Nowadays, Tourism has become the leading leisure activity and its positive economic impact is undeniable (United Nations World Tourism Organization – UNWTO, 2017). However, Destinations should take in account new factor to gain ground on competition. In this age of technology, the international tourism industry is rapidly adopting a third "T": "Travel, Tourism and Technology" and social media has also begun to play a main role in this scenario. Virtual and collaborative environments have revolutionized the way to travel and to do business, which is the reason why finds links between 2.0 conversations and competitiveness is a fundamental question in Tourism industry.
Tourism destinations, in general, compete in attracting visitors, residents, and businesses (Komšić & Dorčić, 2016, p. 145). A positive reputation helps to destinations in their objectives, as a result, the continuous monitor of opinions, feelings and experiences lived and, moreover, shared are a key in their day management. Today, looking to build or maintain positive reputations is a challenge and an imperative as well. Morgan, Pritchard & Pride (2013) highlight authenticity, brand narratives, leadership and authorship, performativity, story-telling, and aesthetics like relevant issues for achieve strong destination brands.
Considerable research work has been undertaken to investigate how use social media to engage tourists and have a support to get better competitive position (Buhalis, 2000; Buonincontri & Micera, 2016). Consequently, tools for monitoring reputation have proliferated recently in tourism industry. These kinds of instruments are really useful to identify, control and manage information generated by customer. In certain way, the online content provides insights about the position of the destination as well as strengths and weakness in which work on. The measurement of the destination web reputation includes, on the one hand, the analysis of the opinions (positive or negative) expressed by users in various web sources (communities, blogs, social networks), on the other hand, the measurement of virality (sharing rates) generated by these comments and posts (Micera & Crispino, 2017, p. 406). The complexity of this issue implies the use of techniques of social media analysis able to find some generated conversation in online platform and, what is more, detect and exploit qualitative and quantitative aspects. Currently, technology, especially, business intelligence makes it possible. As a result, there are numerous Social Media Analytics tools available for researches and practioners. Anyway, it is not easy to exploit the great potential of these smart instruments, a rigorous methodologies is needed to capitalize the value of feedback gathered (Micera & Crispino, 2017, p. 406).
The purpose of this paper is analysis online reputation in the most competitive destination, regarding the ranking of World Economic Forum (2017). Additionally, this research work focus on getting to know how countries build a competitive identity and how tourist conversations on social media affect to their reputations.
This paper is organized into five sections. After the introduction, it starts with definition of reputation and reviews the literature of tourism destination. Based on the theoretical framework the hypotheses are proposed. Next, the methodology is explained, including the substantiation about sample and social media analysis tools used. The fourth section shows the empirical results. All the adobe information concludes that achieving a better competitive position requires a strategy to manage own social media in each destination but, it is absolutely necessary to watch and listen their market. The main conclusion is that e-reputation plays a main role in attract tourist and, in the end, in a better performance for destinations. By the way, a critical analysis and discussion is laid out as well in this last section. Some practical implications for tourism industry are explained, highlighting that Destinations should focus their energy on knowing what their current reputation through social media and then set up a global. Finally, directions for future research are provided.
2. Literature review
2.1. Role of reputation in tourism destination competitiveness
Nowadays, Tourism is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon so the rivalry between destinations grows. In this scenario, the strategies lead to create value-added products for attracting more tourists and simultaneously for maintaining market position are a main issue in current Destination Management Organizations (DMOs). Moreover, in recent years other dimensions are taking in account: destination's profitability, tourists' experience, resources' sustainability and residents' well-being. Several rankings and research papers are focusing on Destination competitiveness and they have become in reference to analyse this topic (Hassan, 2000; Ritchie & Crouch, 2003; World Economic Forum, 2017). However, few studies pay attention in tourist's perspective (Komsic & Dorcic, 2016), much less in 2.0 channels. Then, if Destinations want to achieve a holistic management of their competitiveness, the challenge is to implement strategies towards customer experience management, experiential marketing and emotional marketing (Weiermair, 2006).
