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An understanding of consumer behavior is fast becoming an area of research and a cornerstone to marketing strategy and practice in many fields especially tourism. For some time, there have been an increasing number of tourist behavior studies that today constitute consumer behavior literature in recreational and tourist contexts (Crotts and Raaij, 1994, p.37). This paper will largely seek to explore consumer behavior in recreation and tourist contexts with regard to models of consumer behavior in sport tourism and decision-making.
Tourism can be defined as “the temporary short term movement of people and their activities during their stay at their destinations” (Burkart and Medlik 1974 cited in Woodside 2008, p.69). Today, tourism is regarded as one of the world’s leading commercial activities that the developed world continues to promote and invest in.
In its composition, tourism industry when analyzed from both a geographical, commercial and sociological perspective can be seen to involve a wide range of sectors of the service economy, which may include: air, sea and land transport; accommodation and hospitality services; attractions and activities; sales and distribution channels (Woodside 2008, p.69).
In addition, marketing has become a key element in tourism in that, marketing tourism has developed and applied unique marketing mix concepts in what can be seen as relatively linear fashion.
Moreover, marketing tourism services constitute a number of features totally different from the marketing of other services; and for the tourist consumer, such distinct services include: shorter exposure to the service, emotional motives for the purchase, the importance of personal sources of information before making any purchase and also the importance of image in the selection of tourism destination (service).
Hoyer and Macinnis (2008) define consumer behavior as” the reflection of the totality of consumers’ decisions with respect to the acquisition, consumption and disposition of goods, services, activities, experiences, people and ideas by human decision-making units over time” (p.3).
To further elaborate this definition, consumer behavior can be seen to also involve feelings and coping where emotions are seen to play a powerful role in behaviors of a consumer. Solomon (1992) defines consumer behavior as the study of the “process and activities people engage in when searching for, selecting, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services so as to satisfy their needs and desires” (Crotts and Raaij, 1994).
To supplement this particular definition, Van Raaij (1986 cited in Crotts and Raaij 1994) notes that consumer research on tourism should be regarded as a key cornerstone of market strategy and that a thorough understanding of consumer behavior is necessary in order to make adequate marketing decisions.
In this regard, consumer behavior is perceived to be attempting to explain the decision making processes of consumers facing several alternatives or choices. Further, Crotts and Raaij (1994) observe that few tourist-based consumer behavior studies have been carried out in the past years with some exceptions such as satisfaction and motivation research; moreover, large segment of the existing academic research is largely dedicated to tourism marketing.
As a result, most studies seem to be focused on describing tourists rather than understanding and explaining their consumption behavior. Despite the enormous regards of tourism experience as unique in nature, it should not be forgotten that it can be related to consumption behavior and numerous studies conducted examining the interactions between key elements and the processes involved in consumer behavior.
On the other hand, sport and event consumer behavior is the process “involved when individuals select, purchase, use and dispose of sport and sport event related products and services to satisfy needs and receive benefits” (Funk 2008, p.6).
The author is convinced that there exists no definition of sport and event consumer behavior and that sport consumer behavior represents only consumer behavior relative to the products and services offered mainly in the sport and leisure industry. When analysis of sport event behavior is done there are always three main components from the tourism literature: 1) travel to participate in a sport event activity; 2) travel to watch a sport event activity; and lastly, 3) visiting a sporting attraction.
Basing on these information sport and event consumer behavior can be explained to be the process involved when individuals select, purchase, use, and dispose of sport and sport event related products and services and the process is created by a desire to seek sport consumption experiences that provide benefits and satisfy needs.
Daniel Funk contend that the phrase ‘Sport consumer behavior’ is about the journey and not destination whereby, it provides the description of the essence of sport and event consumer behavior (Funk, 2008, p.4). According to the author, Sport consumer behavior whether it constitutes watching or participating in a sport event is about the experience, while a desire to seek out a consumption experience reflects a desire to satisfy internal needs and receive benefits through acquisition.
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Hence, the amount of time and money people spend on sport and other events represent behavioral outcomes of some experiential journey and the journey specifically corresponds to the specific sport or event pathway an individual travels to seek experiences that provide positive outcome; thus, with regards to this view, sport consumer behavior and consumption activities that finally occur at sport event destinations imply the completion of the journey (Funk 2008, p.4).
Eric Schwarz and Jason Hunter on the other hand offer a detailed view on sport consumer behavior by stating that, sport consumer behavior can be defined as the conduct that sport consumers display specifically when seeking out, ordering, buying, using and assessing products and services that consumers expects will provide satisfaction to their needs and wants (Schwarz and Hunter, 2008, p.90).
Models of consumer behavior in sport tourism
Understanding consumer behavior has and will never be simple since consumers have the habit of saying one thing but doing the opposite (Anon, n.d, p.1). Consumers generally respond to influences that change their mind and these issues have led to development and adoption of different approaches in order to understand consumers.
In general, the conceptual model for consumer behavior with regard to sport tourism is established between the consumer’s decision process with respect to sport tourism and the factors influencing this particular decision process. With regards to the model, several stages are identified in the consumer decision process: “need recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, choice of product or service and post-purchase evaluation” (Wierenga, 1997, p.148; Tyagi and Kumar 2004, p.55).
