In the highly interactive tourism industry, tourists are important partners and allies of destinations. Value can be generated from the interactions between tourism service providers and tourists [1
]. Unique or tailored visitor experiences can be designed in the process of value co-creation, leading to higher loyalty [2
]. Increasingly more attention has been given to value co-creation behavior in tourism activities [4
]. Current studies have focused on the antecedents and consequences of value co-creation behavior [1
] and how and why customers engage in the value co-creation process [5
However, the core role of travelers in value co-creation has been changing, which is due to the transformation of travelers from value receivers to value creators. In order to accomplish successful value co-creation, tourists generate necessary participation behaviors (in-role) and nonessential citizenship behaviors (extra-role) that create extraordinary value for destinations [8
]. This is actually the result of travelers switching between in and out of the roles of “tourists”. Existing research has focused on the multi-dimensional characteristics of customer value co-creation behavior and divided it into customer participation behavior and customer citizenship behavior [8
]. However, most studies consider it as a single dimension when discussing the subsequent causality of value co-creation behavior [9
], or focusing only on the role of “tourist”, with various analyses and discussions of participation behavior [1
], ignoring the role switching that took place. Moreover, in practice, most destination organizations fix travelers in the role of “tourists”, paying little attention to the different benefit perceptions brought about by role switching and ignoring the possibility that tourists may have different criteria for evaluating the interaction experience when they are in different roles. Therefore, there is a gap between research and practice in understanding the role of travelers. To bridge this gap, this study divides the value co-creation behavior into tourist participation behavior and tourist citizenship behavior based on the theory of role switching, and takes them as independent variables to distinguish the difference in the impact of the two types of behaviors in value co-creation, to provide recommended strategies for destination management.
Destination organizations mostly focus on the entertainment and quality of activities when conducting value co-creation practices, ignoring the changes in tourists’ behavior caused by the widespread application of social software [12
]. Multilevel and diversified needs such as social, emotional, and intellectual needs are emerging. Which value is more important to contemporary travelers? Which value’s demand satisfaction leads to destination loyalty? To answer these questions, this paper takes each subdivided dimension of perceived value as a mediating variable between the two types of value co-creation behavior and destination loyalty, to accurately grasp the differences in the impacts of the subdivided values on destination loyalty.
In summary, the context of role switching is of great value. Clarifying how tourists co-create value when playing different roles can enhance their dependence and loyalty to the destination. Therefore, out of consideration of both theoretical and practical factors, this paper starts from the perspective of the role switching of tourists, and further bridges the gap between research and practice by analyzing the process of value co-creation in the travel process and its results. Drawing on previous research, this paper constructs and tests a model that aims to answer the following questions:
RQ1: What impact does role switching perspective have in the value creation process?
RQ2: Which type of perceived value is the dominant cause of destination loyalty?
RQ3: Does interpreting destination loyalty need a new mechanism when considering role switching?
By answering these questions, this study will contribute to the existing studies on value co-creation and destination loyalty in several ways and understanding how travelers co-create value when playing different roles. Furthermore, this study extends the application of social drama theory and social exchange theory in the tourism field, responding to the assertion that the co-creation literature tends to be non-theoretical [14
The structure of the remainder of this paper is as follows. Section 2
provides a literature review of value co-creation, perceived value and destination loyalty. Section 3
explains the survey design and research methodology. Section 4
introduces the research results. Section 5
discusses the results and conclusions. Section 6
summarizes and proposes theoretical contributions and managerial implications, as well as the limitations of the study and future research prospects.
3.1. Study Area
Located in central China, Xi’an is the capital of Shanxi Province in China. The city has a history of more than 3100 years and is one of the four ancient capitals of China. It is the capital of the most important dynasties in Chinese history, including the Zhou, Qin, Han, Sui, and Tang dynasties. Xi’an is also one of the important birthplaces of Chinese civilization and the Chinese nation. The city is home to many cultural heritages and was designated as a “World Historic City” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1981.
