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Mountain and snow tourism are sectors of immense social and economic importance that are developed in an especially sensitive environmental context. A large part of this tourism is channeled through ski resorts. The literature on comparative studies of ski-resort management and, in particular, on marketing management, is limited. This study contributes knowledge on the application of marketing practiced at ski resorts. For the first time, an audit of marketing at ski resorts is performed through a quantitative survey at resorts in two countries (Spain and Italy). The importance–performance analysis (IPA) is used, which identifies both the strong and the weak points and the great deficits of marketing management at ski resorts from the perspective of their directors, to whom the questionnaire was addressed. The social media usage of the ski-stations is also analyzed, identifying different typologies of resorts in accordance with their performance against 11 indicators from Twitter and 15 from Facebook. Knowing the opinion of the visitors, the online and competitive strategy, and adapting to the legislative changes are the aspects to which the directors attach greater importance. The greatest deficits were linked to employee motivation and communication (internal and non-integrated). There are minor differences in Twitter and Facebook indicators between Spanish and Italian ski resorts. The turnover results of the ski resorts present more correlation with Facebook indicators than with Twitter ones. This analysis provides recommendations and implications for the management of ski resorts in the six dimensions of marketing under consideration. It, likewise, offers knowledge of the social-media-related behavior of resorts that are leaders on both Twitter and Facebook, for benchmarking purposes.
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sustainability
Article
Auditing Marketing and the Use of Social Media
at Ski Resorts
Teodoro Luque Martínez , Luis Doña Toledo * and Nina Faraoni
Marketing and Market Research Department, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Granada,
18071 Granada, Spain; tluque@ugr.es (T.L.M.); ninafaraoni@correo.ugr.es (N.F.)
*Correspondence: luisdt@ugr.es
Received: 18 February 2019; Accepted: 14 May 2019; Published: 20 May 2019


Abstract:
Mountain and snow tourism are sectors of immense social and economic importance
that are developed in an especially sensitive environmental context. A large part of this tourism
is channeled through ski resorts. The literature on comparative studies of ski-resort management
and, in particular, on marketing management, is limited. This study contributes knowledge on
the application of marketing practiced at ski resorts. For the first time, an audit of marketing at
ski resorts is performed through a quantitative survey at resorts in two countries (Spain and Italy).
The importance–performance analysis (IPA) is used, which identifies both the strong and the weak
points and the great deficits of marketing management at ski resorts from the perspective of their
directors, to whom the questionnaire was addressed. The social media usage of the ski-stations
is also analyzed, identifying dierent typologies of resorts in accordance with their performance
against 11 indicators from Twitter and 15 from Facebook. Knowing the opinion of the visitors,
the online and competitive strategy, and adapting to the legislative changes are the aspects to which
the directors attach greater importance. The greatest deficits were linked to employee motivation
and communication (internal and non-integrated). There are minor dierences in Twitter and
Facebook indicators between Spanish and Italian ski resorts. The turnover results of the ski resorts
present more correlation with Facebook indicators than with Twitter ones. This analysis provides
recommendations and implications for the management of ski resorts in the six dimensions of
marketing under consideration. It, likewise, oers knowledge of the social-media-related behavior of
resorts that are leaders on both Twitter and Facebook, for benchmarking purposes.
Keywords: ski-resort management; ski-resort marketing; ski resorts; audit; mountain tourism
1. Introduction
Tourism is a sector of great dynamism that has displayed vigorous growth over many years [
1
].
Some studies have examined the potential for integration between sport and tourism, which depends
on a decisive orientation, the regional context, government policies, and cultural and organizational
structures [
2
]. The strong connection between tourism and sport means that sports tourism is one of
the most highly developed segments of tourism. The national and international popularity of sporting
events have contributed to that level of development, the benefits associated with active participation
in sports, as have the variety of sporting events and their organization with periodic and frequent
events in dierent parts of the world [3].
Ski resorts as tourism destinations are a magnificent example of a symbiosis between tourism
and sport [
1
,
4
,
5
]. Together, they form an entity with shared interests in which dierent types of
organizations interact (hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, sports firms, and environmental protection
agencies, among others) that provide a variety of services to respond to the main driving force:
Conducting activities and practicing sports related to snow-and-mountain tourism. Their relevant
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868; doi:10.3390/su11102868 www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 2 of 24
social and economic impacts on the environment dynamize and favor the development of areas of
influence, either as the principal activity, or as one that is complementary to others [6,7].
The winter sports industry contributes to the development of tourism and, in a considerable way,
to economic growth and territorial organization [
8
10
]. Over 80 countries from all over the world oer
winter sports activities, in all, at approximately 2000 ski resorts. Some have a long tradition in winter
sports (for example, France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy), while others, such as China and Eastern
European countries, are emergent destinations [11].
The variety and breadth of the oer in relation to winter sports requires analysis and
planning of destination marketing activities. All the more so, if the point of view of the visitor
is considered, greater use of marketing tools is necessary in the management of those destinations [
12
].
Ski-resort managers need to study the potential of their destinations and current markets and prepare
proposals that will dierentiate them from the competition [
13
], through strategic analysis [
14
].
The importance of those destinations makes it advisable to gain an understanding of the behavior
and, for example, the attitudes that are determined by the emotions that they awaken [
15
] and user
preferences, and the surrounding environment. The development of innovative communication
strategies and the application of positioning and segmentation strategies for visitors, and both amateur
and professional skiers, may also be included [1,5,11,1619].
In short, destination management cannot be understood without a major role for marketing.
The question that is now raised is whether that is so and how it is done. Although there are studies on
specific aspects of marketing, the academic literature on the application of marketing or the auditing
of marketing at ski resorts [
20
] is practically non-existent. Within it, an aspect of special relevance in
the strategy of all organizations, following the expansion of the Internet, is the virtual performance
on social media [
21
] of ski resorts, also with an almost inexistent literature. No studies have been
identified that set out to analyze the indicators provided by social media in reference to ski resorts,
although their utility in the present-day context is recognized [22].
The main objective of this work is to know the perception that the managers of ski resorts have
about the application of marketing management at ski resorts and the analysis of their performance in
social networks, in particular:
To conduct a marketing audit that will identify the main strengths and weaknesses in the
application of marketing from the perspective of managers;
To discover the main deficits in the application of marketing at ski stations and whether they
present dierences between countries, applying the importance–performance analysis (IPA) with
a new methodological validation variant;
To describe the patterns of behavior on social media (Twitter and Facebook) and to establish
whether there are dierences in accordance with the country in which the ski resort is found;
To identify typologies of ski resorts by their patterns of behavior on social media.
In response to those questions, which are raised here for the first time, a survey was administered
to directors and representatives of Italian and Spanish ski resorts on their evaluation of the current
situation of the ski resort and the importance that they attached to it with respect to the dierent
dimensions of marketing. Moreover, the social media behavior on Facebook and Twitter of the ski
resorts from those two countries was analyzed (through 15 and 11 indicators, respectively) and their
behavioral patterns were profiled.
2. Skiing Sports Tourism
Together with the increase in economic activity related to sports, there is greater interest in
the study of sports management [
23
] as a service provider that must concern itself with customer
satisfaction, by implementing a specific results-oriented business style and culture [24].
Falk [
25
] armed that the demand for winter tourism depends on national and international
income, prices, transport, costs, the location of the destination, and climate change. Climate change is
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 3 of 24
fast becoming a significant factor [
26
] above all for low-altitude ski resorts in southern countries [
27
29
].
