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A Comparison of the Importance of Cognitive Image and Affective Image in Promoting a Destination


The tourism industry, which is rated as the second-highest source of revenue for a country today, now faces some major challenges. Among the major challenges they face is intense competition from regional and international rivals that share the same customer base, resulting in a particular destination losing its market share to them. The escalating competition requires destination managers of all such tourist destinations to revisit their strategies for destination competitiveness and destination image to overcome the competitive challenges (Waseema, 2017). Successful destination marketing seeks to influence tourists’ potential travel-related decision-making and choices through successful marketing campaigns and image building. However, the image-building process itself is a very important component of how managers design their marketing campaigns based on what affects the opinion of the visitors at the psychological level.

Theories and Concepts

In a tourism context, Images play a vital part in travel destination choices. As services in the tourism industry are often unquantifiable, images sometimes tend to be even more significant than reality. Destination image’s commonly cited definition is “the sum of beliefs, ideas, and impressions that a person has a destination” (Mariutti, 2013). In several fields, researchers agree that the image construct includes both affective and cognitive evaluations (Kim Seongseop, 2009). The beliefs or preknowledge about a certain destination evaluates its cognitive image, and the attachment or feelings towards a place evaluate its effective image`. The basis is formed from a cognitive evaluation of the destination image, on which the affective responses are built later as a function of the cognitive evaluation. The overall destination image is formed by combining the two image evaluations. Cognitive images are evaluated based on prior knowledge acquisition and information and are considered more likely to last longer and generate a stable effect (Kim Seongseop, 2009).

Literature Review

To study the influences of cognitive images and effective images on tourism and destination images, extensive literature was reviewed to provide useful insights. A study (José Manuel, 2017) assessed the influence of cultural events, structural elements, and place brand on destinations’ overall image results, suggesting that affective image does not contribute as much to forming an overall destination image as much as the cognitive image does. Place brand influenced both the affective image and cognitive image, whereas event brand did not influence destination image much. In another study (WooMi Jo Phillips, 2013), American tourists plan to visit South Korea and try Korean food based on the country’s knowledge and image they have of South Korean cuisine, was studied. The study findings showed that cognitive country image indirectly influenced attitudes toward consuming Korean food, and the affective image of Korea directly influenced them. Further studies in this regard (Seehyung Kim, 2008) suggested, in contrast to previous findings, that building a destination image is impacted less by the cognitive construct as much as it is by the affective construct.

In a study that tested the tourism destination image measurement model, (Chun-yang Wang, 2010) suggested that overall tourism destination image, in the case of China, is echoed by both affective image and cognitive image, and satisfaction has an indirect impact on behavioral intentions. Another research (Chung-Hsien Lin, 2007) examined the role of affective and cognitive components in the construction of destination inclinations in Taiwan from 1,020 residents of Taichung. Results indicated that the affective image itself is impacted by cognitive image, and because of that, a significant indirect effect is caused by the destination’s cognitive image on the overall destination image through influencing its affective image. Further investigation (Alessandro De Nisco, 2015) analyzed the association between affective and cognitive country image, tourism satisfaction, post-visit intentions, and destination image at the end of a tourist Italy visit. The findings suggest the presence of important correlations between product images and tourism, in which cognitive image influences destination image, whereas affective image leads to post-visit intentions for tourism. Another important research study of Egypt’s destination image (Omneya M Yacout, 2015) examined the role of cultural dimensions and demographics in the choice of information sources for tourism and in the building of a destination image.

Informing a cognitive image, the internet’s role in imaging a destination was found to be greater than that of travel agents, while the Cognitive image was also considerably connected to the three cultural dimensions and demographics. To analyze the correlation between the perceived image of a tourist location and psychological factors, research led by 807 visitors traveling to a holiday destination (Héctor San Martín, 2008) found backing for the effect of psychological factors, i.e., cultural values and motivations, on the image individuals may have before visiting a particular tourist destination. Another interesting research in this regard (Hyounggon Kim, 2003) designed an experiment to evaluate whether the extent of watching a particularly popular film altered affective and cognitive images of the destination it represented, as well as a prior acquaintance with it or increase in interest for visiting it. A positive correlation is found between movies, a form of popular culture, and cognitive destination image, and the role of empathy is examined in this context. Further, in this regard, a study (Hailin Qu, 2011) proposed that the overall destination image is an arbitrator between its tourists’ future behaviors and brand associations, such as their recommendations to others or planning to revisit.

One research study examines whether the known predictors of the destination image are applicable to residents and tourists in Eilat and whether they impact their behavioral intentions (Dimitrios Stylidis, 2017). Using Questionnaires from a sample of 450 tourists and residents over a period of 1 year, the findings confirmed the applicability of the model and found the effective components to have been exerting a greater influence than the cognitive on future behavior. To study how organic destination images obtained from tourist images are interpreted by the receiving potential tourists, the study (Hany Kim, 2015) investigated how photographs taken by Korean and American tourists on a Russian tour that was posted on travel websites affected travel intentions, and found that affective hidden characteristics had a stronger impact than cognitive features on tourists’ plans, but some cognitive elements also had greater effect. Finally, research (Kirstin Hallmann, 2015) is reviewed to develop a model for studying what defines a winter sports destination’s overall image and how intentions to revisit are affected by it. They found that cognitive image components incorporated in the study influence sports tourists more in their decision to visit a winter sports destination.


