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The Effects of Localising Cultural Values on Tourism Destination Websites on Tourist’s Willingness to Travel

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This paper discusses the effects the localisation of cultural values on tourism destination websites on user's willingness to travel. First, a preliminary research was conducted in order to test and propose adaptations to Singh's et al. (2005) framework of cultural values localisation on websites. Secondly, the authors conducted an experiment to test the localisation of cultural values on a website of a fictitious destination, developed for the purpose of this research and customised for the New Zealand audience. 400 respondents participated, performing tasks on the site and answering a survey. Results indicate that the exposure of opposite cultural values (i.e. reverse-localisation) to the target audience leads to a higher willingness to travel, contradicting previous works that supports the effectiveness of website localisation.
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The Effects of Localising Cultural Values on Tourism Destination Websites on
Tourist’s Willingness to Travel
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The Effects of Localising Cultural Values on Tourism Destination Websites
on Tourist’s Willingness to Travel
Francisco Tigre Moura, Juergen Gnoth, and Kenneth R Deans
University of Otago, New Zealand
[francisco.tigre; juergen.gnoth; ken.dean]@otago.ac.nz
Abstract
This paper discusses the effects the localisation of cultural values on tourism destination websites on user’s willingness to
travel. First, a preliminary research was conducted in order to test and propose adaptations to Singh’s et al. (2005)
framework of cultural values localisation on websites. Secondly, the authors conducted an experiment to test the localisation
of cultural values on a website of a fictitious destination, developed for the purpose of this research and customised for the
New Zealand audience. 400 respondents participated, performing tasks on the site and answering a survey. Results indicate
that the exposure of opposite cultural values (i.e. reverse-localisation) to the target audience leads to a higher willingness to
travel, contradicting previous works that supports the effectiveness of website localisation.
Keywords: Destination websites; website localisation; cultural values.
1 Introduction
Tourists can only experience a location after having finalised their decision making process and travelled to the
chosen destination. This characteristic of tourism leads to a series of risks and uncertainties during the traveller’s
destination selection process and information search process. However, these negative factors can be reduced by
destination websites, as they act as official self presentation platforms online. In view of their relevance, in this
paper the authors investigated the effects of the localisation of cultural values on user’s willingness to travel.
2 Theory
2.1 Localisation of cultural values on websites
The virtual world is not culturally neutral. The norms and values which rule cultural groups are also represented
online and countries consciously and unconsciously depict them while developing their websites (Singh, Zhao et
al. 2003; Singh and Matsuo 2004). The investigation of cultural values on websites has been frequently and
successfully conducted through the framework developed by Singh et al. (2003; 2005). It contains the
dimensions of collectivism and individualism, power distance and uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1980) and
high-low context (Hall, 1976). Hofstede’s (1980) dimension of masculinity-femininity was excluded during a
refinement of the framework, due to low reliability (Singh, Kumar et al. 2005), and the dimension of long-short
orientation was never included. Overall, the 6 cultural dimensions of the web-related framework are
operationalised through 23 cultural categories.
In spite of the criticisms at Hofstede’s methodology and age of data (Fernandez, Carlson et al. 1997), Singh’s et
al. (2005), Singh’s et al. (2005) cultural framework has been widely used to investigate cultural values on
websites from a number of countries such as USA, Japan, Germany, France, China, and India, encompassing
retail and e-commerce stores from distinct industry segments (Singh, Zhao et al. 2003; Singh and Matsuo 2004;
Singh, Kumar et al. 2005; Singh, Zhao et al. 2005). Surprisingly, it still hasn’t been applied on destination
websites to investigate their depiction of cultural values.
Website localisation represents the adjustments of website content, cultural values, design and other website
elements to meet the characteristics and needs of target markets. The localisation of cultural values has shown to
cause positive outcomes, such as on the level of satisfaction, and previous researchers have revealed that users
prefer sites that depict similar values to their own (Baack and Singh, 2007).
