A concern of academics over the last couple of decades has been that of destination image [1
], with it becoming one of the key topics among researchers. Although there have been many attempts to understand the concept of the image of a destination [1
], it can be thought of as the accumulated perception of both cognitive and affective evaluations [4
]. Almeida-Santana and Moreno-Gil (2018) [7
] pointed out that the image’s cognitive component concerns the beliefs and information in respect to a destination’s attributes which are retained by tourists, whereas emotional feelings or responses to the characteristics of a place represent the affective component. Destination image has been defined by Bigne, Sanchez, and Sanchez (2001) [8
] as the subjective interpretation of reality within the tourist’s mind.
There is no doubt that tourists’ profiles have undergone a significant change in recent years. Previous studies indicate a greater awareness of tourists on how their activity can impact on the destination’s environment, society, and culture [9
]. Thus, it can be said that sustainable tourist behavior is an extant and thriving field of study [9
]. Some authors [11
] dare to indicate that more and more tourists make purchases with an eye to the environmental, social, and economic quality of products. There is a growing trend towards the consumption of sustainable brands that influences the destination choice [14
]. Therefore, currently, destinations are more concerned with sustainability in their response to adapt to the new demands of tourists [18
]. Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) must be able to convey a sustainable destination image if they want to improve their levels of competitiveness.
Notable efforts have been made within the literature to investigate factors which have an influence on image [18
]; however, no research has undertaken analyses on the factors which determine a tourist’s perception of an image of sustainable destination (SDI). Thus, the aim of this study is to understand whether tourists’ sociodemographic, cultural, and behavioral characteristics influence their perception of a destination as being sustainable.
Below, in order to fulfil the aim of this study, a binomial logit model has been estimated with the perception of a sustainable destination image (SDI) as dependent variable. The model explored the existence of a relationship between SDI and sociodemographic, cultural, and behavioral characteristics of tourists.
A factor analysis was undertaken prior to estimating the model so as to examine the motivations’ dimensions. The aim for this was to affect a reduction in their dimensions and an appropriate identification of the determining factors. With due regard to the criteria addressed in the literature, each item has been classified in respect to the higher loading. With the majority of the factor loadings being greater than 0.40, this is an indication of a good correlation between the items as well as the factor grouping to which they belong [75
]. The validity of these analyses was further supported by the outcome of Pearson correlation coefficient calculations for each of the variables and factors.
Completion of the factor analysis on the motivations revealed four dimensions that explain 55.93% of the variance. As portrayed in Table 2
, the first factor incorporates 3 items which we have labelled as “Fashion, Fun, and Friends”. Four items are collected together for the second factor, namely “Sun, Beach, Relax, and Family”. The third factor also holds 4 items, in this instance, related to “Sports and Nature”. Lastly, 2 items comprise the fourth factor named “Knowledge”. Regarding the findings of the Cronbach’s alpha calculations, it is necessary to consider that MOT4’s low value could feasibly be consequential to this factor only consisting of 2 items, given that Cronbach’s alpha is known to be sensitive to the number of items in a scale [68
]. It can be said that these findings are largely in accordance with the literature [18
summarizes the results of the estimation for the proposed model. Regarding the consumer’s previous experience as a tourist in a specific destination, it was unsurprisingly found that the greater the number of times a destination is visited, the greater is the likelihood of SDI being evident (β = 0.004; p
< 0.01). Furthermore, it is also not surprising that a tourist having had a recent travel to the Canary Islands increases the probability of perception of SDI (β = 0.200; p
< 0.01). These findings align with the argument that primary sources of information influence the perceived destination image, as suggested by Beerli and Martín (2004) [20
As for advertising, tourists having seen advertisements about the destination have a positive influence on SDI (β = 0.187; p < 0.05), and thus, this portrays the importance of this tool being utilized by destinations (as secondary sources of information) for enhancing the image of sustainable destination.
Furthermore, the motivations related to going to places that are fashionable, to looking for entertainment and fun, and to enjoying and spending time with friends have positive effects on SDI (β = 0.365; p < 0.01). In the light of the results of our study, those tourists are 40% more likely to perceive the destination as sustainable. The motivations of rest and relaxation, of spending time in a destination with good beaches and pleasant climate, of enjoying and spending time with family, and going to comfortable places all positively influence SDI (β = 0.244; p < 0.01). They are 27.7% more likely to perceive SDI. The motivations of doing sports and being in contact with nature (β = 0.205; p < 0.01) also has a positive effect on the tourist perceiving SDI. These are the tourists with the minor probability to perceive SDI. However, the motivations to know new and different places and to escape from the daily routine do not have an influence on SDI.
