Customers’ favorable intentions and loyalty for a company, which include purchase intentions, recommendation intentions, and the willingness to pay, are major contributors to enhancing competitive advantage in the market share [1
]. In recent years, airports have begun to actively seek the assurance that its visitors have a positive attitude, psychological well-being, and feel connected to the airport in order to ensure the airport’s customer retention and profits, which ensures its survival and its long-term success in an increasingly challenging marketplace [1
]. This has resulted in the airport operators’ endeavors to design/build the airport environment to be greener, so that the airport’s green physical environment could possibly bring diverse benefits for the visitors. These include psychological health and well-being, and various outcomes to its operators, which include an increase in the number of new/repeat visitors, expenditures, visit frequency, and positive word-of-mouth [4
]. Therefore, in recent times, airport green physical environments have received considerable attention from current/potential visitors and industry practitioners [4
An increasing amount of literature regarding environmental psychology and consumer behavior has shed light on the importance of healthy atmospherics to increase customers’ mental/psychological health and pleasurable product/service experiences and to boost positive post-purchase behaviors for the products/services [7
]. Furthermore, the factors that are associated with a green physical environment in the customer post-purchase decision-making process, which include psychological resilience, attitude, satisfaction, and brand-self connection, have been identified by many researchers [9
]. According to these authors, these variables are also often considered as crucial contributors for building customer loyalty [11
]. A research framework that encompasses these essential variables along with a green physical environment has been broadly believed to be a critical theoretical approach to explicate the customers’ various post-purchase intention formation and behaviors. Nonetheless, empirical research that explores the probable relationships amid these crucial constructs and assessing the potential impact of such associations on the airport visitors’ loyalty intention generation, is scarce.
In addition, even though the green physical environment has been researched in previous studies, the gender differences in the context of visitors’ loyalty intention formation has rarely been explored in the airport industry. According to recent studies [5
], gender difference in travelers’ consumption behaviors and the loyalty generation process for tourism products is apparent. Despite this evidence, the effect of gender on the relationship between airport users’ perception regarding a green physical environment and the cognitive/affective/conative responses have hardly been examined. Overall, given that airport operators are eager to enhance visitor retention/increase and visitor expenditure for the successful airport business, uncovering what factors elicit visitors’ loyalty behaviors, which include, e.g., repeat visitation, word-of-mouth, and willingness to spend money, for the airport along with unearthing the role of gender is critical.
This study develops an approach to fill these research gaps, which is aimed at exploring the role of an airport green physical environment to elicit psychological resilience, and to identify the effect of such associations on attitude toward the airport, satisfaction with healthy atmospherics, and brand-self connection in the formation of visitors’ loyalty intentions to the airport. Moreover, this study has attempted to reveal the relative criticality amongst the study variables in building loyalty intentions, and to unearth the mediating effect of the study constructs within the proposed theoretical framework. The present research has also tried to discover whether the magnitude of the relationship strength among the research variables differs across gender. A thorough review of the literature provided in the following section is followed by the methodology and the results. Lastly, a discussion and the implications for theory and practice are provided.
5. Discussion and Implications
This study attempted to develop a thorough theoretical framework that encompassed the airport green physical environment and its constituents, psychological resilience, attitude, satisfaction with healthy atmospherics, and brand-self connection, which has hardly been applied to explain visitor loyalty formation in the airport industry. The hypothesized associations among the research constructs were generally well supported. The salient role of attitude along with satisfaction with healthy environment was uncovered. In addition, satisfaction positively affected brand-self connection for both genders. Brand-self connection showed positive effects on loyalty intention, because the linkages from satisfaction and the brand-self connection to the loyalty intentions were evident. However, this was under the significant influence of gender. The proposed framework sufficiently accounted for the total variance with loyalty intentions. Because there was little known about the airport built environment and its role with visitor behaviors, the present study successfully provides a clear understanding regarding a green physical environment and its relation to the visitors’ psychological resilience, affective responses, and loyalty behaviors in the airport sector.
The empirical findings of this study demonstrated the criticality of airport green atmospherics in the hypothesized conceptual framework. In particular, an airport green physical environment was identified as a significant factor that directly/indirectly influences the psychological resilience and its subsequent factors. Along with many previous studies that proved the positive effects of a green environment in people’s psychological resilience and emotions, this study successfully assessed and explored the significant role of a green environment of an airport in the formation of visitors’ positive mental state/emotions and favoritism for a green airport going beyond the existing studies in the tourism/airline literature. This finding implies that simply fortifying the functional aspect of an airport for visitors is not enough to satisfy their needs of psychological resilience when using an airport. Given the evidence of this study, increasing the availability and the accessibility of green spaces, green rest areas, green items, décor, and improving ambient conditions, which include air quality and natural light, inside and outside of the airport can be of importance to fulfill the visitors’ needs of psychological resilience, which include feeling refreshed, reducing any mental stress, feeling mentally healthy, and feeling psychological well-being. Airport practitioners accordingly should place an emphasis on designing/improving a green physical environment at airports by using diverse financial and non-financial resources. This endeavor can be an essential tool to induce visitors’ psychological resilience, positive attitude, positive assessment of their airport experiences, and enhance loyalty intentions for the airport.