On the one hand, demand is considerably weaker when the depth and the quality of the snow is
poor [
25
]; hence the business investments in, above all, high-altitude ski resorts [
30
]. On the other
hand, new competitors from Eastern Europe and Asia oering new infrastructure and competitive
pricing aect ski resorts in western-European countries. In addition, the tendency of mountainous
regions is observed to evolve from mass tourism to multi-niche tourism [19].
Both internal aspects (i.e., characteristics of the individual and personal motives) and external
aspects (characteristics of the destination) intervene in the choice of a ski resort, according to
Pearce and Schänzel (2013). The motives of the traveler and the perceived capacity of a resort
to satisfy previous expectations are variable strategies in the marketing of destinations [
17
].
Consequently, destination marketing and the promotion given to the activities which take place
at the ski resorts become a key attractor for tourists when choosing destinations.
Winter sports tourism takes place in a natural environment that, because of its characteristics,
requires high levels of investment in infrastructure and maintenance [
6
]. Resorts should also have
a strategy that considers sustainable forms of development that are both competitive and profitable [
31
].
These destinations have to listen to what the visitor says and be concerned with the long-term
sustainability of their surrounding environments [21,32].
The problem of seasonality and variability may also be added, given that the duration of the
season depends on climatic conditions. One way of mitigating the eects of seasonality is by oering
complementary alternative activities, whether sports-related (walking and mountain biking), cultural,
or gastronomic. Complementary oers may also be developed for the non-skier market (relaxation,
restaurants, apr
è
s ski activities, etc.) [
7
], as well as even for amateur photographers, and areas for
playing in the snow [33].
Ski resorts in both Spain and Italy have been selected for this study. In Spain, there are 30 ski
and mountain resorts aliated to Asociaci
ó
n Tur
í
stica de Estaciones de Esqu
í
y Montaña, (ATUDEM) [
34
],
a business association created in 1974. The ski resort sector moves over 5 million visitors, the great
majority of whom are sports men and women, and has a turnover in excess of 115 million Euros [
35
].
In Italy, there are 293 ski resorts where the importance of skiing makes it a good reference for
Spanish resorts. According to the Study Centre of the Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato e della
Piccola e Media Impresa (CNA) [
36
], the 2017 season yielded an income of some 10.6 thousand million
Euros. If we count hotels, direct services to tourism activities, and other hotel and catering-related
services, the number of visitors with respect to the previous season increased by 6.2%, reaching almost
11 million tourists.
2.1. Ski Resorts: Management Policies and Marketing
Studies predominate in the academic literature on the investigation of marketing at ski resorts that
take the perspective of skier into consideration, particularly the interest of the skier in the principal
attributes that a high-quality ski resort should have and their evaluation. A quantitative type of
methodology has been adopted in the majority of investigations, when analyzing the satisfaction and
quality of ski resorts from a marketing perspective (see Table 1).
The satisfaction of skiers depends on the fun factor, the transport, the employees, and the
lodgings [
1
]; ski-lifts, slopes quality, restaurants, equipment, and employees [
5
]; installations and
equipment, features of the mountains, resort services, restaurants, lodging and social activities,
and access [11].
Kyle et al. [
37
] demonstrated the positive eect of satisfaction on the loyalty of skiers.
Kaplanidou et al. [
38
] armed that the organization of sporting events is a variable that influences
future loyalty and attachment towards a destination, while “word of mouth” over social media
positively influenced the destination image, the attitudes, and the intentions of tourists to make and to
repeat a visit [39].
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 4 of 24
Table 1. Studies on the analysis of ski tourism and motives for the choice of ski resorts.
Authors/Year Country Data Analysis Conclusions
Richards (1996) [44] United Kingdom
Descriptive statistics and
bivariable analysis
The advanced/expert skiers are more critical of the quality
of ski-resort installations but pass more time at the
destination and use the resources with greater frequency.
The most important factor is snow quality.
Hudson and Shephard (1998) [42] Switzerland Focus group, in-depth
interviews, and IPA.
IPA provides a useful technique with which to evaluate
the attributes of the service in relation with ski resort
destinations. The authors identified 12 factors for the
evaluation of the services of tourism resort: Information
services, lodging; restaurants and bars at resorts; ski shops
and medical services; shops and supermarkets; other
resort services; ski slopes; on-slope services; characteristics
of other skiers; mountain restaurants outside tourism
centers, and tourism operator services.
Matzler and Siller (2003) [17] Germany
Descriptive analysis and
regression.
Importance–perception
matrix.
Winter tourists expressed greater satisfaction with the
resorts than summer tourists did. In addition, the
motivations of both are dierent, as the skiers take sport
and fun into account more than any other variables.
Godfrey (1999) [16]
United Kingdom/Canada
Descriptive analysis
The conditions of the quality of the snow and the variety
of slopes were the main factors in the choice of a ski resort
by each skier.
Ismert and Petrick (2004) [41] United States Logistic regression
Socialization (relations with companions and performance
and treatment from directors) were the main indicators of
quality for employees.
Clark and Maher (2007) [18] United States Logistic regression Trust, commitment, satisfaction, previous experience,
and perceived value predicted the loyalty of the skier.
Dickson and Faulks (2007) [16] Australia Content analysis
The people that indicated their intention of travelling
abroad to practice snow sports were, in their majority, men
with experience of snow sports, under 35 years old, with
a high educational level and income.
Matzler et al. (2008) [5]Austria, Germany, Italy,
and Switzerland Structural equations
The components of satisfaction were ski lifts, slopes
quality, oer of restaurants, equipment, and employees.
Age, sex, slopes diculty at the resort, and (new or
repeating) visits were all moderators of satisfaction.
Hwa-Ryong and Sung-Kyeom (2010) [43] South Korea IPA
The most important elements according to the matrix were
proximity of resort, skiing courses, availability of skiing
courses and type of ski lifts, tourism oer, lodging, skiing
and snowboard programs, and snow conditions.
Kyle, Theodorakis, Karageorgiou, and Lafazani
(2010) [37]Greece Structural equations
The quality of the resort services consisted of three
dimensions: Interaction, installations, and results.
Each dimension had a positive eect on skier loyalty
and satisfaction.
Konu, Laukkanen and Komppula (2011) [40] Finland Segmentation of
grouping
Six segments of dierent client-types were identified:
Passive tourists, cross-country skiers, beginners, Alpine
skiers, professional skiers, and people looking for
relaxation and mountain scenery.
Vassiliadis, Priporas and Andronikidis (2013) [45] Greece Time-Blocking Activity
Matrix (TBAM)
The TBAM is proposed as a strategic tool to structure
decision-making in the management of tourism.
Expenditure patterns in relation to specific blocks of time
related to preferential products and services and
their consumption.
Tjørve, Lien, and Flognfeldt (2015) [3] Norway Regressions
Ski resorts have no clear and defined marketing strategy.
Foreign skiing tourists are not very interested in other
snow-based activities or cultural attractions.
Komppula and Laukkanen (2016) [46] Finland
Content analysis and
analysis of variance
(ANOVA)
Four dierentiating factors were found for resort image:
Alpine skiing services, cross-country skiing services,
restaurants and social life, and spa services.
Miragaia, Conde and Soares (2016) [11] Portugal Cluster and factor
analysis and ANOVA
Five factors aect satisfaction: Installations and
equipment; features of the mountains; resort services;
restaurants, lodging and social activities; and access. No
gender dierences were observed, but dierences were
noted between the experience and motivation of the skier.
Hall, O’Mahony and Gayler (2017) [1] Australia Cluster analysis and
structural equations
Fun factor, transport, employees, and lodging were the
most important factors.