Zaltam and Burger (1975) define a model as a simplified but organized and meaningful representation of an actual system or process (Pizam and Mansfeld 1999, p.18). It has the tendency to specify both key elements in a system such as consumer beliefs and attitudes, situational factors, and purchasing behavior and the relationship between these elements.
Wahab, Crampon and Rothfield (1976) observed that a tourist is normally resigned to a reduction of financial reserves and expects no economic return on the purchase of an intangible satisfaction (cited in Pizam and Mansfeld 1999, p.18).
According to the authors, tourism purchase decision is based on nine decision stages and all decision making stages go through the same process. In addition, Schmoll (1977) established a model that borrowed heavily from Howard and Sheth (1969) and Nicosia (1966) models of consumer behavior and the resulting model was based on the assumption that:
- The decision process and its eventual outcome are influenced by four sets of variables which are customer goals, travel opportunities, communication effort and intervening variables;
- It is possible to identify these sets of variables and their individual components;
- The eventual decision is I fact the result of a distinct process involving several successive stages or phases; and lastly
- The model is composed of four fields (Pizam and Mansfeld 1999, p.20).
Sandhusen (2000) develops a model of consumer behavior and notes that the model investigates the nature of consumer behavior by focusing on questions like when, why, how and where people do or do not buy products or services (Litwin 2007, p.306).
This particular model is referred to as ‘black box’ model and the black box model shows how stimuli, consumer characteristics, and decision processes interact in eliciting consumer responses (p.219). The author goes further to indicate that the stimuli that influence consumer decision-making processes can be categorized as interpersonal or intrapersonal (Sandhusen 2000, p.219).
Sport tourism: Rafting
For some time now, I have increasingly become a sport tourist specifically with regard to rafting. Rafting is basically a leisure sport recreational that involves the use of inflatable raft to steer through a river, lake or ocean. The sport has been in existence since the mid-1970s and has turned out as one of the leisure sports that many tourists participate in.
Rafting as a sport that thrills human can be seen to be the result of human eternal wish to conquer the heavy obstacles and as a result, a tourist will run to the top of a mountain hills or sails and navigate through the sea despite the existence of the anger. The sport has generally no human opposition, but the only available opposition is the existence furious tide and uneven or obstructing stones in the water. However, before an individual becomes a confident rafter, he or she needs proper training.
Rafting needs adequate security and it has become a major concern for the sport and top class security level needs to be ensured in order for the tourists not to feel insecure. Most of my rafting sporting events do take place in Virginia which is a south eastern state of USA.
Virginia is situated in the coast area of the Atlantic Ocean, with various rivers running through it thus providing an important environment for the sport, with James River being the most preferred destination. Therefore, to many families, river rafting has become an enthralling outdoor sport that during weekends and holidays many families will engage in and when it comes to this adventure sport people usually select the river where they perceive to be the best place to raft.
Consumer behavior motivation
Motivation is defined in literature work as ‘an inner state of arousal’ where the aroused energy is directed at achieving a particular goal. This definition portrays a consumer as a motivated consumer who is energized, ready and willing to participate in a goal-relevant activity (Williams 2002; Majumdar, n.d, p.36).
Consumers can be motivated to engage in behaviors, make decisions or process information and this motivation can be seen in the context of acquiring, using or disposing of an offering. Consumers in sport tourism have different motivations for engaging or participating in a particular sport or activity. For example, motivations for sport consumption could be utilitarian where the consumer expects some practical benefits, emotional or hedonic where the consumer is in need for status, social recognition or just individual fantasies.
The Drive Theory that put a lot of focus on biological needs contends that the desire for a product, service of mere experience arises from some kind of inner drive whereby the consumer intends a lot to fulfill numerous inner needs both physiological and psychological, which may lead to consumption decision. According to the Expectancy Theory, consumers’ actions are generally driven by expectations of desirable outcomes rather than a push from inside (Sandhya, n.d, p.65).
Therefore, a particular consumption decision is made when there is a feeling that the choice will have more desirable consequences. In fulfilling sport needs, Maslow’s Theory of Motivation can be utilized whereby Maslow sought to explain how people are driven by different needs at a particular point of time and as a result he proposed five major types of human needs which he put in a hierarchical order (Kolb 2006, p.137).
Maslow’s theory, when put into perspectives of consumer behavior, can be analyzed in a way that once a consumer has food, clothing and shelter which basically they need, all other subsequent purchases are made to meet higher needs and this is applicable to a sport tourist.
The sport consumer motivation process can be seen as process that causes individuals to behave the way they do as consumers, and as a result, individuals are motivated to either participate in a sport or sport event because the behavior has certain attractive outcomes.
Thus, motivation constitutes an internal factor that arouses and prompts goal-directed behavior. At the primary level, sport consumer motivation largely reflects desires to satisfy an internal need or receive a benefit through acquisition and this motivation process in many instances contains five primary stages: needs recognition, tension reduction, drive state, want pathway and goal behavior which must occur in sequence.
The sequence indicate how a need recognized by a consumer creates internal tension that later pushes an individual toward seeking pathways that provide opportunities to satisfy the need and in the process receive benefits through behavior. Further, sport consumer participates in sport consumption activities of watching or participating by getting directions along five core sport pathway motives of socialization, performance, excitement, esteem and diversion, concepts generally denoted as (SPEED).
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