|dc.description.abstract||Nation brands are a formidable yet lucrative source of destination brands. Destinations differentiate themselves through unique attributes that people hold in memory. These mental representations move beyond cognitive attributes and include experiential and emotional based attributes. This research develops a destination brand meaning model incorporating people's perceptions, feelings and beliefs about the brand. Brand meaning is fluid and dynamic, and is associated with the mental representation people have about the brand.
A classic brand association approach employed which revealed the prominent associations related to a destination brand. Early research focused on cognitive associations to a place, and only recently, the literature has considered the significance of experiential and affective or emotional attributes of destination brands. Since brand meaning is about the mental representation that people have in mind about a brand, this research explores and measures the cognitive, experiential and emotional associations of locals and non-locals and their intentions to recommend and to re-visit the destination. Three research questions were examined in two stages, including, RQ1) What are the cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes of a destination brand? RQ2) What is the relationship between cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes and how this in turn affects locals’ and non-locals’ intentions to recommend the destination? RQ3) What is the relationship between cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes and how this in turn affects non-locals’ intentions to re-visit the destination?. This research adapted a two-stage research employing qualitative methods in stage one and quantitative methods in stage two of the research in the context of Oman as a Middle Eastern nation.
This research identified four key themes for the cognitive-based images, including political stability and peacefulness, people, nature, and heritage and traditions. Also, nature-based images and heritage-based images were prominent themes of peoples’ experiences, and love, loyalty and pride were found to be of significance to peoples’ emotions towards the nation brand. The central finding of this research is based on the development of two structural models, portraying destination brand meaning. The structural models exhibit the prominent relationships between cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes and their relationship towards locals and non-locals’ intentions to recommend, and non-locals’ intentions to re-visit the destination. Structural Model-1 supported the following paths political stability to emotions; experiences to intentions to recommend; food, tourism infrastructure and sustainability (FTIS) towards both experiences and intentions to recommend; tangible cultural heritage and traditions (TCTR) to peoples’ experiences, experiences towards emotions and finally peoples’ emotions towards peoples’ intentions to recommend for locals and non-locals. While, Structural Model-2 supported the following relationships people, nature, political stability towards peoples’ experiences, emotions and intention to re-visit. Other attributes that have a significant effect on peoples’ experiences include Food, tourism infrastructure and sustainability; and tangible cultural heritage and traditions. Interestingly experiential attributes were found to have the most significant effect on peoples’ emotions. Finally, emotional attributes have shown a significant effect on intentions to re-visit.
The findings of the study make a novel theoretical contribution to destination and nation branding literature. Firstly, a core contribution of this research is a holistic study that combines cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes towards understanding destination branding and brands in the context of a nation. Secondly, this research study compared the differences between locals and non-locals' perspectives of the destination brand in relation to the cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes, especially in the case of a Middle Eastern nation. Theoretically, this research contributes an enhanced understanding of the critical role cognitive, experiential and emotional attributes play in developing destination brand image and influencing behavioural intentions. Practically, this research can guide brand managers to employ effective strategies by delivering greater insight into how brand attributes influence destination loyalty through the behavioural intentions of repeat visitation and word of mouth referral. Future research should focus on exploring the intricate connection between experiences and emotions and how this is associated with destination branding.||