The choice of ski resorts is subject to the conditions of the snow and the variety of slopes [
16
], or in
the case of ski and snowboard tourists, safety and snow quality, the variety of slopes, and the o-piste
areas [
31
]. Dierent studies have centered on defining both the demographic and the psychographic
profiles of the skiers [31,40].
However, few studies have analyzed the opinions of other agents within the resorts, such as
directors, employees, and marketing professionals. Ismert and Petrick [
41
] analyzed the organizational
culture of the resorts, concluding that the employees valued socialization (relations with companions,
and performance and treatment of the directors) as the most important aspects for the proper
functioning of the firm. Tjørve, Lien and Flognfeldt [
3
] found that the marketing policies had little
impact among skiers.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 5 of 24
Hudson and Shephard [42] and Hwa-Ryong and Sung-Kyeom [43] analyzed ski resorts through
the importance–performance analysis (IPA). The skiers attached greater importance to information
services, lodging, ski shops, medical services, shops and supermarkets, ski slopes, ski-slope services,
tourism services operators, proximity of the resort, and types of ski-lifts. Matzler and Siller [
17
] applied
a variation known as the importance–perception matrix through which the principal motivations of
the skiers are established.
2.2. Skiing Stations and Use of Social Networks
The use of the Internet and virtual social media for the development of relations with clients and
users of firms has intensified over recent years [
47
], assuming a high profile, because they generate
real-time communication, cooperation, and geographical proximity [
48
]. Two social media networks
with the highest number of users, among both firms and individuals, are Facebook and Twitter [49].
Chen [
50
] demonstrated that the use of Twitter permits users to feel continually connected
and informed, while Zhang et al. [
51
] armed that the use of Facebook oers emotional support,
collective self-esteem, and amusement. Facebook is a platform that oers dierent tools to firms, so that
they are able to publicize their activities with actual and potential audiences, for which reason it plays
a very important role in marketing policies [52,53].
The literature highlights the role of the ‘brand’ community of a firm as a powerful influence on the
strength of the relations between the participants of the community and the firm [
54
]. The interaction
between members can help the followers of a brand to feel that they are active participants rather than
mere spectators or visitors to their installations [55].
The benefits of the use of social media have been demonstrated within the area of sports marketing.
Baena [
56
] showed that the traditional websites of football teams are no longer sucient, because the
interactive medium of a social media site favors choice and commitment towards the brand or the firm.
Ioakimidis [
57
], in an analysis of the accounts of professional sportspersons, showed improvements in
the relations with their followers. A website is an eective means for the marketing of organizations
that, if well-constructed (home page, content, use of advertisements, etc.), will help to form ties of
loyalty with the visitors [5860].
There are few studies that have analyzed the role and the results of the use of social media among
skiing resorts. Massa and Avesani [
61
] analyzed the Internet sites of skiing stations, to predict user
preferences in terms of the trust-related metrics that the users expressed. Gretzel et al. [
62
] discussed
the possibilities that the Internet can provide for the promotion of the various skiing destinations.
Other investigations detected weak exploitation of this instrument, revealing the need to reinforce
resources and not to overlook the opportunities provided by the ICTs [
6
]. It has been confirmed that
almost all ski resorts have their own websites, but a mere presence in the world of the Internet is not
a factor that is, in itself, sucient. It is necessary to create links with both consumers and users [
21
].
Social media networks contribute significant support to achieve such links [
63
]. Despite all of the
above, no analysis has yet been completed on the use of social media and skiing resorts, nor are there
studies of their impact on commitment towards clients and winning over new ones.
3. IPA (Importance–Performance Analysis)
The importance–performance analysis is a management tool that assumes a focus of expectations
and performance to measure the perceptions of quality that has been widely used in the
literature
[4,5,64,65]
. It is used to provide guidelines for strategic decision-making in marketing.
In the case of the skiing stations, Hudson and Shephard [
42
] considered it a very useful tool and
a decisive one for the planning of marketing. Hwa-Ryong and Sung-Kyeom [
43
] used it to analyze the
attributes of the seasons from the viewpoints of the visitors.
This matrix is used to evaluate the dierent characteristics of an organization (perceptions of
performance and the importance of results), so as to establish the strong points and the areas for
the improvement of an organization (perceptions of performance and importance of the results),
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 6 of 24
when comparing the importance that is given to each attribute with the assessment or performance
that is attributed to it. It has been used in dierent areas such as universities [
66
,
67
] and strategic city
planning [68].
In this investigation, it is the directors and representatives of the ski stations who have to assess
the importance and the performance of their resorts against the dierent aspects of the dimensions
of applied marketing, on the basis of the proposal of Kotler and Dubois [
20
]. The authors identified
six dimensions relating to the surrounding environment, strategy, organization, system, productivity,
and functions.
4. Methodology
4.1. Survey for the Application of the IPA
The IPA matrix is a basic diagnostic decision tool [
4
] that facilitates the identification of the
prioritization of improvements, the mobilization and deployment of scarce resources where they are
most needed [
69
], and the harmonization of strategic planning eorts to improve competitiveness [
70
].
In the tourism sector, IPA is considered a useful tool to examine customer satisfaction and management
strategies. This technique can help tourist companies to diagnose the underlying deficiencies and
establish priorities in the development of their activity [71].
There are many studies about theoretical and practical aspects of IPA that inform about how to
solve the key decisions: Use data-centered, scale-centered, and diagonal methods; how to interpret
the quadrants or choose the thresholds or the cross-hair points; how to measure importance (direct or
indirect); how to validate [7073].
In the application of the IPA matrix, the recommendations of the literature have been taken into
account [
70
74
]. These recommendations have been considered in both the process and conceptual
issues: Definition of importance, distinguished in the same quadrant, determination of a reference
criterion [71]. In summary, the process consists of the following steps:
Define the problem or challenge: Perform an internal marketing audit in the ski resort sector;
Specify the objective: From the practical and management point of view, know the strengths,
weaknesses, and deficits in the application of marketing in the ski sector, following the analysis of
the IPA quadrants. From the methodological point of view, the purpose is to try a new form of
validation: The application of the ROC curve (receiver operating characteristic);
Selection of items: The appropriate items had to be selected that covered the best possible
application of marketing to skiing resorts. Based on the proposal of Kotler and Dubois [
20
],
83 items were prepared and grouped into the six aforementioned dimensions. The items were
assessed by four marketing experts in the framework of the Delphi model. After the first assessment,
each expert had access to the average score of each item (on a scale from 1, of little importance, to 10,
very important), before moving on to the second vote. The items with the highest average scores for
importance and the lowest standard deviation were selected. Finally, the questionnaire was formed
of 32 items of the six aforementioned dimensions, which are listed in Appendix A. Unlike previous
literature focused on the evaluation of tourists (skiers) [
45
,
73
] where consumer satisfaction was
assessed through the IPA matrix, we analyze the adequacy of marketing management from the
point of view of managers. Therefore, it is expected that all the items result to be very important
and the dierence is the self-perceived deficit in the marketing application;
Measure: It was carried out obtaining direct data. All items were measured on a Likert scale
from 0 to 10 points. In order to do this, the indications of Alpert [
75
] and Bacon [
72
] were
followed. In according to these authors, direct measurements better reflect the attribute than
indirect methods. Direct gradings are more stable and valid, and better reflect the importance of
the attribute compared to indirect measures [70,76];
Validation: Through the application of the ROC curve, according to Server [
71
], it could provide
the criteria for an optimal categorization of the elements in the framework of IPA.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 7 of 24
The objective population (universe) were all Spanish and Italian ski resorts. All the Spanish Alpine
ski resorts, of which there are 30, were contacted via email; Although 293 Italian resorts were identified,
in many cases, they formed part of the same district, so altogether, a total of 122 surveys were sent out.