2.4 Hypotheses of the study
Studies related to tourist motivations have shown that visitors, especially from individualist cultures, consider
trips as moments for unplanned behaviours, and freedom from social norms or regulations which rule the culture
they live in. In this context, attitudes of individuals are driven to satisfy their own self and not the social norms
from the culture they belong (McIntosh and Goeldner 1990; Gnoth, 1997). It is then expected that users would
not appreciate the cultural localisation of the destination websites, as it would represent a view of the world
from which they intend to get away from during their trip. Consequently, it is hypothesised that the emphasis of
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opposite values of the target markets (i.e. reverse-localisation) would generate more positive perceptions. In
view of this, the present study proposes the following hypothesis:
H: the localisation of cultural values on tourism destination sites does not generate a higher willingness to
travel, when compared to its reverse-localisation.
3 Methods
The research consisted of two phases: a preliminary study and an experiment.
3.1 Preliminary study
Initially, New Zealand was defined as the target market of the study. Next, a preliminary research was
conducted with two main objectives: to test the validity of Singh’s et al. (2005) framework of cultural values
localisation on tourism destination sites, and to investigate the need for, and propose, if necessary, adaptations
for the framework under the new context.
The authors investigated a total of 130 websites through content analysis: 48 New Zealand, 36 Indian and 46
Chinese. Based on Hofstede’s cultural scores (1980), New Zealand is represented by two extremes: highly
individualistic and very low in power distance. Also, on Hall’s (1976) context dimension, the country is
classified as being a low context culture. India and China were included as their cultural scores are opposite to
those of New Zealand: both countries are characterised as highly collectivist and score high in power distance
values and are classified as being high context cultures, therefore representing an interesting contrast for
comparison.
The websites were evaluated according to Singh’s et al. (2005) cultural framework on a 1 to 5 likert scale,
ranging from “Not depicted” to “Prominently depicted”. The results indicated significant differences in the
cultural values exposed, with the New Zealand sites depicting more individualism and low context values, while
China and India showed more power distance, collectivism and high context values. The results also indicated
that the type of destination did not moderate the values depicted on the websites. A brief summary of the results
is shown on Table 1.
Table 1. Means, ANOVA and reliability scores of the cultural dimensions.
Having tested and
made adaptations
to Singh’s et al.
(2005) cultural
framework for
destination websites
(not detailed here due to word limitation of the conference paper), the next step consisted on the development of
an experimental website and an experiment to test the hypothesis of the study.
3.2 Experiment
The experiment investigated the effects of the localisation of cultural values on destination websites on the
user’s willingness to travel. Four versions of a website of a fictitious tourism destination tailored for New
Zealanders were created based on the adaptations of Singh’s (2005) cultural framework: two versions with
congruent cultural values of New Zealanders (the versions differed on the use of cultural markers on the design
of the site) and two versions with incongruent cultural values (the versions differed on the use of cultural
markers on the design of the site). (Due to a word limitation of the conference paper, the influence of the
different cultural markers on the willingness to travel is not reported in this paper). The content of the site
(photos, texts and headings) was evaluated by four post-graduate researchers in the areas of culture, tourism and
psychology. The content was ranked according to the cultural dimensions that were used on the manipulations
(collectivist-individualist, high-low power distance and high-low context). Only material that achieved
consensus among all judges was used on the different versions of the site.
Each version of the experimental website contained an average of 26 web pages, covering information about the
destination, a detailed map of the place, a list and description of eleven different types of attractions, a
description and list of accommodation, events, a detailed list of restaurants and bars, local cuisine, testimonial
page, contacts, shopping and a photo gallery.
Cultural Values Mean
NZ
Mean
India
Mean
China
F Sig. Cronbach´s Alpha
NZ/India/China
Collectivism
2.00
2.60
2.52
7.26
.45/.39/.43
Individualism
3.86
3.17
3.71
11.70
.61/.62/.49
Power Distance
1.85
3.25
2.52
42.86
.74/.82/.71
Uncertainty Avoid.
3.28
3.33
2.99
4.48
.57/.62/.55
High Context
2.57
3
3.48
17.71
.66/.61/.54
Low Context
3.27
3.24
1.93
33.63
.73/.73/.62
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A pre-test of the experiment was conducted with 30 New Zealand undergraduate students and changes were
made to the site and survey. After this, the experiment was performed. 400 New Zealand undergraduate students
from the University of Otago participated in the study; 100 per condition. First, they navigated the site and
chose their top two places to eat, sleep and activities to do. Following this, they answered an online survey that
included the evaluation of the willingness to travel to the destination (Krishnamurthy and Sujan 1999).