In this study, Xi’an, as the only Chinese city ranked among the world’s top 10 ancient capitals, is chosen as a case study of these issues. Xi’an has changed its traditional appearance of being old and dusty by using novel interactive forms such as “throwing bowl liquor” (visitors raise a bowl full of liquor, drink the liquor in one gulp and then slam the bowl upside down, symbolizing peace and good luck) and the “tumbler girl” to activate historical figures and stimulate the participation of tourists. With the promotion of social media, Xi’an became one of the top 10 cities in 2019 in terms of the combined index of tourism popularity, tourism attraction, tourism development benefits and tourism marketing spread [81
]. This interactive innovation model makes Xi’an suitable for our research. The exact location of the study area is shown in Figure 2
This investigation was conducted in Xi’an from 28 March to 1 April 2019. The research team consisted of two professors and seven graduate students, and the investigators were trained. The whole investigation process is anonymous and only used for academic research. To ensure the randomness of samples, questionnaires were randomly distributed in Hui Min Street, Tang Sleepless Town, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, and other places by convenient sampling method. To ensure that the respondents are tourists, the investigators first put forward such questions, “Are you here to travel in Xi’an?” We only send questionnaires to tourists. Second, when respondents were completing the questionnaire, we did not express any personal feelings to the respondents to ensure the objectivity of the content. We also prevented the respondents from discussing their responses with each other to ensure the authenticity and validity of the survey.
In order to ensure the randomization of the sampling, first, the questionnaire was randomly distributed in many locations, such as Hui Min Street, Tang Sleepless Town, Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, etc. Third, in the questionnaire preparation process, reverse items were established to exclude invalid questionnaires. A total of 300 questionnaires were distributed in this investigation, and the effective recovery rate was 80.33%. Loehlin (1992) proposed that the number of recovered samples should be more than 200 in order to obtain a stable outcome [82
]. The number of samples used in this study can satisfactorily meet the research needs. The exact composition of the sample is shown in Table 1
3.3. Questionnaire Design and Variable Measurement
The questionnaire of this study consists of two parts: the first part adopts a seven-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” (1) to “strongly agree” (7), to measure tourist participation behavior, tourist citizenship behavior, perceived value, and destination loyalty. The second part includes the demographic information about the respondents.
In the first part, the mature scales of well-known scholars are utilized to measure the variables. The researchers translated the scale into the Chinese version and adjusted it according to the steps of “translation-back-translation” in the compilation process. After consulting several scholars in the field of tourism research in Xi’an, the questionnaire was revised according to their feedback. Therefore, the questionnaire has good content validity. Among them, the specific sources of the measurement items of the variables in the first part are as follows: the items measuring tourists’ value co-creation behavior were adapted from Yi et al. (2013) [8
]; the items measuring perceived value were adapted from Prebensen (2017) [34
]; the items measuring destination loyalty were adapted from Chen and Chou (2019) [46
]. The specific measurement items for each variable are shown in Table 2
The second part includes eight items, I1-I8. I1: What is your sex? I2: What is your highest educational degree? I3: How old are you? I4: What is your occupation? I5: What is your monthly income range? I6: In which city do you live? I7: How many times have you visited Xi’an? I8: Who is your companion for this trip?
3.4. Research Method and Tools
To produce representative, reliable and applicable results, this study applies path analysis to estimate the theoretical model. We use Mplus 7.0 to analyze the mediating effect of the model. To test the inherent consistency and reliability of the data, SPSS 21.0 was utilized.
Meanwhile, descriptive statistics, normal analysis, exploratory factor analysis were also utilized. To avoid the common method deviation, we use AMOS 22.0 to carry out the latent variable error control method for judgment. The result shows that there is no common method deviation in the data, which is suitable for the next analysis.
This study established a path model with tourist participation behavior and tourist citizenship behavior as the independent variables, each dimension of perceived value as the mediating variables, and destination loyalty as the dependent variable. The conclusions are as follows:
(1) Based on the role switching perspective, we found that tourists dissociate themselves between the roles of tourists and citizens in travel activities, showing different behavioral characteristics. The effects of tourist participation behavior and tourist citizenship behavior on perceived value are in different dimensions. The participation of tourists in this kind of in-role behavior mainly affects novelty value and social value, which shows that tourists’ main motivation is to seek something novel in this experiential consumption of travel activities when they are in the role of tourists [87
] and experience the symbolic value of social status brought about by the higher-level consumption after meeting the basic needs of life and the group identity created through social sharing [90
]. This finding is inconsistent with Prebensen et al. (2017) who found that physical participation does not significantly affect the social perception of value [34
]. Social media is considered one of the leading modern technological advances in the field of tourism, which have significantly changed the ways individuals behave in travel activities [12
]. In recent years, the widespread use of social software in China, such as TikTok and WeChat, has provided a variety of social platforms for tourists, making them more willing to share their travel experiences, express their preferences, and interact with other users through a combination of “likes”, “comments” and “retweets” to gain social acceptance [92
]. In addition, the results of this study indicated that tourist participation did not significantly affect emotional value perception, which is different from the findings of Mohd-Any et al. (2015) and Prebensen et al. (2017) [34
]. Mohd-Any et al. (2015) confirmed that users’ actual and perceived participation in travel websites enhanced their emotional value perception while Prebensen et al. (2017) found that physical and psychological participation significantly influenced their emotional value perception during adventure travel. These findings are not conflicting because value is a construct of individual subjective perceptions, and there are differences among different individuals and different contexts [94