An overall analysis `of the two main destination image components and a few associative components from the literature studies suggest that despite the importance of affective image in developing the likelihood of tourists choosing to visit a particular destination more, it is actually cognitive image building that shapes perceptions to a larger extent. This is supported by several studies reviewed earlier. The pre-image people hold about a destination is a determinant of their willingness to visit the place and recommend it to their family and friends through word of mouth or by posting comments and photos on social media sites. These recommendations could effectively motivate other persons to visit the place by attending the event (José Manuel, 2017). Perceptions regarding personal safety, good restaurants, suitable accommodation, unique architecture, or friendly people all depend more on the cognitive image (Seehyung Kim, 2008), as does it have on perceptions of Power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and individualism in a destination (Omneya M Yacout, 2015). Cognitive image building also takes preference because it manages not only to influence destination image individually but a lasting cognitive image also affects the affective image evaluation of tourists (Alessandro De Nisco, 2015) (Chun-yang Wang, 2010).

What makes a cognitive image more important in the development of marketers is that people prefer natural destinations over cognitive images. In contrast, however, both affective and cognitive image components affected the preference for developed destinations (Chung-Hsien Lin, 2007), reinforcing our view that cognitive image building takes preference. Furthermore, the cognitive image is more influential on the overall image, also because of the fact that post-visit image of the place also affects that destination’s cognitive image leading to revists (Hailin Qu, 2011). It is more important because the individuals’ beliefs about the destination form the basis of their mental representation of that tourist and relate to the tourist destination’s tangible attributes, such as landscape, cultural attractions, and inner well-being, in the mind of the visitor (Héctor San Martín, 2008).

The cognitive image components that relate to natural scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, plant life, natural attractions, recreational facilities, healthcare facilities, additional facilities, and general visitor management and accommodation greatly affected the destination’s cognitive image, according to how tourists rated the destination and impacted their visits more than the affective images (Kirstin Hallmann, 2015). Therefore, they are more important to be considered in such a situation. Furthermore, tourist images that promote something that is uniquely distinctive in nature or features about a destination have a greater effect on the destination’s cognitive image and are, therefore, important to highlight when promoting a destination (Hany Kim, 2015).


In a world that is increasingly competitive today, it is crucial for tourist places to distinguish themselves from one another. To do so, they need to be knowledgeable and reflective of their own weaknesses, strengths, and needs, as well as the environment’s competitive nature, in order to differentiate it from other destinations. Cognitive images have a significantly high impression on the formation of destination image, especially on the attractiveness of the destination, quality of experience in that destination, and environment and destination value. These determinants must be well-thought-out when creating a tourism policy for these destinations.


Marketing efforts to create a strong image for a tourist destination’s promotional campaign must focus on the transfer, creation, and acceptance of this image. In any tourist destination, destination marketing managers can organize cultural events because tourists are at events in smaller, heritage-rich locations, structural or permanent elements that have more influence on the cognitive image. The dominant role of cognitive image in the building of destination image should signal destination managers the need to preserve local historical heritage, culture, traditions, architecture, and historical monuments as unique and differentiating elements. The product material should focus on the destination’s safety, its cuisine, its accommodation, it shows that the people are tourist friendly and hospitable and the uniqueness of a destination’s architecture. They should also emphasize tourism service quality and the availability of tourism resources. The physical facilities, the appearance of personnel, their readiness or willingness of professionals or employees to deliver service or quickly take corrective actions when something unexpected happens, all should be exhibited in the marketing campaigns, along with physical characteristics such as facilities for activities, natural scenery, shopping, and various forms of nightlife or entertainment.

The information on the destination or an event or place in the destination should also be easily accessible and readily provided online. A person available in a tourism center who is easily contactable for information during convenient hours is also quite helpful, as research suggests. Young tourists do not prefer conventional media such as magazines and depend largely upon the Internet, therefore marketing communication that is aiming at young tourists should depend more on interactive media to be able to connect with them more successfully. The role of television shows or films in destination image should also be considered as they tend to appeal to middle-income tourists and offer them information not available through other media. Specific attention to the country’s impression as a secure and safe environment must also be paid In this regard. Marketing and Branding literature should especially highlight photographs, some professionally captured and some captured by amateur tourists, that highlight some unique features of a destination, as this improves the cognitive destination value.

It is possible that due to the diversity of modern tourism, what works for one region may not work for another, so it is quite helpful to have events incorporating unique elements that distinguish them from competitor events that will strengthen or reinforce the visitor’s link to that destination. Cultural/historical attractions can develop place attachment through place dependence and place identity. The destination marketers’ ability to ensure experiences on-site should, at the very least, meet, if not surpass, the visitor’s initial expectations also play a large role. Cultural distance is also a factor as individuals’ confidence in a tourist destination is often more towards places with cultures comparable to their own cultural values. Hence, promoters should create specific communications for each group of tourists and segment the market. A more favorable affective image will be achieved for each segment as a result of the tourist destination, complementing its cognitive image.


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