The Qualtrics platform was used for the (self-administered) application and management of the
questionnaire, sending out a hyperlink to the directors and technicians for the questionnaire to be
completed online. Various surveys were sent out during the months of November and December 2017,
and January 2018. In total, 29 responses were obtained, of which 8 were from Italian resorts.
The analysis of the items of the IPA matrix was done by applying non-parametric tests (Wilcoxon’s
test, Mann–Whitney test) for the separate items; thereby confirming whether there were significant
dierences between the importance and the performance attributed to each one.
Table 2shows the main descriptive data about ski resorts in Spain and Italy. Italians are bigger,
receive more visitors, and have more kilometers of skiing on average.
Table 2. Descriptive data of ski resorts.
Spain Italy
Mean Stand.Desv. Mean Stand.Desv.
Opening days 83.97 55.06 131.85 20.803
Total visitors 193,861 282,090 n.d. n.d.
Turnover 5,019,110 7,682,282 22,355,240 20,983,441
Kilometers of ski slopes 40.26 39.24 103.7 87.29
4.2. Study of Social Networks
It was decided to consider all the Spanish ski resorts and to choose the 20 most important Italian
resorts by numbers of visitors, touristic importance, and prestige of the destination where the ski resort
was found.
Two pages were used in the analysis of the social media that oered free data relating to position,
activity, relevance, etc. that the ski resorts obtained on their respective Facebook and Twitter pages.
The indicators are shown in Tables 5 and 6. The pages were LikeAlyzer for Facebook and Foller for
Twitter, both consulted during the month of November 2017.
Non-parametric tests and cluster analysis were used in the analysis of the social media data.
All analyses were done with the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 20 software package.
5. Results
5.1. Marketing Audit
Appendix Acontains the scores given by the directors of the ski resorts to both importance and
performance, and the dierences (or deficit) between importance and performance of each of the
32 items used to conduct the audit, which are shown in Figure 1. In the last column, the significance
level is shown of the dierence between importance and performance.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 8 of 24
Sustainability 2019, 11, x FOR PEER REVIEW 8 of 24
Figure 1. Importance–performance matrix.
First of all, according to the importance given by managers, a third of the characteristics
considered most important—with scores of 8.22 to 8.72 over 10 and an average score of 8.87
(Appendix A)—are related to the analysis of the environment (to know the opinion of their visitors,
to investigate the needs of the target public, and to respond to legislative change), the marketing
strategy (the Internet forms part of the strategy, and the competitive stance of the resort is known, as
are its threats and opportunities on which basis it defines its objectives and goals), the organization
of the marketing (defining the jobs with objectives, responsibilities and sufficient authority; existence
of good relations and communications between the marketing department and the others; and the
training of those involved in marketing) and the functions (availability of a well-positioned website
in the search engines; clear definitions of its service quality and its communications strategy both
online and offline).
With regard to the items that were given less importance, the lowest scores were for
productivity, strategy, functions, and marketing environment: Periodically studying the social
impact that its services provoked between the communities based around the ski resort; follow-up of
actions; availability of a manual of corporate identity; availability of information on objectives,
strategies, strengths, and weaknesses of other resorts; looking for sustainable alternatives; controlling
objectives; motivating employees, and periodic reviews of the cost of activities so that suitable
measures may be taken.
Secondly, with respect to adequacy and according to the directors, one third of the items that
presented better performance, in other words, what was done best (scores between 8.81 to 7.11 out of
10, where the highest average score of the top third was 7.56) was related to:
Environment: Considering the main economic events, looking for sustainable alternatives,
knowing the opinions of visitors, and knowing and responding rapidly to legislative changes;
Figure 1. Importance–performance matrix.
First of all, according to the importance given by managers, a third of the characteristics considered
most important—with scores of 8.22 to 8.72 over 10 and an average score of 8.87 (Appendix A)—are
related to the analysis of the environment (to know the opinion of their visitors, to investigate the
needs of the target public, and to respond to legislative change), the marketing strategy (the Internet
forms part of the strategy, and the competitive stance of the resort is known, as are its threats and
opportunities on which basis it defines its objectives and goals), the organization of the marketing
(defining the jobs with objectives, responsibilities and sucient authority; existence of good relations
and communications between the marketing department and the others; and the training of those
involved in marketing) and the functions (availability of a well-positioned website in the search engines;
clear definitions of its service quality and its communications strategy both online and oine).
With regard to the items that were given less importance, the lowest scores were for productivity,
strategy, functions, and marketing environment: Periodically studying the social impact that its
services provoked between the communities based around the ski resort; follow-up of actions;
availability of a manual of corporate identity; availability of information on objectives, strategies,
strengths, and weaknesses of other resorts; looking for sustainable alternatives; controlling objectives;
motivating employees, and periodic reviews of the cost of activities so that suitable measures may
be taken.
Secondly, with respect to adequacy and according to the directors, one third of the items that
presented better performance, in other words, what was done best (scores between 8.81 to 7.11 out of
10, where the highest average score of the top third was 7.56) was related to:
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 9 of 24
Environment: Considering the main economic events, looking for sustainable alternatives,
knowing the opinions of visitors, and knowing and responding rapidly to legislative changes;
Strategy: The Internet forms part of the marketing strategy of the station; knowing the competitive
position, threats, and opportunities;
Organization: Defining the jobs well, with objectives, responsibilities, and sucient authority,
existence of good relations between the marketing department and the others; and ensuring that
those participating in the marketing activities are properly trained in their roles:
Functions: Availability of a website that is well positioned among the search engines; and having
clearly defined their service quality strategy.
On the contrary, the following items in the one third of characteristics with the worst performance
or main weaknesses, with scores below 6.5 out of 10 and with an average score for the lower third of
6.32, may be highlighted as follows:
Marketing functions: Communication adapted to the concept of integrated marketing;
controlling the achievement of marketing objectives (oine and online); availability of an
internal communications system; performing direct marketing activities, online, and in databases;
periodic reviews of the eciency of tourism operators;
Organization: Employees who are motivated to achieve marketing objectives;
Strategy: Availability of a corporate identity manual;
Productivity: Periodically studying the social impact occasioned by resort services.
The scores for importance were always higher than for performance, with statistically significant
(or quasi-significant) dierences, with some exceptions (see Appendix A). Those exceptions were the
situations in which it may be considered that no deficits existed; in other words, the consideration of
performance was practically at the same level as that of importance. This balance is the case of six
items relating to strategy, environment, functions, and productivity (Appendix A): Taking into account
the principal economic events in their environment to take action; looking for sustainable alternatives
relating to environmental impact; knowing and responding rapidly to legislative changes; the mission
is clearly expressed, is feasible, and known by all members of the organization; periodic reviews of
marketing activities; the services present some added value that dierentiates them from other resorts.
The dierence between importance and performance yielded a measure of the deficits existing
in the management of marketing. The items of the dimensions of the environment and of marketing
organizations predominate both importance and performance in the one-third with the highest
scores. The contrary happens for the other dimensions, in particular for the systems and productivity.
Table 3shows the number of the items for the six dimensions (environment, strategy, system,
productivity, functions) that are among the upper third of scores of importance (+), in the central
third (=), and in the lower third (-); and the same was done for performance and for the dierence
between importance and performance. When distinguishing between importance and performance,
slight dierences were found in the items of the dimensions for both environment and strategy.
