Exploring the Difference Between Projected and Perceived Tourism Destination Images in Social Networks: A Case Study of the Image of New Zealand for Chinese Independent Tourists

Xin, Ruidong
Bremner, Hamish
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Master of International Tourism Management
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Auckland University of Technology

Creating a destination image with a purpose of strong communication, competitiveness and attractiveness has become a challenge in the further development of destination tourism marketing. With a world-renowned reputation, the New Zealand tourism offering is projected as having a wealth of natural resources, a harmonious social environment, and diverse cultural community. The Chinese market is an important growth market for the New Zealand tourism industry. Tourism organizations and enterprises in New Zealand have to deal with numerous challenges to regain the sustained attention of Chinese tourists in a post-COVID19 environment. In this context, it is important to explore the similarities and differences between the projected image and the perceived image of New Zealand as an outbound tourism destination for Chinese independent travellers.

This study selected travel information published by Tourism New Zealand on Sina Weibo from 2019 to 2020 and the travel blogs published by Chinese tourists on Mafengwo as the two datasets. Utilising netnography as a research approach within an interpretivist framework and the qualitative research method as the practical strategy; combining the comprehensive quantitative data of the research finding as an appropriate instrument, this study adopted content analysis and applied NVivo data management software to compare the projected image of New Zealand as a destination and Chinese tourists’ perceived image of New Zealand as a destination.

The projected tourism image of New Zealand is largely determined by three dimensions: its natural resources, tourism destinations, and tourism activities. Furthermore, tourism information on food and beverages is also presented by Tourism New Zealand as an important factor. In addition, Tourism New Zealand adopts culture and art factors with Māori culture being projected as a unique selling point. No particular location preference apparent destinations from both the South Island and North Island combine to shape the projected image of New Zealand.

The perceived image of New Zealand by Chinese tourists is highly consistent as their travel experiences also revolve around the praise of the natural scenery, the experience brought by tourism activities, and experiencing local lifestyle. However, elements such as infrastructure, transportation, and accommodation are not positively evaluated by Chinese tourists. Chinese tourists might not be necessarily interested in Māori culture and the image of New Zealand is mainly influenced by tourist destinations in the South Island.

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