The total influence of attitude toward the airport on visitor loyalty retentions was uncovered to be greater than other study variables. This attitude also had a substantial impact on visitor satisfaction and brand-self connection. Based on this evidence, it is clear that airport operators should make considerable efforts to boost visitors’ favorable attitude toward the airport with the enhancement of visitors’ loyalty intentions. The authors of [5
] and [26
] asserted that customers’ beliefs about the possible outcomes derived from the consumption of a specific product/service significantly contribute to improving the positive attitude toward it. Accordingly, airport operators should actively inform their current/potential visitors about the likely benefits that the visitors can enjoy while using the airport, which could possibly include a healthy environment, psychological well-being, pleasurable shopping, and cheaper prices, through diverse communication channels. This type of effort will be an efficient tactic to increase the visitors’ positive attitude toward the airport, which ultimately brings increased satisfaction, attachment, and loyalty intentions.
Our findings regarding the indirect influence of the study variables showed the significant mediating effect of psychological resilience, attitude toward the airport, satisfaction with healthy environment, and brand-self connection on the formation of visitor loyalty intentions. The mediating role of these constructs within the hypothesized theoretical framework was evident. Our results not only supported Yusof, Awang, and Jusoff’s [52
] finding that green environment/environment-friendly practices indirectly affect loyalty, but also further discovered several other mediating constructs on loyalty. Theoretically, these mediators can be utilized as important tools in further studies, which include the development of a conceptual model and theory, in the airport sector. Our findings offered practical crucial information that dealt with visitor psychological resilience, attitude, satisfaction, and brand-self connection that is indisputably important for airport operators to maximize the role of a green physical environment to induce visitors’ pleasurable airport experiences and loyalty to the airport.
The findings of the test for metric invariance demonstrated the moderating impact of gender on the linkages from satisfaction and brand-self connection to loyalty intentions. Specifically, the strength of the association between satisfaction and loyalty intention was significantly stronger with the male group (β = 0.789 and p
< 0.01) than with the female group (β = 0.522 and p
< 0.01), whereas the strength of the relationship between brand-self connection and loyalty intention was significantly stronger with the female group (β = 0.503 and p
< 0.01) than with the male group (β = 0.199 and p
< 0.01). This result implies that (a) at a similar satisfaction level, male visitors build a higher level of loyalty intentions than female visitors and (b) at a similar level of brand-self connection, female visitors build stronger loyalty intentions than male visitors. In a theoretical manner, our findings provided important information that illustrate that utilizing gender is critical to understanding visitor experiences and behaviors in an airport. The existing conceptual frameworks related to airport visitor experiences and behaviors are deepened by the incorporation of gender influence. From a practical perspective, airport operators need to center on satisfaction enhancement for the effective increase of male visitors’ loyalty intentions. As demonstrated in the present study, offering/strengthening green healthy atmospherics can be one way to increasing male visitors’ satisfaction level in an efficient manner. Meanwhile, for an effective increase of female visitors’ loyalty intentions, it is crucial for airport operators to focus on fortifying a brand-self connection. According to [46
], dealing with brand image is an excellent way to help female customers feel connected to the brand. It is, therefore, important that airport operators should increase the image of the airport for the enhanced brand-self connection among female visitors.
Even though this study offers meaningful theoretical/practical implications, this research has several limitations. First, the sampling of a subset of a larger population was possible through an online survey, but it was difficult to capture the visitors’ immediate airport experiences. For future studies, a field survey at airport is recommended. Second, this study did not take into consideration whether the respondents were first-time or repeat visitors of the airport. The importance of taking this variable into consideration in future studies is demonstrated by the conjecture that these two segments of visitors differ in regards to their motivations and evaluations toward the place [53
]. Hence, future studies are suggested to replicate the conceptual framework with other samples that control for the respondents’ prior experience with the airport. Lastly, this study applied a quantitative method to investigate the proposed model, which suggested further applicable research methods to be performed in the future studies with larger sample sizes are required in order to enhance the generalization of the study findings, such as using a qualitative method.