The greatest deficits, however, were found in the dimensions of the functions. In concrete,
those deficits were:
Functions: Adopt the concept of integrated marketing communication; conduct direct marketing
activities, online, and with databases; availability of a system of internal communication;
defining the communication objectives (on and oine); review the eciency of the tourism
operators and the internal communications system; clearly defining the quality strategy of
its services;
Environment: Annually investigate the needs of their objective public, gather the opinions of their
(real and potential) visitors;
Strategy: Look for new segments still unsatisfied or niche markets;
Organization: Motivate employees to achieve (the weakest) marketing objectives;
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 10 of 24
Systems: Control the achievement of marketing objectives (oine and online).
Table 3.
Distribution of the items of each dimension that are in the one-third with the highest (+),
the intermediate (=), and the lowest () blocks.
Blocks Num. Items Importance Performance Dierences
+ = + = + =
Environment 7 3 2 2 4 2 1 2 2 3
Strategy 8 2 3 3 2 4 2 1 3 4
Organization 4 3 1 3 1 1 3
System 2 1 1 1 1 1 1
Productivity 3 1 2 2 1 2 1
Functions 8 3 3 2 2 1 5 6 2
Total 32 11 10 11 11 10 11 11 10 11
After describing the results referring to importance, adequacy, and deficits, the IPA matrix has
been carried out. The process is the one detailed below, following the criteria recommended in the
previous literature on the application of IPA in the tourism sector [71,73,74]:
The average values of performance, importance, and their dierence are calculated. The dierence
is a measure of the self-perceived deficit in the application of marketing management to the
ski resorts;
When it comes to applying the IPA to consumer satisfaction, according to the theory of
disconfirmation, if the performance–importance dierence is zero or positive there is satisfaction,
while there will be dissatisfaction if it is negative. In the current case, a zero or a positive dierence
is considered a sucient application of marketing management, while if it is negative, it will be
a poor application;
The performance–importance thresholds (or crossing point) are identified to delimit the quadrants
and to identify which items are in each one. To do this, we calculate the probability (sensitivity) that
a great dierence between performance–importance (a great deficit) is considered as a weakness
or insucient application of that characteristic. The probability (specificity) that a small dierence
is not considered a weakness is also obtained; in other words, a sucient application is considered.
The ROC curve oers information for all combinations of sensitivity and specificity. The closer you
are to the diagonal, the less suitable the combination is; the farther you go, the more appropriate;
Validation by measuring the power of discrimination of the ROC curve and the Youden test [
77
].
The power of discrimination of the ROC curve is the area under the ROC curve (AUC); in other
words, the probability that the value of the diagnosis is greater than that randomly selected with
a positive result rather than with a negative result. The value of 0.5 means that accuracy is equal
to a random chance, while the value of 1 means higher accuracy. In our case, the performance has
an AUC value of 0.79 (0.00), which is fair. According to importance, the discriminatory power is
poor (0.51): Managers do not discriminate a lot in terms of the importance of the selected items.
Youden’s test provides a measurement of importance considering sensitivity and specificity for
every point of the ROC curve. Youden’s test is equal to sensitivity plus specificity minus 1.
The point to choose is the higher one. Table 4shows how to obtain the values of Youden’s test
for performance. The highest value for performance of the Youden’s test is 6.85. Doing the same
for importance, it obtains the highest value for importance in this test at 7.69. These values do not
dier much from the average values for performance (6.96) and importance (7.88).
Representation (Figure 1). The discriminating thresholds are the highest values of performance
and importance for the test of Youden. These values are used to identify the cut-o. In the analysis
of the resulting quadrants of the IPA matrix, it is possible to check those aspects that are carried
out properly in the sector of the ski resorts, as well as those with notable deficiencies.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 11 of 24
Table 4. Youden’s test for performance.
Positive if Less than or Equal to Sensitivity 1—Specificity Youden’s Test
4.96 0.00 0.00 0.00
5.98 0.07 0.00 0.07
6.03 0.14 0.00 0.14
6.11 0.21 0.00 0.21
6.17 0.29 0.00 0.29
6.205 0.36 0.00 0.36
6.33 0.43 0.00 0.43
6.44 0.50 0.00 0.50
6.5 0.50 0.06 0.44
6.58 0.50 0.11 0.39
6.73 0.57 0.11 0.46
6.85 0.64 0.11 0.53
6.91 0.64 0.17 0.48
6.98 0.64 0.28 0.37
7.01 0.71 0.44 0.27
7.05 0.79 0.44 0.34
7.09 0.79 0.56 0.23
7.12 0.86 0.56 0.30
7.25 0.86 0.61 0.25
7.39 0.93 0.61 0.32
7.42 0.93 0.67 0.26
7.44 0.93 0.72 0.21
7.52 1.00 0.72 0.28
7.61 1.00 0.78 0.22
7.64 1.00 0.83 0.17
7.83 1.00 0.89 0.11
8.15 1.00 0.94 0.06
9.31 1.00 1.00 0.00
Five aspects are performed especially well in the sector (those items belonging to the blue
circle): availability of a coherent and feasible marketing plan; clearly defined service quality strategy;
annual investigation of the public target’s needs of the ski resort; existence of good relations and
communications between the marketing department and the other departments; and the ski resort
knows the opinion of its (real and potential) visitors. What the ski resorts do best is related to the
environment, although aspects related to sustainability do not stand out. It highlights the fact that no
aspects related to the dimensions of marketing systems and productivity are among the best.
By contrast, the aspects of marketing with the most deficient application in the ski resorts are:
Employees are motivated to achieve the marketing objectives; communications are adapted to the
concept of integrated marketing communication; ski resort has a system of internal communication;
ski resort performs direct marketing, online marketing, and database marketing activities; ski resort
defines and is clear with regards to its online and oine communications objectives (publicity
and promotion); and the ski resort looks for new unsatisfied segments and market niches.
Therefore, the biggest deficiencies are related to the dimension of marketing functions.
The matrix also helps to detect those aspects to which the sector grants a lower priority (green
circle). They are the following: Ski resort periodically studies the social impact of its services;
availability of a manual on corporate identity; the mission is clearly expressed, is feasible, and known
to all members of the organization; and the ski resort knows its competitive position and its threats and
opportunities, in order to define objectives. In this case, they are the elements (three of them) related to
the strategy dimension.
Therefore, it can be concluded that those that perform best relate to the environment, while the
greatest deficiencies are found in the functions. That which is not paid special attention or priority is
related to the marketing strategy.
Finally, analyzing the dierences between Italy and Spain, there is a high coincidence when
evaluating the items of both performance and importance among the managers of the ski resorts from
the two countries. Only the Mann–Whitney test uncovered dierences with regards to performance in
availability of corporate identity manual and use of web analytics tools, with higher scores in Spain in
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 12 of 24
both cases. The Italians related better performance with a marketing strategy that took into account
the proper tourist load for the ski resort.
With regards to the scores for importance, the strategy of promoting good relations with stakeholder
groups was scored more highly in Spain.
5.2. Social Network Analysis
The first point that was confirmed in the analysis of behavioral patterns on social media was
in regard to Twitter, with which all the resorts that were selected have an account. There were no
significative dierences between both countries in the majority of indicators on Twitter (Table 5). It was
notable that the ski resorts in Spain surpassed those of Italy in terms of tweets, followers, following,
followers per following, replies, listed, and tweets with links. The opposite was true for tweets with
mentions, tweets with hashtags, retweets, and tweets with media. However, significant dierences
only occurred with tweets and followers and listed, which were always greater in Spain.
Table 5. Average values of indicators on Twitter for the Spanish and the Italian ski resorts.
Indicator Description Spain Italy Significance Level
Tweets Number of tweets 3865.85 3363.53 0.022
Followers Number of followers 6929.32 4464.80 0.050
Following Number of followed 275.21 265.27 Insig.
Followers per following Followers per following 28.37 4.88 Insig.
