Monday, April 17, 2017

New research suggests growth in wellness tourism is more a reflection of healthy habits than an antidote to a stressful lifestyle


                                Hilton Head Health Beach Boot Camp


SmartState Center team members Simon Hudson, Fang Meng and David Cardenas are pleased to announce an article fresh off the press in the International Journal of Culture, Tourism, and Hospitality Research. The paper, co-authored with former PhD student Karen Thal, examines the direct relationships between behavioral intention and factors driving the growth of the wellness tourism industry in the U.S. Research was conducted at Hilton Head Health, a popular wellness retreat and weight loss spa resort in South Carolina. Two models were estimated and tested using the theory of planned behavior (TPB), each incorporating two constructs – life stress and involvement in health - in addition to theoretically stipulated antecedents to behavioral intention. Both constructs were found to be significant predictors of behavioral intention. However, involvement proved a much stronger predictor than life stress. This would suggest that growth in the wellness tourism market is associated with health and wellness practices that are central rather than peripheral to potential wellness tourists’ ways of life. Just as environmental values are associated with greener travel behaviors, so too wellness tourism appears to be an extension of ingrained values and attitudes - rather than an escape from unhealthy or stress-filled lifestyles. The full article can be found at: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/IJCTHR-09-2015-0111


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Chinese are coming: Are you ready?


I was privileged to be on a panel this morning at the Mountain Travel Symposium in Banff, Canada. Moderated by Olympian Kelly VanderBeek, the session was titled ‘Crossing Borders’ and focused on the international skier market. I was joined on the panel by Kristi Kavanaugh from the Aspen Skiing Company and Sammy Salm, CEO of Best of the Alps. Of course, the international market is more important for some countries than others. For example, Andorra (92% of total skier visits), Austria (66%), Switzerland (50%), New Zealand (36%) and Czech Republic (35%), are all heavily dependent on overseas skiers, whereas in the US, international skiers only account for about 6% of visits. However, this doesn’t mean they are not a significant market to go after. If we look at international tourism visits overall, the 75 million visitors America receives each year spend over $250 billion. In fact, each overseas traveler spends approximately $4,400 when they visit the US and stays an average of 18 nights. The fastest-growing international market – the Chinese – are particularly big spenders, dropping about $1,000 a day when they visit the US. The Chinese are only just getting into winter sports, but with today’s 5 million participants expected to grow to an incredible 300 million by 2022 (the year they host the Winter Olympics), they are a market that cannot be ignored. Other important international markets for North American resorts are the Australians, the British, and Germans, all of whom send about a million skiers around the globe every year.  The South American market is also growing, with the Colorado resorts seeing more Mexicans and Brazilians each year. For more on this subject (and anything you ever wanted to know about this dynamic industry) check out my book – Winter Sport Tourism.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Flying in the face of ordinary: Why brand attractiveness is critical to success


The brand management literature has long acknowledged the strategic importance of managing brand identity. However, prior research has largely ignored brand attractiveness in building such identity in the eyes of consumers. In a recently published article in Tourism Management, HRSM and SmartState team members Kevin So, Simon Hudson, and Fang Meng investigated the role of brand attractiveness in fostering customer brand identification. Focusing on the airline industry, the team found strong support for critical role of brand attractiveness in identification development. They also found that brand prestige, brand distinctiveness, and memorable brand experiences have a significant indirect effect on customer brand identification through brand attractiveness, while brand social benefits contribute directly to such identification. In fact, memorable brand experiences formed the most important predictor of brand attractiveness, suggesting that while brand identity characteristics primarily constructed through external communications (e.g., brand prestige, brand distinctiveness) enhance brand attractiveness, memorable brand experiences play a more important role in forming consumers’ perceptions of the attractiveness of the airline brand’s identity. This finding reinforces the well-established thinking of Berry (2000) that for service brands, “regardless of how well the brand is presented, nothing will salvage a weak brand experience.” Perhaps this explains the success of Richard Branson with Virgin Atlantic Airways – for Branson, flying with Virgin is all about flying in the face of ordinary.

The article can be downloaded HERE

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Need a knee replacement? You could save thousands of dollars traveling to a different state.



Prices for a knee replacement vary between $21,976 in Arizona to $57,504 in California according to Health News NPR. So why not shop around? In a new book chapter about domestic medical tourism just published by Apple Academic Press, Simon Hudson discusses how a growing number of US patients are traveling for medical care within their own country, in order to save money or receive better care. To date, the literature on medical tourism has focused almost exclusively on the international side of medical tourism – and in many cases Americans who travel to developing countries for medical services. However, Hudson suggests that the shape of medical tourism is not confined to customers traveling abroad for their surgery or wellness treatments. There is a growing number of patients who shop around for medical care within their own country. Such tourism is expected to grow significantly in the US, as more employers and insurers are offering financial incentives to encourage workers to consider domestic medical travel. Hudson believes that domestic medical tourism could be even more critical for the health sector now fewer international medical tourists are coming to the country. Hudson cites a recent article in Time that discusses how the ‘Trump Slump” - the anticipated decline in foreign travelers to the US due to the reality of Donald Trump as president - could cost the US well over $10 billion per year in lost tourism revenues  - including revenues from medical tourism. The US, with its strong pharmaceutical industry and high-tech hospitals, has traditionally been a destination for inbound medical tourists. Cutting-edge research institutions, like the Cleveland and Mayo Clinics and John Hopkins, have been targeting an international clientele for decades. But they may have to start looking closer to home for their clients.

Hudson’s book chapter can be found in the book Medical Tourism and Wellness edited by Frederick DeMicco.