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The impact of social capital and social networks on tourism technology adoption for destination marketing and promotion: A case of convention and visitors bureaus

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Title: The impact of social capital and social networks on tourism technology adoption for destination marketing and promotion: A case of convention and visitors bureaus
Author(s): Lee, Byeong Cheol
Director of Research: Wicks, Bruce E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Wicks, Bruce E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Gasser, Les; Barnett-Morris, Lynn; Williams, Kate
Department / Program: Recreation, Sport and Tourism
Discipline: Recreation, Sport, and Tourism
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Tourism technology adoption Web 2.0 Social capital Social networks Destination marketing organizations (DMO)
Abstract: Tourism is a growing and significant component of the world economy and competition for tourism revenues is intense. For countries or regions seeking community development through tourism, communication strategies are an essential element of success. The Internet plays an increasingly large role in how we communicate in the 21st century and with the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, travel promotion and information sharing have been irrevocably changed with as yet unknown new advances in development. For the travel industry, which includes many small destination marketing organizations (DMOs), this means those adopting these new communication tools are more likely to gain a competitive advantage or at minimum keep up with competition. Studies of innovation adoption among such small DMOs indicate that they are significantly deficient in adopting Web 2.0 technologies. As it is also known that social capital may play an important role in information diffusion, this research proposed that social capital would be an important asset that helps DMOs gain information that facilitates the adoption of Web 2.0 technology. In other words, this study tried to assess the role of social interactions in technology adoption by DMOs. More specifically, this study addressed three research questions related to the roles of social capital on technology adoption: a) What are the characteristics of social ties that DMO managers rely on for gaining information relevant to tourism technology? b) What is the relationship between the characteristics of a DMO manager's social capital (networks) and the DMO's technology adoption? c) How does social capital affect a DMO's technology adoption process? As key components of social capital, this study has chosen the most agreed upon and common components of social capital: 'social networks', 'trust (competency trust)' toward networked people and 'norms (subjective norms)'. 'Social networks' was further specified based on a tie's strength (stronger and weaker ties) and externality (bonding and bridging ties). Besides the three main components of social capital, associational activity (the number of memberships in various voluntary organizations) was also considered as an important social capital-related factor influencing technology adoption. Based on the roles of social capital in facilitating information gain and encouraging DMO managers' Web 2.0 adoption, the research model for this study proposed that social capital may not only directly, but also indirectly affect DMOs' technology adoption by increasing positive perceptions about, and attitude toward, technology use. To assess direct and indirect roles on technology adoption, the research model was developed by adopting two theoretical models (Theory of Reasoned Action and Technology Acceptance Model) that explain a DMO manager's decision processes for Web 2.0 technology adoption. In the proposed research model, the components of social capital were expected to directly and indirectly influence DMO managers' perceptions (perceived usefulness and ease of use) and attitudes about Web 2.0 technology adoption, which subsequently affects the level of a DMO's actual Web 2.0 use for destination marketing. The managers from a total of 1,166 DMOs were chosen as key informants for this study whose social ties and attitudes relevant to technology adoption were investigated. A total of 303 responses were obtained for data analysis, and multiple regression was mainly used to address the research questions. First, the patterns of the DMO directors' social networks were explored. The bridging tie was identified as the dominant tie; that is, it appeared that DMO directors relied more on bridging ties for technology-related information gain. However, when respondents were divided into three groups according to the level of actual Web 2.0 use, the high adoption group showed that their social networks tended to be composed more of bonding ties than bridging ties. In addition, it appeared that the high adoption group was involved in more associational activity and a higher volume of social networks than the low adoption group. Regarding the direct impact of social capital on the adoption of Web 2.0 technology by DMOs, this study strongly supported the conclusion that social capital is an influential factor that facilitates the adoption of new technology by DMOs. Except for trust and weaker ties, most social capital variables showed significant effects on the level of DMO Web 2.0 use. The multiple regression analysis also confirmed that although directors' bridging ties also have a significant influence on technology adoption, the effect of bonding ties was stronger than bridging ties. With regard to the indirect impact of social capital on perceptions about, and attitude toward, using Web 2.0, the findings clearly distinguished the roles of different components of social capital in facilitating technology adoption. Competency trust was identified as an important factor influencing directors' perceptions about Web 2.0 use. In addition, the trust also moderated the effect of bridging ties on perceived usefulness. Importantly, it turned out that the weaker ties themselves did not have a significant effect on perceived usefulness, and an interaction effect with trust was found. That is, directors' weaker ties would be more helpful for increasing perceived usefulness if there is strong trust in their ties' competency as related to technology knowledge. Directors' bridging ties showed a negative impact on perceived usefulness, and through further analysis, this study concluded that excessive dependency on bridging ties would not be beneficial for perceived usefulness. Subjective norms also showed strong influence on both perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. In addition, it appeared that directors' attitudes toward using Web 2.0 were largely influenced by subjective norms rather than perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use. From a theoretical viewpoint, this study provided strong evidence that social capital plays a critical role in technology adoption in the tourism context. As this study distinguished the direct and indirect effects of social capital on technology adoption, the present study is believed to significantly contribute to the advancement of knowledge in innovation and social capital-related literature. From a practical viewpoint, as the findings emphasize the importance of social interactions in information gain and facilitating new technology adoption, meaningful practical implications are suggested to increase chances for DMOs to extend their social networks.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/24328
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Byeong Cheol Lee
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
Date Deposited: 2011-05
 

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