Furthermore, the relationship between the nationality of the tourists and their perception of SDI was analyzed. Here, positive relations were revealed with the majority of the markets: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Russia, France, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, and Czech Republic. Therefore, the Canary Islands are more likely to be perceived as an SDI by tourists from these countries, whereas the nationalities of Denmark, Finland and Sweden were found to be nonsignificant. Attending to the differences between countries, it could be confirmed that the nationalities with a minor perception of sustainability are the Austrians, the Dutch, and those from Luxembourg. However, the Russians are those who, only because they are of this nationality, are more likely to perceive the destination as sustainable. The greatest value in the case of Russians can be explained by the fact that Russia could be considered as not being a typical European country and, further, that the preferences and experience of Russian tourists differ strikingly from those of tourists of the other European countries [79
]. Those results give weight to the concept that national culture influences the way tourists from different countries interpret the sustainability and its fundamental role in the formation of sustainability image of tourism destinations [30
The results found that age and level of studies determine SDI. The results show, in line with Baloglu and McCleary (1999) [31
] and Calantone et al. (1989) [65
], that the older a person is, the greater is the likelihood that the individual will perceive SDI (β = 0.163; p
< 0.01). On the other hand, the relationship between the mean studies level of a tourist and SDI is negative (β = 0.140; p
The theoretical implication of this study lies in presenting a comprehensive understanding of factors influencing an SDI. More specifically, the model uses destination primary and secondary images, motivations, cultural background of tourists, and sociodemographic characteristics to explain the perception of SDI. Those variables are crucial in fully understanding the perception of SDI. This means that destination marketing organizations should adjust their strategies to different market segments, attending to the mentioned variables. As far as we are aware, no other researchers have investigated this relationship prior to us.
The more intense the previous experience (primary image) in the destination, the more likely are travelers to have an SDI. This study further suggests that a key determinant of SDI is a destination secondary image. Thus, destination marketing organizations should consider these findings when designing their marketing strategies. The secondary image of a destination could be affected by destinations and the companies operating in the sector through various sources of information such as magazines, tour operators, travel agencies, social media, and so on [80
]. DMOs must be able to design strategies in which an image of a sustainable destination is projected since, according to the results of our study, the information that the tourist receives through these sources will influence their perception of a sustainable destination and, consequently, their decision of whether to visit the destination. Those results are in line with the study of Lian and Yu (2019) [81
], who highlighted the influence of online information sources in the decision to travel.
Furthermore, the results suggest that three motivational factors (“Fashion, Fun, and Friends”, “Sun, Beach, Relax, and Family”, and “Sports and Nature”) are statistically significant for SDI. Whilst we had hypothesized that a traveler’s motivation to know new and different places and to escape from the daily routine would have a positive effect on the SDI, our findings have revealed that this is not supported. Therefore, destination marketing organizations should project the SDI according to tourists’ motivations [33
]. Thus, the content used to promote the SDI should be adapted to match tourism motivations. In this way, the possible congruence that exists between the message and the specific motivations of the target market could determine better results [45
]. Either way, developing a professional social command centre in charge of managing the social content of the destination seems to be an interesting strategy to foster SDI.
Our findings also suggest that the cultural background of a tourist is an important factor determining SDI. More specifically, our findings reveal that national culture influences the way tourists from different countries interpret sustainability and its fundamental role on the sustainability image of tourism destination formation [30
]. This sheds lights on the usefulness of using the nationality as a segmentation criterion, helping marketers to tier customers. DMOs should pay special attention to the markets of The Netherlands, Austria, and Luxembourg, since they are those that have a lower probability of perceiving the destination as sustainable. In markets such as Russia, Spain, Portugal, and Italy, efforts must be aimed at maintaining or even improving the SDI. This is in accordance with the Almeida-Santana et al. (2018) [45
] study, which suggests nationality as being a relevant factor when seeking to comprehensively understand the behavior of travelers when choosing their holiday destination.
Furthermore, the results also determined that age and level of studies determine SDI. The results show, in line with Baloglu and McCleary (1999) [31
] and Calantone et al. (1989) [65
], that the older a person is, the more likely they are to perceive SDI. The negative relationship between the mean study levels expressed by the tourists and SDI is demonstrated. Destination marketing organizations should consider those results in order to better design their marketing strategies. Younger tourists have a lower perception of a sustainable destination, so marketing campaigns aimed at this younger segment should place greater emphasis on the projection of a sustainable destination image. The same approach could be applied to the segment with a high level of studies.
Finally, some limitations of this research are given. This study considers SDI only in respect to the Canary Islands. However, it could be applied to other destinations. SDI could also be further analyzed, with introduction to the model of other factors influencing SDI.