Reputation has become a crucial tool in tourism sector because it confers a competitive advantage (Freire, 2011). This question is gaining importance due to ICTs and specially, Social Media. Internet is at the same time a source of information about destinations and an opportunity to share experiences, generate content, offer suggestions or make recommendations for potentiating or weaken a destination. Additionally, the vast pool of information on Internet builds trust in tourists (De Ascaniss & Gretzel, 2013). Despite the fact that reputation concept gives rise still to a degree of discussion, there is some agreement on two questions: the relation between reputation as the opinion shared among a group of stakeholders and, on the other hand, with the impact of reputation on success. In particular, reputation online stems from the aggregation of the entire range of online conversations (Inversini, Marchiori, Dedekind & Cantoni, 2010). As a result, online reputation depends on both the positive and negative opinions that exchanged on the web through social media and on the virality of these comments, being shared (Micera & Crispino, 2017, p. 407). By knowing this information, destination managers could support the decision making process (Coca-Stefaniak, 2014). In this sense, online reputation is useful for scoreboards, strategic planning and tourism destination governance. For all these reasons, the models to measure reputation and online reputation in tourism sector have raised the interest in field research at this time. This previous theory allows us to formulate the following hypotheses:
H1. There is a link between competitiveness and online reputation in tourism destinations.
2.2. Social Media destination management
The news media are important for building and influencing reputation (Huang-Horowitz, 2016). Specifically, social media plays a main role in this scenario nowadays. Collaborative and interactive platforms provides people an accessible medium where they have power to express their opinion and proposal about any matter (Shankar, Cherrier & Canniford, 2006) and, moreover, they have the chance to become co-creators (Chan, 2007; Karlsson, 2010). Currently, social media are a value intelligence system for DMOs because they are at the same time a source of quality information about tourists and a channel which encourage to share tourists' experiences, comments and to make proposals for improving the destinations. However, the concern lies in create appropriate incentives to motivate customers to participate and in establish the adequate systems to collect, evaluate, implement and provide feedback (Fuller, Muhlbacher, Matzler & Jawecki, 2009). Consequently, destinations should take an active role and invest time and resources in reputation management (Ledesma, Navarro & Pérez-Rodríguez, 2005). Nowadays, this reputation has been going through social media so they should be taking in account. Reputation serves as strategic tool for destinations, so it is necessary a proactive action as well. In accordance with this idea DMOs should lead engagement with tourists through their own social media. Regarding this ideas, it is possible to propose the following hypotheses:
H2. The effort invested in managing destinations' social media has a positive impact on:
H2.1. Volume of conversations out of their own channels.
H2.2. Positive sentiment in conversations.
H2.3. Engagement with the destinations.
2.3. Open Innovation as source of competitiveness
Today Open Innovation (OI) stands as a new paradigm of innovation. Any kind of organization can take advantage of the outgoing knowledge and collaboration with their different stakeholders. Taking in account external ideas and involvement of stakeholders, especially customers, means to speed up their innovation processes, improve their skills and ensure the successful of new products in the market (Chesbrough, 2003; Huizingh, 2011). Destinations have the chance to obtain useful information from tourists for rethinking their strategies, innovation in through products, processes and promotion and improving facilities and infrastructure. Moreover, social media are portrayed as a potent tool for customer involvement in new experiences and product development for organizations with competences in tourism policy (Iglesias-Sánchez, Correia, Jambrino-Maldonado & Luque-Rojas, 2017). Chiaroni, Chiesa & Frattini (2011) insist on it is essential to establish channels in order to access new information but Destinations can't forget that the key is to turn the ideas into a marketable result. Although involvement customer is a topic under study for a long time, even now there are several questions in which deepen more (Fuller et al., 2009). The establishment of co-creation spaces with different stakeholders becomes in a challenge for ensure the success of Open Innovation in destinations management. Co-creation allows participation of tourists in every stage of the service development process and, most importantly, it makes possible to connect in customer experience in order to remain competitive. As a result, co-creation practices are a way to implement OI and are a vital importance for tourism settings (Roeffen & Scholl-Grissemann, 2016)
