The efficacy of park branding in influencing choice behavior of tourists to Kenyan parks
Maingi, Shem Wambugu
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Kenya‟s tourism sector remains relatively underdeveloped, compared to other destinations globally, in terms of number of tourists, yield and diversity of experience. As a result, there was need to assess the efficacy of the Vision 2030 park branding initiative as a means of influencing consumer markets positively in premium & under-utilized in Kenya as a key issue of concern in research, policy and practice. Specifically, the key objectives of the study were to profile choice behaviour of tourists visiting branded parks in Kenya; to examine antecedent factors influencing tourists‟ choice behaviour; to evaluate tourists‟ perceptions of park brands in Kenya and their choice behaviour and to explore the influence of brand personalities on choice behaviour of tourists to Kenyan parks. The study was undertaken by way of a cross-sectional descriptive survey of tourists visiting a clustered sample of branded national parks in Kenya. Two-stage cluster sampling technique was adopted in coming up with a representative sample. Primary data was collected through questionnaire responses from an estimated 385 tourists visiting the parks. Findings based on the first objective indicated that the parks attracted different segments of tourists. These segments were classified as either primary or secondary segments. Hierarchical Cluster analysis showed significant predictors within each cluster segments. Based on the second objective, Choice of Nairobi National Park was significantly influenced by the state of roads and infrastructure, travel agency recommendations, local culture, reference from tour operators, and accommodation quality. As for Lake Nakuru National Park, choice was significantly determined by travel agency recommendations, information on the web, cost of holiday and accommodation quality. Choice of Hell‟s Gate National Park was significantly influenced by the state of roads and infrastructure, references from tour operators and accommodation quality. In terms of the external tourist perceptions to the park brands, Tourists‟ brand perception of Hell‟s Gate National Park significantly influenced brand differentiation as well as revisit intentions positively. As for Lake Nakuru National Park, the tourists‟ park brand perception moderately influenced revisit intentions. There was very strong evidence to suggest that in Nairobi National Park, tourists‟ perception of the park brand significantly influenced brand differentiation, recommendation and revisit intentions of tourists. As for Aberdares, there was strong evidence to suggest that the park brand perception significantly influenced recommendation and revisit intentions though it did not significantly influence brand differentiation. Results on objective four indicated that Lake Nakuru National Park brand personality significantly and negatively influenced brand differentiation. Nairobi National Park brand personality significantly and positively influenced all behavioral intentions of consumers i.e. revisit, recommendation and differentiation. Hell‟s Gate National Park showed a significant degree of brand salience. The park‟s brand personality did not significantly influence brand differentiation, recommendation and revisit decisions of tourists. Aberdares National Park brand personality did not significantly influence brand differentiation, recommendation intentions and revisit intentions. Generally, the findings showed that there were five key aspects of the brand that were critical in determining choice i.e. connection to personal/demographic factors, contextual factors, internal park brand personality, external park brand perception as well as brand awareness. Therefore, there is a need to enhance the nature of their experiences and post-visit intentions by responding with a branding strategy that differentiates the parks and enhances the brand identity as well as association. This study recommends the need for the park brand‟s personality and (or) uniqueness be revealed better through marketing concepts that are linked to historical, ecological, socio-cultural values of the park. This way, the park‟s brand personality could positively influence choice behavior of targeted market segments. There is also need for tourism stakeholders to apply a targeted brand communication policy to key segments. It is also important that tourism policy addresses the need to develop a coherent and sustained information promotion of KWS park brands based on market needs, at the international, regional, national, county and city level.