Willingess to travel was evaluated on a 1 to 5 point likert scale, ranging from Totally disagree’ to ‘Totally
agree. Participants took an average of 20 minutes to complete all tasks.
4 Results
The means of each condition shown on Table 2 indicate a higher willingness to travel on conditions 2 and 3,
which depicted incongruent cultural values for New Zealanders.
Table 2. Means and ANCOVA scores.
Dependent
variable
Condition
1(n=100)
Condition
2 (n=100)
Condition
3 (n=100)
Condition
4 (n=100)
F Sig.
Willingness
to travel 3.52 3.79 3.88 3.62 12.6 .000
Means are significantly different at the .05 level.
Condition one: Congruent cultural values and design 1; Condition two: Incongruent cultural values and design 1; Condition
three: Incongruent cultural values and design 2; Condition four: Congruent cultural values and design 2
A univariate ANCOVA was conducted to verify the significance of the differences among the four conditions.
Results indicated that the covariate ‘trust’ was significantly related to the willingness to travel, F(1, 390) = 28.8,
p=.000, partial η2=.069. Having controlled for the effect of ‘trust’, there was a significant effect of the cultural
values exposed on the site on the respondents willingness to travel, F(1, 390) = 12.6, p=.000, partial η2
=.031.
Levene’s test indicated that the assumption of homogeneity of variance was met (p>.05). Finally, the means of
congruent and incongruent cultural values are plotted on Figure 1 and indicate a higher influence of incongruent
values on the willingness to travel.
Figure 1. Plotted means of congruent and incongruent cultural values.
5 Conclusion and Managerial Implications
The finding that the reverse-localisation of cultural values generated a higher willingness to travel contradicts
previous work which has pointed to the effectiveness of the localisation of cultural values on websites (Singh et
al., 2004; Baack and Singh, 2007). This finding is believed to be attributed to the characteristics and motivations
related to tourism activities, where tourists seek unplanned behaviours and a way of escapism from the social
norms they live in. The effectiveness of the reverse-localisation of cultural values on destination websites offers
new strategic ways of customising online communication to target markets in a tourism context, leading to new
tactics to better promote places on the web. This will benefit destination managers when developing country
specific versions of their websites for different markets. However, the ethics of this practice and the impacts of
this strategy on visitors experience need to be investigated.
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6 Limitations
Conducting the experiments with individuals from other countries would have provided a deeper understanding
of the effectiveness of the localisation for the New Zealand audience. Finally, student sampling may also be
considered a limitation of the study.
References
Baack, D. W. and N. Singh (2007). Culture and web communications. Journal of Business Research 60(3): 181-188.
Fernandez, D. R., D. S. Carlson, et al. (1997). Hofstede's Country Classification 25 years later. The Journal of Social
Psychology 137(1): 43-54.
Gnoth, J. (1997). Tourism motivation and expectation formation. Annals of Tourism Research 24(2): 283-304.
Hall, E. T. (1976). Beyond culture. New York, Anchor Books.
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture's consequences: International differences in work-related values. Newbury Park, CA, Sage.
Krishnamurthy, P. and M. Sujan (1999). Retrospection versus Anticipation: The Role of the Ad under Retrospective and
Anticipatory Self-Referencing. Journal of Consumer Research 26(1): 55-69.
McIntosh, R. and C. Goeldner (1990). Tourism: Principles, Practices, Philosophies. New York: , John Wiley & Sons. Inc.
Singh, N., O. Furrer, et al. (2004). To Localize or to Standardize on the Web: Empirical Evidence from Italy, India,
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Singh, N., V. Kumar, et al. (2005). Adaptation of cultural content: evidence from B2C e-commerce firms. European Journal
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Singh, N. and H. Matsuo (2004). Measuring cultural adaptation on the Web: a content analytic study of U.S. and Japanese
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