In previous section, the potential of social media has been touched but now they are analysed from the perspective of their contribution in Open Innovation. Fuller et al. (2009) claim that due to cost-efficient and multimedia-rich interaction opportunities offered by the Internet and the existence of online communities, virtual co-creation has become a suitable means of creating value and improving the overall success of new products. In this way, social media check of all the relevant criteria to support Open Innovation paradigm (Abbate & Coppolino, 2013). Destinations managers can invite tourists to actively participate in the creation of experiences, products, evaluation new products or evaluate and discuss about possible proposals as well. Additionally, Open Innovation practices through co-creation could be considered an antecedent of trust. Direct effect between empowerment and trust has been shown in the literature (Fuller et al., 2009; Moorman, Zaltman & Desphande, 1992; Morgan et al., 2013; Micera & Crispino, 2017)
Having regard to the above the research's point of view expects to find some Open Innovation practices in destinations' social media. Therefore, the proposal hypotheses is:
H3. Open Innovation practices, through co-creation spaces, have a positive impact on:
H3.1. Higher rate of influence
H3.2. Higher rate of participation
The main objective of this paper is to investigate the importance of online reputation in the tourism field applied to tourism destinations and to find out links between that and Destinations' competitiveness. To this end, the first five destinations that appear in the Travel & Tourism competitiveness report developed by World Economic Forum (2017) are the sample. Spain, France, Germany, UK and USA (Japan is excluded because it does not manage twitter) are the chosen destination for the analysis (Table 1). This ranking is widely and internationally recognized due to more than 90 indicators. In figure 1, the competitive index framework is shown.
Two Social Media Analytics tools had been used: Social Mention and Mention. Both monitors detect the online conversation in different 2.0 platforms: blogs, social media, forums, content sharing site, etc. are automatically analysed regarding, the chosen keywords, languages and the established period of investigation. To optimize the results web, Twitter account, Facebook account, Instagram account and name of the target countries in TripAdvisor are included in the alerts. Additionally, keywords like tourism, visit, travel, journey and trip were incorporated independently and combined with name of each country. The alerts were set to analyse online conversations in English, Spanish, German and France. In total 108.504 online conversations had been identified by the chosen Social Media Analytics tools.
The empirical research was from May 2017 to March 2018 because the high tourism-seasons were covered. However, it was not possible with Social Mention in which only the conversations held in the last month had been analysed. Anyway, Mention and Social Mention are powerful instruments and they can be combined to ensure the maximum possible completeness to monitoring.
The design of the research pretended to identify for each destinations sources, online presence, sentiment, engagement, topics (keywords and hashtags) and influence. Although, Social Media Analytic tools had been the main source in this research paper, a holistic vision is offered taken in account engagement and influence of Destinations' own social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (Table 2). This paper wants to introduce as original contribution the link of Open Innovation paradigm from Destination management. In this sense, it had been necessary to analyse interactions that each Destination developed to enhance the tourism involvement and participation. A technical sheet is used to categorize how OI is been implemented and the results provided as well. On this issue, Instagram is excluded because Tourists' reactions are focused on pictures. In this way, the chosen five destinations' Facebook and Twitter are the source of information. Firstly, the quantity of OI content in comparison with total generated content and the impact of this kind of action in tourists are measured. Hereafter, a Likert scale has been used for 10 item linked with 4 indicators (Experience Empowerment, Engagement, Task involvement and Customer involvement in New Product Development-NPD). The values attributed to each item (Experience Empowerment, Engagement, Task involvement and Customer Involvement in NPD) are the result of the comparative observation in social media. The value <1> is associated when tourists don't interact or react to the action and if the number of comments and shared is high, <7> is indicated. Additionally, each post is evaluated according their meaning to identify the different questions related in the table. For example, is there a call of action to share with others? Does the post offer extra and attractive information about the destination? The variables to measure Open Innovation were derived from the instrument developed by Fuller et al. (2009). In this case, the analysis has been restricted to the last week of March coinciding with Easter.