]. In the Xi’an scenario, it takes some time for tourists to build an emotional connection with Xi’an. When tourists go beyond the role of tourists to the role of citizens to do more than the service needed to help the operations of the street, citizenship behavior mainly affects quality, economy, novelty, knowledge, emotional and social values. The tourists’ behavior of helping others solve their problems and creating value for the block promotes the tourists to master and improve their own skills and experience. They can obtain more value from citizenship activities than from participation activities. The sense of mastery of information, reflecting the sense of ownership, enables tourists to meet their knowledge needs and enables tourists to have a more comprehensive and clear analysis and judgment of the quality and price of a tourism experience. The feedback from other tourists and the staff of the block strengthens the emotional connection among tourists and between tourists and the block, which makes a special impression of individual tourists to others so that they can feel satisfied with being integrated into the collective society. That is, those who are willing to give feedback and help others are likely to be more positive, open-minded, and therefore more agreeable and to have a higher evaluation of the value they perceive [3
]. In short, according to Gofman’s social dramatic theory, people play a variety of roles in the social interaction stage to fit the current social context [95
]. In the traveling process, tourists will face different social objects, switch between the roles of tourists and citizens, and participate in different value-creating activities to create different values. We extended the social dramatic theory into the tourism context, interpreting the change of tourist behavior patterns during the value co-creation activities based on the perspective of role switching, and responded to the non-theoretical assertions in the co-creation literature. Meanwhile, it enriches the connotation of destination marketing and destination management theories in the new media era, which promotes the diversified development of theories.
(2) The value created by tourists and street employees presents a state of stratification from the primary level to the higher level in which novelty and social value belong to the primary level while quality, economic, emotional and knowledge value belong to the higher level. At present, the modern tourism market is undergoing a transformation from mass to independent because tourists tend to pursue personalized and diversified services [98
]. They not only want to satisfy the basic needs of exploring the new and seeking the curious, using their surplus of money and time through travel to meet the construction of their identity and status image, but they also want to pursue a higher level of spiritual needs.
For example, when traveling in Tang Sleepless Town, tourists look forward to having an emotional experience of fun and uniqueness by interacting closely with the “tumbler girl” (an actress who became famous for playing the role of a Tang dynasty lady in Tang Sleepless Town, Xi’an). While traveling on Xi’an Hui Min Street, tourists are longing to acquire knowledge of the history and culture of the Hui nationality [99
]. While visiting Giant Wild Goose Pagoda’s fee-paying scenic spots, tourists enjoy the benefits of “value for money” by experiencing the originality of the Buddhist architecture and the derivative symbols of the Tang dynasty culture [100
]. The pursuit of emotional, knowledge, quality and economic value reflects that tourists want to acquire more abundant and special value through products and services to maximize their individual utility.
Based on the above research results, this study establishes a hierarchical model of perceived value, as shown in Figure 4
The picture depicts that tourist participation behaviors are generated, including information seeking, information sharing, responsible behavior and personal interaction, when the travelers are in the tourist status (in-role), which affect the primary-order values, consisting of novelty and social values. Tourists may switch to citizenship (extra-role) in the value co-creation process, generating tourist citizenship behaviors, including feedback, advocacy, helping and tolerance, which affect primary and higher-order values, consisting of novelty and social value and quality, economic, emotional and knowledge value.
(3) Regarding the relationship between value co-creation behavior and destination loyalty, we found that destination loyalty is driven not only by tourist behavior (in-role) but also by citizenship behavior (extra-role). This finding fills the gap in the value co-creation literature where citizenship behaviors have been less explored. In this study, the value perception of tourists as citizens, which guides their behavior decision-making, is prominent. However, the impact is limited in that only novelty value and social value can promote destination loyalty. When tourists engage in civic activities, self-sacrificing altruistic behavior is mostly unrequited for tourists. When tourists engage in participation activities, the investment of time and energy does not substantially harm the interests of consumers and is in exchange for the better delivery of services to the tourists themselves by the staff of the block. Thus, there is a significant increase in tourists’ intention to recommend and revisit the destination [101
]. This fits with the theory of social exchange, which states that when individuals perceive that they benefit from a social interaction, they provide a reward to others. When individuals perceive that they are paying a cost, they tend to receive a corresponding benefit [4
]. It should be noted that tourists’ perception of quality, economic, emotional and knowledge value is prominent in their civic activities, but it does not translate into destination loyalty. In the first stage, the mediating variable perceived value is the tourist’s psychological perception; and in the second stage, the dependent variable destination loyalty is the observable external behavior in this study. The transfer of implicit psychological perception to explicit behavior lacks favorable motivation when travelers act as citizens. The stimulating effect produced in the first stage is no longer significant, and altruistic rather than egoistic devotion inhibits loyalty to the destination in the second stage. This shows that the impact of value co-creation is a very complex process rather than a single psychological mechanism. This study enriches the situational application of social exchange theory in tourism value co-creation activities. Future research should continue to explore the impact of value co-creation on tourists’ psychology and behavior.