Listed Number of searches via lists 109.50 67.07 0.050
Replies Number of responses over 100 5.29 4.93 Insig.
Tweets with @mentions Tweets with mentions over 100 32.71 51.00 Insig.
Tweets with #hashtags Tweets with hashtags over 100 37.26 57.00 Insig.
Retweets Number of retweets over 100 18.94 32.67 Insig.
Tweets with links Tweets with links over 100 64.62 56.60 Insig.
Tweets with media Tweets with multimedia over 100 19.00 26.80 Insig.
Source: Foller. Significance level for the Mann–Whitney U test of dierences.
With regarda to Facebook, the Italian ski resorts were much more dynamic in relation to practically
all the indicators, with two exceptions: Notes and average post length (Table 6). There were statistically
significative dierences (in the Mann–Whitney test) for about, response,total Page likes, and native
Facebook videos, with greater activity at the Italian ski resorts in all cases.
Table 6. Average values of indicators on Facebook for the Spanish and the Italian ski resorts.
Indicator Description Spain Italy Significance Level
Frontpage Visits to Frontpage 0.917 0.981 Insig.
About Additional information 0.770 0.831 0.07
Activity Percentage activity of the page 0.538 0.697 Insig.
Response Number of responses 0.384 0.475 0.08
Photos Percentage of photographs 0.546 0.728 Insig.
Videos Percentage of notes 0.218 0.122 Insig.
Notes Percentage of videos 0.114 0.160 Insig.
People talking about this
People posting comments on the page
782.50 3100.35 Insig.
Total Page likes Total “likes” received 22,434.72 40,797.90 0.048
Engagement rate Implication 0.026 0.502 Insig.
Posts per day Daily posts 0.361 1.485 Insig.
Average post length Average length of post 226.97 206.2 Insig.
Events Events created 1.39 5.95 Insig.
Pages liked Number of likes received 33.92 52.45 Insig.
Facebook native videos Videos posted on the page 5.25 9.4 0.07
Source: LikeAlyzer. Significance level for the Mann–Whitney U test of dierences.
In Tables 7and 8, the results of the Pearson’s correlation analysis between the indicators of
social networks and the main descriptive indicators of the ski resorts (opening days, total visitors,
kilometers of ski slopes, and turnover) are shown. With regard to Twitter, there is a positive correlation
in several cases. Open days correlate with number of tweets, listed, tweets with mentions, and tweets
with hashtags. Open days denote more activity but links, multimedia, or more followers do not.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 13 of 24
The total number of visitors to the ski resorts is correlated with tweets, followers, following (incorporates
social mass), listed, and tweets with hashtags. Kilometers of slopes do not provide new information to
the previous results. It is correlated with tweets and tweets with hashtags. Finally, the turnover only
correlates with the number of following.
Table 7. Correlation between Twitter indicators and descriptive data of ski resorts.
Opening Days Total Visitors Kilometers of Ski Slopes Turnover
Number of tweets 0.41 ** 0.64 ** 0.41 * 0.18
Followers 0.24 0.83 ** 0.18 0.21
Following 0.25 0.39 * 0.23 0.49 **
Followers per following 0.12 0.02 0.17 0.17
Listed 0.31 * 0.87 ** 0.21 0.22
Number of responses over 100 0.22 0.38 0.20 0.01
Tweets with mentions over 100 0.37 * 0.08 0.27 0.23
Tweets with hashtags over 100 0.577 ** 0.56 ** 0.53 ** 0.27
Number of retweets over 100 0.24 0.04 0.13 0.27
Tweets with links over 100 0.13 0.08 0.11 0.08
Tweets with multimedia over 100 0.11 0.11 0.15 0.18
** Significance level of 0.01. * Significance level of 0.05.
Table 8. Correlation between Facebook indicators and descriptive data of ski resorts.
Opening Days Total Visitors Kilometers of Ski Slopes Turnover
Frontpage 0.18 0.19 0.25 0.23
Additional information 0.15 0.13 0.16 0.27
Percentage activity of the page 0.38 ** 0.45 * 0.32 * 0.34 *
Number of responses 0.18 0.09 0.21 0.02
Percentage of photographs 0.02 0.02 0.11 0.31 *
Percentage of notes 0.07 0.02 0.09 0.24
Percentage of videos 0.29 * 0.24 0.17 0.04
People posting comments on the page
0.38 ** 0.73 ** 0.54 ** 0.41 **
Total “likes” received 0.27 0.87 ** 0.69 ** 0.48 **
Implication–engagement rate 0.15 0.32 0.06 0.02
Daily posts 0.29 * 0.17 0.40 ** 0.24
Average length of post 0.05 0.10 0.05 0.01
Events created 0.26 0.80 ** 0.50 ** 0.61 **
Number of likes received 0.24 0.61 ** 0.42 ** 0.30 *
Videos posted on the page 0.25 0.468 * 0.44 ** 0.14
** Significance level of 0.01. * Significance level of 0.05.
With regards to Facebook, it is interesting that three indicators (activity, people posting comments
on the page, and total page likes) are correlated with the four indicators of ski resorts. Turnover has
also a great number of correlations. Apart from the three mentioned, it has correlations with percentage
of photographs and events created. Strong correlations occur with the descriptive indicator of open
days. The activity on Facebook has more to do with the volume and business characteristics of the ski
resorts than the Twitter indicators, in particular regarding turnover.
5.3. Ski Resort Clusters by Twitter and Facebook Indicators
The values related to the behavioral patterns of the ski resorts on the two social media networks
were normalized, to identify clusters of ski resorts. After applying dierent procedures of hierarchical
grouping, such as the Ward and the complete linkage method, with dierent distance factors, it was
concluded that the most appropriate grouping was the one formed by four groups. Having decided on
the number of groups, the k-means cluster analysis option was performed, yielding the results that are
commented on below (Table 9).
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 14 of 24
Table 9. Clusters identified by indicators on Twitter and Facebook. Normalized values.
Cluster Average Profile Inactive Leader Aversion to Twitter
Tweets 1.285 0.772 2.457 1.008
Followers 0.178 0.498 6.188 0.449
Following 2.289 0.775 0.846 0.360
Followers per following 0.197 1.207 0.542 0.139
Listed 0.543 0.931 4.048 0.942
Replies 0.982 0.982 0.908 0.415
Tweets with mentions 0.672 1.371 0.148 0.148
Tweets with hashtags 0.506 1.275 0.902 0.167
Retweets 0.355 0.964 0.395 0.395
Tweets with links 0.894 0.366 0.440 0.114
Tweets with media 0.281 1.207 0.210 1.245
Frontpage 0.380 4.481 0.380 0.380
About 0.931 4.216 0.437 0.437
Activity 0.972 2.324 0.972 0.139
Response 0.202 1.593 1.593 0.202
Photos 0.381 2.198 0.344 0.492
Notes 0.543 0.869 0.590 0.683
Videos 0.134 1.186 1.014 0.486
People talking about this 0.155 0.528 3.658 3.806
Total page likes 1.456 0.804 2.990 0.325
Engagement rates 0.161 0.188 0.106 0.111
Posts per day 0.080 0.564 0.207 5.879
Average post length 0.821 1.540 0.081 0.298
Events 3.363 0.492 3.363 0.492
Pages liked 1.418 1.069 1.418 0.770
Facebook native videos 1.469 0.883 1.841 0.850
Bold
: Highest values between the dierent clusters. Italic: Lowest values between the dierent clusters.
Shaded : No significant dierences.