On the other hand, a qualitative analysis, non-automated, was carried out. In order to achieve this aim, firstly it was necessary to establish a structure of topics, in other words, a data sheet. The six “A's” proposed by Buhalis (2000) had been the base for its elaboration: Attractions (natural, man-made, artificial, purpose built, heritage, special events); Accessibility (entire transportation system comprising of routes, terminals and vehicles); Amenities (accommodation and catering facilities, retail, other tourist services); Available packages (pre-arranged packages by intermediaries and principals); Activities (all activities available at the destination and what consumers will do during their visit); Ancillary services (services used by tourists such as banks, telecommunications, post offices, newsagents', hospitals, etc). In this case, the generated content has been only analysed in English and Spanish.
Firstly, a comparative analysis between destinations is made and after, a detailed vision focusing in each destination is shown.
The established order of the ranking of Destinations' competitiveness matches the volume of conversation generated in each Destination (figure 2). All destinations maintain their position. However, volume is not always corresponded to sentiment, influence and engagement. Regarding sentiments, which are activated in each destination, it is possible to check that the neutral comments are prevailing. Nevertheless, the positive comments are more numerous in all destinations (Figure 3).
As shown in figure 4, in the case of influence the order is reversed (Figure 4). France achieves more influence, immediately after, Germany and Britain show a level of influence significantly. In contrast, Spain loses its leadership.
Finally, engagement is measured combining four parameters: strength (the likelihood of people is talking about the destination), sentiment (ratio of positive comments against negative comments), passion (frequency of been mentioned) and reach (number of unique authors with regard to total of mentions) following Social Mention. In table 3, the comparison between destinations shows that Spain and UK stand out in strength and reach but they get lower rate of sentiment and passion. Regarding these parameters, France led the ranking in sentiment and in passion as well. Curiously, other Destinations, as Germany has conflicting values in these two questions. Furthermore, Spain has the lowest ratio of sentiment but it has remarkable results in passion.
In the view of the results, social media with more engagement has been analysed. In this case, taking as reference their own social media and generally Instagram is being imposing in detriment of the others.
The analysis of the content in the conversations shows that activities, attractions and amenities are the questions more mentioned. This trend takes the same line in all destinations. In fact, the importance of the pictures must be stressed due to two main reason: they concentrate a wide part of the content and the pictures generally reveal positive experiences lived in the destinations but currently Social Media Analytics tools cannot classify them according to positive or negative sentiment. Therefore, available packages are not a main topic for tourist in their own social media although in destinations social media, an important effort is made to propose packages and special offers. Anyway, destinations aim closely their objectives when they introduce attractions and activities, specially, when these are natural spaces, buildings or events lesser-known. When the negative comments are considered, amenities are the main actors. Additionally, accessibility and, to a lesser extent, the ancillary services are topic of discussion.
At this point, Open Innovation is the core of the analysis. The role of co-creation with tourist for improving and gaining engagement is shown in Table 4. Presently, few Open Innovation actions have been found in destinations' social media (Annex 1). Two kind of call of co-creation has been identified: questions about tourists' plans or preferences and request for cooperation sharing pictures. Anyway, the most active destination is Spain due to the large number of generated content and the level of proposals for participation. It should also be noted that destination, like France, offers a low level of content but the co-creation achieved is remarkable. Other destinations, like Germany and USA provide little content in their social media and any action liked with OI is detected. Finally, UK highlights because it is the only destination that includes specific incentives to promote the participation of the tourist (award).
