Examining the impact of motivation, service quality, and value on satisfaction and loyalty among golf tourists to rural areas

Chad William Maas, University of Southern Mississippi

Abstract

Economic development in rural areas has undergone a fundamental change over the past several years as the dependence on agriculture continues to decline in rural economies and rural areas experience depopulation along with an increase of outmigration of educated youth. As a result, tourism has emerged as an alternative economic revitalization strategy in many rural areas. One strategy rural areas have begun to implement to attract visitors to a region is attempting to entice individuals interested in participating in sport and recreation. Sport tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry as more and more destinations attempt to benefit from hosting sport events and providing sport participation opportunities. Within the sport tourism industry the golf travel market has become an important component of the sport tourism market. The increased popularity of golf has created significant economic, social, and environmental impacts on the local communities. The golf market represents a significant opportunity to grow and maintain visitation to a destination as well as generate substantial revenues. Given golf's ability to attract higher than average spending visitors and generate revenue within a region, rural destinations should be particularly interested in the golf travel market, as visitor spending can represent a significant economic influx in less populated areas. Previous research indicates that visitor loyalty is vital to the long-term success of a tourism destination. Common variables that have been linked to visitor loyalty include travel motivation, satisfaction, value, and service quality. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact that golf tourists' travel motives, perceived value, and service quality have on satisfaction and loyalty. Loyalty was measured using repurchase and word of mouth intentions. Participants were 228 golf travelers that purchased a rural golf vacation package in the upper Midwest United States. Results indicated that the travel motives of relaxation, social interaction, and knowledge exploration had a significant influence on visitor satisfaction and loyalty, with relaxation accounting for the most variance. Of the three variables satisfaction, value, and service quality, only satisfaction was found to be a significant predictor of repurchases intentions. All three variables were found to be significant predictors of word of mouth intentions with satisfaction accounting for the most variance. Both value and service quality had a significant impact on satisfaction, with value having the strongest influence. Market segmentation strategies and appropriate resource allocations are discussed, as well as managerial implications.