The Maldives tourism industry now faces some major challenges, one of the challenges they face is the intense competition from its regional rivals such as the Seychelles and Mauritius which share the same customer base which could result in the Maldives losing its market share to them. The escalating competition requires the Maldives to revisit its 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.
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 knowledge about a certain destination evaluates its cognitive image, and the attachment or feelings towards a place evaluates its effective image. The basis is thereby formed from a cognitive evaluation of destination image, on which are built the affective responses later as a function of the cognitive evaluation. The overall destination image is formed combining the two image evaluations. Cognitive image are evaluated upon prior knowledge acquisition and information and considered more likely to last longer and generate a stable effect (Kim Seongseop, 2009).
To study the influences of cognitive images and effective images on tourism and destination image, an 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 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 knowledge and image they have of South Korean cuisine, was studied. The study findings showed that cognitive country image indirectly infulenced attitudes toward consuming Korean food and affective image of Korea directly influenced them. Further studies in this regard (Seehyung Kim, 2008) suggested in contrast to previous findings that 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 case of China, is echoed by both affective image and cognitive image, and satisfaction has an indirect impact on behavioural 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 that 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 tourist italy visit. The findings suggest the presence of important correlations between product images and tourism in which cognitive image influenced destination image, whereas affective image led to post-visit intentions for tourism. Another important research to sudy Egypt’s destination image (Omneya M Yacout, 2015) examined the role of cultural dimensions and demographics in the choice of information sources on tourism and in the building of a destination image. In forming a cognitive image, the internet’s role in imaging a destination was found to be greater than travel agents, while the Cognitive image was also considerably connected the three cultural dimensions and demographics. To analyse the correlation between perceived image of a tourist location and psychological factors, a research was led with 807 visitors travelling 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 behaviours and brand associations such as their recommendations to others or planning to revisit. One research examines whether the known predictors of destination image are applicable to residents and tourists in Eilat and impacts their behavorial 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 affective component to have been exerting a greater influence than the cognitive on future behaviour. 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 were 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, a research (Kirstin Hallmann, 2015) is reviewed that develops a model in studying what defines a winter sports destination’s overall image and how inttentions to revisit are affected by it. They found that cognitive image components incorporated in the study influences 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 likelihood for tourists choosing to vist the 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 image people hold about a destination, is determinant to the willingness to visit the place and recommend it to their family and friends through word of mouth or by posting comments and photos in 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 accomodations, unique architetre 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 buidling also takes preference because it manages not only to influence destination image individually but a lasting cognitive image also affects affective image evaluation of tourists (Alessandro De Nisco, 2015) (Chun-yang Wang, 2010). Research findings further discovered that for natural destinations the cognitive image was the only factor that led to preference in selecting that destination. 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 (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 relates to the tourist destination’s tangible attributes such as landscape, cultural attractions, and inner well-being (Héctor San Martín, 2008). In the research on winter sports, the PHYSIO, EFAC, and VISIT of the cognitive image component that measured natural scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, plant life, natural attactions, recreational facilities, healthare facilities, additional facilities and general visitor management and accommodation greatly affected the destination’s cognitive image and impacted tourist revists more than the affective images (Kirstin Hallmann, 2015). Therefore they are more important to be considered in such as situation. Furthemore, research on tourist images that promoted something that was uniquely Russian in nature or features were found to have a greater efect on destination cognitive image and therefore important to be highlighted 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 knowledgable and reflective of their own weaknesses, strengths and needs, and at the same time 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 destination, quality of experience in that destination, and environment and destination value. These determinants must be well-thought-out therefore 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 transfer, creation and acceptance of this image. In the Maldives, destination marketing managers can organize cultural events because of tourists 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 Maldives destination managers to 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 on tourism service quality and availibility of tourism resources. The physical facilities, 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 centre who is easily contactable for information during convenient hours is also quite helpful, as research suggest. 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 about 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 the other, 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 desination. 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 favourable affective image will be achieved for each segment as a result of the tourist destination, complementing its cognitive image.
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