EXPLORING THE EFFECT OF BRANDING ON HERITAGE TOURISM MANAGEMENT IN CHINA
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China's World Heritage Sites have increasingly been developed to exploit local tourism and alleviate poverty. However, this destination brand may lack a vital destination branding process, which must combine brand components to increase tourist visitation and create loyalty. As a result, the destination image will be negatively affected, which would damage the financial gain needed for heritage conservation. This research contributed to the theory by establishing a novel conceptual framework of destination branding, deploying destination identification, attachment, and satisfaction to predict destination image and loyalty.
Based on an objective perspective, this study adopted a positivist philosophy and the approach of a case study. Data were collected in two different years. A quantitative survey methodology used a sample of 714 including tourists and residents at the Humble Administrator’s Garden and 338 at the Lingering Garden in Suzhou, China. SPSS 25 and AMOS 25 were used to conduct data analysis. The Structural Equation Modelling technique was deployed in the analysis. Hypotheses were tested. The findings revealed that destination identification did not positively influence destination image in both Gardens but engendered a higher level of attachment and satisfaction. The factors associated with a heritage site, residents, and tourists were investigated to identify the relevant dimensions of destination identification. The study revealed residents’ participation in heritage tourism management increased destination attachment and satisfaction, and enhanced destination loyalty and image. Destination identification is an antecedent of destination branding without directly having a positive influence on destination image. Destination attachment and satisfaction are mediators in the relationship between identification and image. Destination identification can have a positive impact on destination loyalty when more residents are involved in engendering a higher level of destination attachment or satisfaction, confirmed in the findings of Lingering Garden. Unlike destination satisfaction, destination identification is not a guaranteed predictor of destination loyalty.
This study contributed to knowledge by combining residents and tourists in destination branding whilst previous researchers focused on tourists. Heritage tourism management needs to involve residents in destination branding. The relationships between residents, tourists, and destinations can be manipulated by projecting the appropriate dimensions in destination identification, such as national and cultural identity, to improve destination attachment and satisfaction. Combing residents and tourists in destination branding, destination image and loyalty can be enhanced, strengthening the World Heritage Site destination brand.
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