The purpose of this study was to examine how social media affect to Destinations' online reputation. Own content and tourists' conversations on Internet are taking in account for this research. Additionally, co-creation practices on social media are identified to check if involvement tourists contribute in reputation and competitiveness of Destinations. The study shows that competitiveness linked with destinations is correlated with their reputation. In this way, the hypothesis 1 can be verified due to the coincidence between competitiveness ranking and online reputation. However, conversations on Internet do not always reflect the effort made for Destinations in 2.0 environments. Generally speaking, destinations more active in social media get a high level of conversation on their own channels and out of them. This questions support the hypothesis 2.1. In contrast with a good strategy of social media management do not achieve a proportional sentiment and engagement. Therefore, hypothesis 2.2 and 2.3 cannot be determined because the results do not confirm an identical pattern of behaviour. Curiously, Destinations' social media, which generate more content, show good ratios of followers and likes but the capacity to increase sharing content or participation by tourists show an association not cause-and-effect.
The findings are similar to those encountered in the preview literature. The importance of monitoring of conversations in social media given their influence in reputation is widely recognized (Chen & Chen, 2009; Inversini et al., 2010; Komsic & Dorcic 2016; Micera & Crispino, 2017). Additionally, the awareness of the destinations brand is a logical outcome, identified in this field as well (Boo, Busser & Baloglu, 2009). However, the comparison between destinations is not a common choice so this paper could be innovative in this sense.
The results arising from Open Innovation analysis proved to be inconclusive. The co-creation practices on Destinations' social media are limited and the comparison is not possible between all the destinations. Additionally, the kind of co-creation proposals lead to involve tourists in generating content but less so in searching for participation in product development. Even isolated cases about involvement in product development the mechanism to encourage participation and to provide feedback are not clearly defined. For all these reasons, the assumptions linked with hypothesis 3 do not hold with the obtained data. Anyway, Open Innovation must been seen by DMOs as a chance and an imminent challenge to maintain the competitiveness in their destinations. Despite of the fact, Open Innovation has concentrated the attention in academia and in private sector but there are few research works with conclusive results, and much less linking Open Innovation and online reputation (Fuller et al., 2009; Iglesias-Sánchez et al., 2017). Precisely, this question is a main contribution in this paper and, at the same time, an invitation to deepen in the topic due the provided evidences.
On the basis of the results obtained, the main conclusions are: (1) online conversations play a crucial role in reputation building, (2) it is necessary to define a strategy for social media management and to have an active participation; however generating content is not enough, knowing tourists' feelings and preferences is key to achieve the desirable engagement with stakeholders. (3) Open Innovation paradigm and, specifically, co-creation practices need to extend beyond social media. Literature review insists on the positive effects on competitiveness but in practice destinations managers have been insufficiently attentive to this challenge.
This research work may have important practical implications for destinations management. Firstly, DMOs should consider a holistic vision about reputation and should include social media in their strategy. The effort should be double: in their own 2.0 channels and monitor online conversations about destinations. It is more important thinking about what content is more valuable and attractive for tourists than creating a high volume of information. On the other hand, it is necessary to keep advancing in the analysis of the open innovation phenomenon and its effects on competitiveness, both from the point of view of the investigation and of tourism companies. The study found that it is key to develop a very solid strategy to ensure the expected successful on both reputation and innovation management. Finally, this research work concurs with recent previous papers (Micera & Crispino, 2017) that sophisticated technological tools to analysis online reputation are necessary for researchers and for DMOs. The innovative method of social listening can contribute to process decision making in Destinations and be a strategic tool for supporting the destination-building process in a sustainable way.
This research work has tried a significant step forward but is not without limitations. In any case, it is an exploratory study, rather than be definitive, it is necessary to examine in greater detail some aspects. Additionally, a cross-sectional study should be considered to check the evolution and the changes produced over time. On the other hand, quantitative techniques should be combined to complete the monitoring of conversations and the conclusions reached.
Future research will emphasize the development of a measure model of online reputation on tourism destinations competitiveness. Additionally, a tool of analysis for co-creation practices should be implemented to make generalizations and to identify the positive effects derived from tourist involvement in new product/experience development.
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