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Destination Image of DMO and UGC on Instagram: A Machine-Learning Approach

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Social media plays a key role in shaping the image of a destination. Although recent research has investigated factors influencing online users’ perception towards destination image, limited studies encompass and compare social media content shared by tourists and destination management organisations (DMOs) at the same time. This paper aims to determine whether the projected image of DMOs corresponds with the destination image perceived by tourists. By taking the Austrian Alpine resort Saalbach-Hinterglemm as a case, a netnographic approach was applied to analyse the visual and textual posts of DMO and user-generated content (UGC) on Instagram using machine learning. The findings reveal themes that are not covered in the posts published by marketers but do appear in UGC. This study adds to the existing literature by providing a deeper insight into destination image formation and uses a qualitative approach to assess destination brand image. It further highlights practical implications for the industry regarding DMOs’ social media marketing strategy.
... Consequently, tourists' time and energy will be reflected in a rather complex buying behavior [120], where the information collection (quality, amount, and sources of information) and review play a critical part [101,119,120]. In this information-intensive industry, the traditional information sources have been substituted over the past two decades by the emerging and proliferation of ICTs (information and communication technologies), travel websites and social media platforms, revolutionizing the tourists' travel planning process [101,[120][121][122][123][124]. As social media have developed into the most abundant, diverse, interactive, and powerful source of online information, exhibiting a higher level of reliability [100,120,124,125] than the fully paid marketing communication channels [101], tourists widely use it in the pre-visiting selection stage, to search for destinations, accommodation, dining places and other facilities, leisure and entertainment activities, transportation [100,101,104,119,120,123,124,126,127]. ...
... In this information-intensive industry, the traditional information sources have been substituted over the past two decades by the emerging and proliferation of ICTs (information and communication technologies), travel websites and social media platforms, revolutionizing the tourists' travel planning process [101,[120][121][122][123][124]. As social media have developed into the most abundant, diverse, interactive, and powerful source of online information, exhibiting a higher level of reliability [100,120,124,125] than the fully paid marketing communication channels [101], tourists widely use it in the pre-visiting selection stage, to search for destinations, accommodation, dining places and other facilities, leisure and entertainment activities, transportation [100,101,104,119,120,123,124,126,127]. Furthermore, extant research provides some evidence to support the influence of social media information and information source on the formation process of cognitive, affective, and overall destination image, with an effect on destination selection [100,101,104,123]. ...
... As social media have developed into the most abundant, diverse, interactive, and powerful source of online information, exhibiting a higher level of reliability [100,120,124,125] than the fully paid marketing communication channels [101], tourists widely use it in the pre-visiting selection stage, to search for destinations, accommodation, dining places and other facilities, leisure and entertainment activities, transportation [100,101,104,119,120,123,124,126,127]. Furthermore, extant research provides some evidence to support the influence of social media information and information source on the formation process of cognitive, affective, and overall destination image, with an effect on destination selection [100,101,104,123]. ...
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Rapid population expansion and poorly managed economic growth, unprecedented anthropogenic climate changes, non-renewable natural resources depletion, environmental pollution, social inequity, and loss of cultural integrity generate a global context that calls for urgent adoption of a sustainable development approach in major industries, including tourism. Sustainable tourism development requires the mobilization of tourism stakeholders at all levels and on the demand side through actions related to the travel decision-making process. To stimulate attitude formation and adoption of sustainable tourist behaviors, Destination Management Organizations (DMOs)—the main organizations responsible for sustainable destination development—need to adopt sustainable-oriented communication actions when building the destination image. As tourism stakeholders’ perspective is under-investigated for destination image projection and communication, this paper aimed at assessing the integration of sustainable tourism principles in the promotion of destinations by DMOs; the focus was placed on video advertisements posted on the primary online source of tourism information, social media. Through a content analysis of DMOs’ social media advertisements for the 50 most visited cities in the world, the current study revealed that elements covering all three dimensions of sustainability (economic, socio-cultural, natural) were featured in the commercial discourse, but not in a sustainable explicit standpoint. Besides, the content sporadically reflected sustainable governmental initiatives and projected responsible tourist behavior, while it lacked specific sustainable tourism-related terms. Moreover, several highly popular cities did not have promotional videos. The paper contributes to the body of knowledge on destination image formation by providing evidence from the supply’s side along with an original content analysis grid which can be used to capture and evaluate the sustainable tourism dimensions as portrayed in advertising videos of cities. Additionally, it offers practical implications for DMOs’ marketing communication strategies.
... Thus, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Twitter influence destination image and, consequently, the development and management of destinations with strong social media profiles (Huerta-Álvarez et al., 2020). Existing studies have not yet explored this co-creation of the destination from a multi-dimensional perspective (Egger et al., 2022). Thus, this study understands how RTOs, tourists, and residents may communicate differently and project the destination image with potential differences, if any, through an analysis of Twitter's hashtags. ...
... However, as hashtags might not be directly related to any images or videos (Giannoulakis and Tsapatsoulis, 2016), analysing the hashtags separately makes it possible to interpret the destination image without using other (un) related posts. Nevertheless, current studies do show that photos and videos can portray and enhance the destination image (Egger et al., 2022). However, these studies are insufficient in understanding how only hashtags can project destination images (Filieri et al., 2021). ...
... However, these studies are insufficient in understanding how only hashtags can project destination images (Filieri et al., 2021). Furthermore, current studies only use hashtags as the primary way of data mining (Wegerer and Volo, 2021;Egger et al., 2022;Nixon, 2022), but they do not elaborate sole interpretation of hashtags for destination images. ...
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