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Mobile Ethnography: A Pioneering Research Approach for Customer-Centered Destination Management

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Since customers increasingly base purchase decisions on online reviews, tourism has to constantly manage and evaluate the whole service chain from the guests' perspective. Service design as a contemporary approach provides methods to analyze and visualize service chains in a holistic and usercentered manner. A customer journey map visualizes a sequence of direct and indirect touchpoints. Touchpoints are moments in which customers encounter a certain brand or destination from their first online search, their evaluation through social media, and the booking process, as well as the travel and stay itself and writing subsequent online reviews. The intentional design of service systems through the eyes of customers is becoming fundamental to compete for customer's satisfaction. Service design builds on ethnographic research of real-life customers. However, quantitative and classic ethnographic research methods tend to fail when applied on the spacial scope and temporal extension of customer journeys in the field of tourism. In consequence, the innovative approach of mobile ethnography was developed to overcome this problem through integrating tourists as active investigators using smartphones. Mobile ethnography contrasts with other quantitative and qualitative research methods through its open approach. It is the guests who decide what is a touchpoint during their individual customer journey. This article reports on an EU-funded pilot study applying mobile ethnography in seven European tourism destinations. The findings of the study in St. Anton, Austria demonstrate the research design of mobile ethnographic research for tourism destinations and indicate its potential to iteratively improve the customer experience in a destination.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2014

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  • The aim of Tourism Analysis is to promote a forum for practitioners and academicians in the fields of Leisure, Recreation, Tourism, and Hospitality (LRTH). As a interdisciplinary journal, it is an appropriate outlet for articles, research notes, and computer software packages designed to be of interest, concern, and of applied value to its audience of professionals, scholars, and students of LRTH programs the world over.
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