Branding new services in health tourism

Tourism Review 05/2011; 66(1/2):90-106. DOI: 10.1108/16605371111127260

ABSTRACT Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to serve as an introduction to the usefulness of means-end chain (MEC) theory and analysis for branding in health tourism. Design/methodology/approach – An online survey was conducted within the transnational EU-project Alpshealthcomp and with two of the largest public health insurances in Germany. Research design is based on hard laddering according to Walker and Olson. MEC items were derived from Rokeach and from Hiesel and from results of a consumer survey (n=1.607) for Alpine health and wellness tourism. Findings – Several research questions are proposed regarding consumer association structures for health tourism using principal component analysis, cluster analysis and t-test contrast of hypothesis. Personal values have proven to be most valuable for establishing brand associations. Here an identifiable and describable common structure exists for Alpine health tourism. With increasing product experience, consumers concentrate on viewer values closely linked to their personality. If product experience is low, consumers depend on a multitude of values. Research limitations/implications – The proportion of female participants in the sample is very high. A more balanced sample and analysis for gender differences could be valuable. Also it should be tried to replicate findings for other types of intangible services. Practical implications – The identified value structure can be addressed in brand communication and could complement the concept of brand personality. When shifting emphasis in staging and communicating values according to product experience, tourism managers can establish a stable and strong brand. Behavioral branding can be a useful tool in this context. Originality/value – Branding started to expand into the tourism industry only recently. Specific research work on branding in health tourism is scarce. To the best of the authors' knowledge, there exists no article in which MEC analysis was applied in order to analyze possible carrier of brand associations in health tourism. This work aims to bridge the gap.

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