toward services and products. In benefit segmentation, tourists are characterized according to the benefits they seek from their purchases. It is a market-oriented approach consistent with the modern marketing concepts (Lewis, 1995). Benefit segmentation can combine benefits sought, attitudes, motives, needs, desires, and the demographic characteristics.

It is considered that individuals perceive products and services in terms of bundles of benefits or attributes (Kotler et al., 1996; Morgan, 1995). They buy a bundle of benefits (Mill and Morrisson, 1985) and the relative importance of each benefit or attribute varies (Mayo and Jarvis, 1981).

The likelihood of buying a product is determined by the extent to which the individuals perceive the product to contain sufficient benefits to satisfy their needs and also to the extent that the satisfaction of those needs is important to them (Mill and Morrisson, 1985). As Kotler (2000) suggests, knowledge of the benefits sought by tourists let us know what to offer and promote in order to attract specific target markets.

Identifying homogenous subsets of customers for particular geographic markets and linking particular product benefits for specific groups allows managers to develop more strategically targeted products and campaigns. Target markets must be measurable, accessible, substantial, actionable, and differentiable (Kotler et al., 2002).

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