Cluster 1: Average profile on social media
This cluster was formed of ski resorts that are neither prominent, because of their activity either on
Twitter or on Facebook, nor stand out, nor have the lowest level of activity on social media. They only
stand out because of frontpage and about in Facebook. It comprises the great majority (34) of the ski
resorts and represents an intermediary profile in the use of social networks.
Cluster 2: Inactive on social networks
This cluster has the fewest indicators on both social media networks. The ski resorts in it had the
lowest values in 19 of the 26 indicators, only standing out because of the high number of followers per
following on Twitter and notes on Facebook. The least active resorts on both Twitter and Facebook
topped the list. This group was formed of eight ski resorts, of which the seven Spanish ones were the
least active. Among those resorts, we may mention the following: Port Ain
é
, Valdezcaray, San Isidro,
Astún, Navacerrada, La Pinilla, and Vigo di Fassa.
Cluster 3: Most active on social media networks
This cluster has the highest activity both on Twitter and on Facebook. It presented the highest
indicators for both networks: On Twitter, it had the highest score for 6 of the 11 indicators. The single
resort in this cluster had the most tweets, the most followers, the most searches via lists (referred to as
listed), replies, and tweets with links, while its own accounts followed others less than any other to the
Twitter accounts. It is the leading Twitter account in the universe under analysis and corresponds to the
ski resort of Sierra Nevada. Something similar was found on Facebook, where it especially stands out
on videos, people talking about this, total page likes, events, pages liked, and Facebook native videos.
Cluster 4: Aversion to Twitter
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 15 of 24
These resorts show very little activity on Twitter but are moderately active on Facebook. They are
the resorts with the fewest tweets, the fewest followers, and the fewest followers per following.
Nevertheless, they head the list of tweets with mentions and retweets. The high number of responses,
photos, posts per day, and average post length may note their greatest activity on Facebook. The other
indicators of the cluster usually left it in second position. The Italian ski resorts that stood out in this
cluster were as follows: Madonna di Campiglio and Monterosa Gressoney marked by their preference
to use Facebook and their non-use of Twitter.
The most similar clusters were 1 and 4, while the most dierent clusters were 2 and 3.
We have analyzed the possible dierences between the clusters in relation to the four descriptive
indicators of the ski stations. The non-parametric Kruskal–Wallis test shows that there are only
dierences between the clusters for the variable “open days” (p=0.02). Sierra Nevada is the ski station
with the greatest number of opening days, and it stands out in the cluster “active in social media” (3).
Opening days is the variable that makes the dierence in the social networks’ activity of the ski stations.
6. Discussion
Tourism is a very dynamic sector with strong growth. Sport represents an activity that is practiced
in an increasingly significant manner. The segment of sports tourism is of great social and economic
impact. Tourism linked to the practice of skiing involves some 80 countries with approximately
400 million annual visiting skiers [78].
The management of ski resorts has its peculiarities and, in particular, the marketing of ski resorts.
The existing literature has centered on studies of motivations for the choice of resort and satisfaction
with the experience of the visit. There are no studies on the assessments of ski-resort directors with
regards to the performance and the importance of the marketing dimensions of their resorts.
A methodology based on the IPA with a list of items to conduct this type of marketing audit of ski
stations has been used to analyze the responses of ski-resort directors, in both Spain and Italy, to the
survey. From the results, the following may be deduced.
IPA is a widely used tool in the tourism sector, useful for evaluating the service of tourism
companies [71,79] and, specifically, ski resorts [42,43].
Among the results, the importance of online management has been proven. The use of the Internet
as a source of information and interaction with visitors was confirmed as a fundamental aspect to
highlight among the tasks of ski-resorts [
62
]. The information that users can accumulate and/or consult
on their mobile phones is larger and larger. In addition, technological development makes it possible
to personalize the services that are on oer in accordance with the characteristics of the consumers and
the collection of valuable information in the form of big data [80].
The above is connected with the need to be consumer oriented and to know your consumer,
in order to dierentiate the oer of the resort [
14
]. Well-defined positions of employment are
important for successful marketing and, in agreement with [
41
], good relations with other departments.
The attributes that stand out among the most important ones have to do with the surrounding
environment, organization, and functions.
The lack of importance given to relations with members of its microenvironment
(mainly, the operators) stands out. However, according to Zehrer and Hallmann [
81
],
collaboration between the dierent stakeholders (community, suppliers, tourism operators, visitors,
etc.) is decisive.
The literature on studies of social media at ski resorts is very limited. No references were found
that identified typologies of behavior at the ski resorts with the detail that has been presented in this
paper, through 11 indicators from Twitter and 15 from Facebook.
The recommendations at which we arrive from this study is the need to implement marketing
planning from preparatory research (incorporating web analytics) up to implementation (in marketing
activities, and specifically digital marketing actions, and the integration of communication actions)
and, of course, follow up and control of objectives and costs. This planning should be sensitive and
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 16 of 24
coordinated with impact studies on the ski resorts, reviewing and analyzing the tourist load, and the
needs of their visitors. Communications with stakeholders should be meticulous with integrated
and coordinated (online and oine) actions. Finally, another recommendation is to establish training
and motivation plans for personnel that develop marketing activities, always from the perspective
of ethical marketing and macro-marketing. In short, this study can serve to establish priorities and
a working method for the improvement of the implementation of marketing at ski resorts.
In short, from the analysis, the direct implication for management is the need to improve the
orientation toward a marketing application in a responsible manner in all its dimensions, from how
a marketing strategy is formulated taking into account the environment, to how to involve the
employees. It is necessary to implement actions aimed at finding the expectations of the stakeholders,
including sustainable development and management to maintain the attractiveness of the stations.
The typologies of behavior on Twitter and Facebook provide the possibility of benchmarking for
comparisons between the profiles or clusters and social media activity, especially to draw comparisons
with the leading or most active ski resorts. One fundamental implication is to adopt an active behavior
towards social media and with the followers, as there is a direct relation with the performance indicators
of the resort.
As with all investigations, the present one also presents limitations. In the first place, the size of the
sample for the marketing audit was reduced. Nevertheless, large sizes are not essential for this type of
study consisting in positioning items, in order to arrive at an acceptable diagnosis. Moreover, only two
social media networks and certain indicators have been considered in the analysis. Those two social
media are the most widely used and the conclusions that we have advanced are conditioned by
those limitations.
7. Conclusions
The main purpose of this work is to know the perception that the managers have about
the application of marketing management at their ski resorts. To do this, an internal marketing
audit is carried out, applying the importance–performance analysis, incorporating methodological
innovations. In particular, the ROC (receiver operating characteristic) curve is used to find the optimal
location of discriminating thresholds. This identifies what is done better and what is done worse.
Respectively, the following have been achieved:
7.1. Conclusions about Marketing Audit
The Most and the Least Important Aspects of Ski-Resort Marketing
The directors considered that both the opinions and the needs of the visitors were of the
greatest importance, as was responding to legislative changes. They also considered it important
to use the Internet in their strategies and to know their competitive positions and possible threats
and opportunities. With regard to the organization, they highlighted the importance of defining
their jobs and their characteristics, the relations between the marketing department and the others,
and the training of marketing personnel. Finally, with regard to functions, the importance given to
a well-positioned web site was high on the list, as were service-quality orientation, and both online
and oine communications. Tracking the activities of other ski resorts or the implementation of
a resort’s own marketing and communication activities were not among the priorities. This situation
confirms why the questions of tracking the activities of other ski resorts, periodically studying the
social impact of the resort, and the availability of a clear, well-defined, and well-known mission
statement are all among the questions considered of least importance. Among those questions are the
availability of a corporate identity manual, cost reviews, controlling the achievement of objectives,
employer motivation, having integrated marketing communications, and relations with co-workers.