6. Conclusions and Implications
This study explores how tourist participation behaviors and tourist citizenship behaviors in value co-creation activities can affect destination loyalty through the mediating role of perceived value. Social drama theory and social exchange theory are utilized to elucidate the possible associations among the above variables based on a service-dominant logic to respond to the co-creation literature’s tendency to have no theoretical assertions [14
]. Based on the empirical results of this study, our contributions are as follows. First, tourist participation and tourist citizenship behavior affect different dimensions of perceived value. Second, this paper distinguishes the primary value from the higher value. Novelty value and social value belong to primary value while quality value, economic value, knowledge value and emotional value belong to higher level value. Finally, this study finds that tourists’ sense of loyalty for destinations breaks the limitations of their roles. Both tourist participation behavior and tourist citizenship behaviors promote tourists’ loyalty to destinations.
6.2. Theoretical Implications
Value co-creation is not only an important issue in the practice of the service industry, but it is also an important issue in tourism studies. This paper studies tourists’ value co-creation behavior and establishes a model based on the sub-dimensions of perceived value, which contributes to the existing literature on value co-creation and destination loyalty. First, this study not only measured tourist participation behavior, but it also measured tourist citizenship behavior that the existing research less studied, finding that the two dimensions of value co-creation behavior significantly affect different dimensions. In addition, different from previous studies, social value plays a complementary intermediary role in the relationship among tourist participation behavior, tourist citizenship behavior and destination loyalty in this study, which provides up-to-date contextual validation in the background of the widespread use of social software. It is noteworthy that tourist citizenship behavior plays a more important role in value creation than tourist participation behavior. However, the higher value influenced by the former has not been translated into destination loyalty. The corresponding explanation expands the application of social exchange theory in studies on the value co-creation of tourists and provides empirical research support for the mechanism of the effect of value co-creation behavior on destination loyalty.
6.3. Practical Implications
Since traveler’s role switching will bring a different perception of interests, destination managers should not only fix travelers in the role of “tourists” but also cultivate tourists’ sense of ownership and stimulate more citizenship behaviors, thereby promoting tourists to perceive multi-level values. Such as, establishing a city tourism annual card which provides transportation and accommodation as well as scenic spots discounts, encouraging tourists to provide suggestions for organizing tourism activities and constructing scenic spots, and then, achieving the purpose of making tourists feel at home and treating the destination as their second “home”. That is to redefine tourism and make tourism a lifestyle of alienation. So that tourists feel that they are part of the destination and are willing to create more value for the “home”.
The study also found that the experience co-created by tourists and destination organizations should focus on novelty and sociality, as they are associated with destination loyalty. In addition to creating innovative interactive activities to increase tourist engagement, destination organizations should also create hotspots on social platforms, attaching importance to the role of social software such as TikTok and WeChat in enhancing tourists’ sense of value. For example, on TikTok, destination organizations have launched a popular “Punch-in” campaign (I have been to places that are hot on the Internet by posting social updates), encouraging visitors to take short videos and creating new ways to play.
In view of the close relationship between tourist participation behavior and destination loyalty, destination managers should attach importance to participation behavior. Destination organizations should encourage, and initiate value co-creation activities based on “giving” characteristics in their relations with tourists [4
]. For example, the destination should share related information with tourists, collect and analyze the data of tourists’ preferences, generate personalized tour routes for tourists, and conduct other related activities.
6.4. Limitations and Further Research
The current study has some limitations. First, although this study is based on data collected from Tang Sleepless Town, Hui Min Street and Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, considering the limited representativeness of the sample, future studies should investigate respondents in different countries and at different types of destinations. Second, because of our subjective bias, some information about the results may not be fully discussed.
Future research can be perfected in the following ways. First, although this study has some implications for the importance of value co-creation theory and destination management, more work needs to be completed to understand this phenomenon. For example, future research could examine how tourists with different personality traits perceive value co-creation activities. Second, the aspects highlighted in the findings can be explained well in further research. For example, because the high-level perception of value generated by tourist citizenship does not translate directly into destination loyalty, its mechanism can be further explored in future studies to shed light on the promotion of destination management.