It should be mentioned that looking for sustainable alternatives is not among the priorities.
There is no clear orientation towards sustainable management or interest in social impact. For this
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 17 of 24
reason, it is important to promote the awareness of sustainable development and management of ski
resorts to maintain their attractiveness, as well as to be aware that overexploitation can downplay
interest in the station.
The Best and the Worst Marketing Performance at the Ski-Resorts
At all times from the perspective of the directors of the ski-resorts, the factors that achieved
a higher level of implementation were: The use of the Internet in the strategy and the availability of
a well-positioned web; responding to legislative changes; monitoring economic changes in the local
environment; knowing their position in relation to the other resorts, and the opinions of their visitors;
well-defined marketing jobs and solid training; good relations between the marketing department and
other departments; and a clear service orientation.
At the other extreme is the definition of objectives and their follow-up (referring to communication,
the search for new segments, tracking other ski resorts, controlling the achievement of marketing
objectives, social impact studies of their services); communications and marketing actions (availability
of a manual on corporate identity, an internal communications system, carrying out direct marketing
activities from databases or online, adopting integrated communications), and relations (review the
eciency of tour operators).
In general, the dimensions of the environment and the organization were considered to lead to
higher performance levels than the functional dimensions, above all those connected with tracking
and control.
The Weaknesses of Marketing at Ski-Resorts
The greatest dierences between importance and performance are the key deficits, or,
expressed otherwise, the weaknesses in the very important questions. The greatest deficits arise
principally in relation to the functions and have to do with:
Employees: Need for motivation to achieve objectives;
Market research: Research the needs of the target public; look for unexplored market segments or
new market niches; deeper knowledge of the opinions of (real and potential) visitors;
Communications: No adaptation to integrated marketing communications, no availability of and
internal communications system, improvement of online and oine communications objectives;
Activities to implement and relations: Database marketing activities, online, and direct;
reviewing the eciency of the tourism operators with which the resort collaborates; definition of
a service quality strategy;
Controlling objectives: Both for online and for oine marketing.
The greatest deficits were linked to employee motivation and communication.
Finally, there were, in general, no dierences between the scores of the directors by country.
The dierences between the 32 items were all exceptions.
7.2. Patterns of Behavior on Social Media of Ski Resorts
The social media profiles of the Spanish and the Italian ski resorts have presented dierences.
Those of Italy were more active, had a more proactive behavior on Facebook, which was adapted
largely to their communications strategy. These dierences were significant for the following indicators:
About, response, total page likes, and native Facebook videos. The resorts from both countries
showed a similar behavior on Twitter, although the Italians had more following, tweets with mentions,
and hashtags. The Spanish resorts, in this case with statistically significant dierences, had more
tweets, followers, and listed.
Four behavioral typologies were identified in these social media networks, which were average
profile, inactive social media, leader, and aversion to Twitter. The Spanish ski resort of Sierra Nevada
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 18 of 24
was the most active one, while the Italian resorts had a higher number in the group of aversion to
Twitter. The Italians were more active on Facebook.
Author Contributions: T.L.M., L.D.T. and N.F. contributed equally to this work.
Funding: This research received no external funding.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 19 of 24
Appendix A
Table A1.
Importance–performance scores. Dierences between importance and performance and significance level of the Wilkinson’s test for dierences between
importance and performance.
List of items
Importance I Performance P I-P Sig. Level
Wilcoxon Test for
Dierence
Avg. Std.
Dev. Avg. Std.
Dev.
Marketing Environment
The ski resort takes into account and takes action on the main
economic events in its environment 7.72 1.73 7.14 2.279 0.31 0.153
The ski resort looks for sustainable alternatives related to
environmental impact 7.59 2.062 7.03 2.195 0.45 0.221
Annual investigation of the needs of the target public of the ski resort
8.31 2.316 7.45 1.682 1.28 0.002
The ski resort knows the opinion of its (real and potential) visitors 8.52 1.805 6.55 2.063 1.07 0.014
Availability of information on objectives, strategies, strengths and
weaknesses of other ski resorts 7.31 1.984 8.00 1.464 0.76 0.059
The ski resort is aware of and rapidly responds to legislative changes
that may aect it 8.28 1.533 7.07 1.534 0.28 0.297
The ski resort takes into account the main technological changes of
its environment 7.86 1.62 6.86 1.959 0.79 0.029
Marketing Strategy
The mission is clearly expressed, is feasible and known to all
members of the organization 7.48 2.246 6.86 1.959 0.62 0.165
Availability of a coherent and feasible marketing plan 8.03 2.368 7.00 2.252 1.03 0.007
The marketing strategy takes into account a realistic tourism load for
the ski resort 7.69 2.173 7.00 2.138 0.69 0.048
The ski resort looks for new unsatisfied segments and market niches
7.69 2.316 6.62 2.259 1.07 0.003
Availability of a manual on corporate identity 7.28 2.658 6.45 3.019 0.83 0.077
The strategy of the ski resort promotes good relations with its
stakeholder groups 7.93 1.907 7.07 1.771 0.86 0.001
Internet forms part of the marketing strategy of the ski resort 8.72 1.334 8.31 1.65 0.41 0.068
The ski resort knows its competitive position and its threats and
opportunities, in order to define objectives 8.31 1.391 7.66 1.587 0.65 0.008
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 20 of 24
Table A1. Cont.
List of items
Importance I Performance P I-P Sig. Level
Wilcoxon Test for
Dierence
Avg. Std.
Dev. Avg. Std.
Dev.
Marketing Environment
Marketing Organization
Well-defined jobs with objectives, responsibilities, and authority for
their development 8.41 1.575 7.59 1.693 0.82 0.007
Good relations and communications between the marketing
department and the other departments 8.37 1.668 7.37 2.097 1 0.016
Participants in marketing activities are properly trained 8.30 1.436 7.44 1.672 0.86 0.022
The employees are motivated to achieve the marketing objectives 7.67 2.148 6.00 2.253 1.67 0.002
Marketing Systems
The ski resort monitors the achievement of (o-line and on-line)
marketing objectives and evaluates the deviations 7.59 2.341 6.22 2.455 1.37 0.001
The ski resort uses web analytics tools 7.70 2.145 7.00 2.075 0.70 0.046
Marketing Productivity
The ski resort periodically studies the social impact of its services 7.04 2.394 6.07 2.745 0.97 0.007
The ski resort shares programmes through collaborative agreements
with other institutions 7.78 1.739 6.96 1.99 0.82 0.014
The cost of the marketing activities is periodically revised and
suitable measures are taken 7.41 2.606 6.96 2.295 0.45 0.149
Marketing Functions
Availability of a well-positioned web site in the search engines 8.37 1.668 7.63 1.597 0.74 0.017
Clearly defined service quality strategy 8.30 1.589 7.11 1.867 1.19 0.004
The ski resort has a system of internal communication 7.89 1.695 6.44 1.987 1.45 0.001
The ski resort defines and is clear with regard to its on-line and
o-line communications objectives (publicity and promotion) 8.22 2.044 6.85 2.196 1.37 0.002
The services present some added value that dierentiates it from
other ski resorts 7.70 2.431 7.00 2.496 0.70 0.128
The ski resort periodically reviews the ecacy of the tourist
operators and commercial companies with which it works 7.41 2.664 6.19 2.617 1.22 0.003
The ski resort performs direct marketing, online marketing,
and database marketing activities 7.70 2.163 6.15 2.445 1.55 0.001
Communications are adapted to the concept of integrated marketing
communication 7.56 2.694 5.96 2.519 1.60 0.000
Sustainability 2019,11, 2868 21 of 24
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