Ph.D. Raúl Valdez Muñoz, Department of Tourism, Business & Economics School, Universidad de las Américas, Puebla, Sta. Catarina Mártr, Cholula, Puebla, México, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Travel is one of the most popular items people tend to be comfortable with purchasing over the Internet. Hypertext is a form of electronic text composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multple paths, chains, or trails. This study explores the importance of hypertext in the travel destnaton choice from websites. Results show that hypertext links containing images of destnatons, informatve texts, and search tools are the three most important features utlized by tourist website browsers. This study aims to offer insights into new areas for further research on tourism websites design, applicaton and evaluaton.

Keywords: travel, internet, websites, destnaton choice, hypertext.


The increasing rate of online transactons and the fast growth of online users provide clear evidence of the popularity of the communicatons technology. Customer-oriented and informaton-intensive tourism enterprises are increasingly adoptng E-Business models to achieve their organizatonal goals (Buhalis & Licata, 2002; Law, Qi, & Buhalis, 2010). The fast adopton of ICT around the world and the expansion of the Internet have affected a great proporton of industries such as tourism in many countries.

The global economy in the next century will be driven by informaton technology, telecommunicatons, and tourism. This considers very specifc characteristcs of the tourist sector which need to cope with the large distances usually involved between the origin and destnaton of travelers.

By means of e-commerce, companies are selling and buying goods and services to consumers around the world. One of the most recent developments in e-tourism applicatons is at the destnaton level. Many tourism intermediaries have successfully integrated e-tourism in promotng destnatons, providing tourists with travel informaton, helping tourist enterprises to promote their products, and encouraging the creaton of tourism network systems (Buhalis D., 2003; Buhalis D., 1998) (Xiaoqiu, Buhalis, & Song, 2003).

Tourism suppliers took advantage of the new opportunites and developed e-commerce applicatons by allowing users to access directly their products (Buhalis & Licata, 2002). Searching through the Internet is an interactve process between travelers and hypertext (the Internet) implemented through a computer and a web browser. Then, the understanding of travel informaton searchers’ behavior on the Internet is essental to the design of useful Internet-based technology. The Internet is an interactve hypertext system where informaton nodes are “hyperlinked” according to their relevance (Boechler, 2001). In this way, when travelers’ search for informaton on the Internet, their choices of links are determined by the value of relevance of the link anchors (linked texts, pictures or contextual informaton).

Tourism and the Web

Use of the Internet has grown 146.2% between 2000 and 2005 around the world. The use of the Internet is similarly high in many countries, such as USA: 61%, South Korea: 66%, Australia: 60%, Japan: 57%), Canada: 56%, UK: 53, and Germany: 50% (Gertner, Berger, & Gertner, 2006). Several regions of the world have grown even faster. The number of Internet users in Latn American and the Caribbean Countries grew by 211.2%. By 2011, the number of worldwide Internet users reached nearly two billion out of a populaton of approximately 6.93 billion (Stats, 2001). Changes in the economic, cultural and technological environments have defnitely encouraged consumers to increase the use of the Internet in their quest to save tme and money. Now, popular search engines, such as Yahoo and Google are being constantly improved to provide faster access of informaton for travelers (Mitchell, 2006).

Tourism is a key element of modern societes. It has contributed to local and regional economic development. Distributon becomes one of the most critcal factors for compettveness in tourism business. Appropriate distributon systems allow the building of bridges between destnatons and travelers providing mechanisms for purchasing tourism products and destnatons.

Internet has strengthened the relevance of electronic intermediaries and changing their positons as strategic suppliers to a degree that they can substtute traditonal distributon channels. Virtual communites can be established between people with common interests enhancing the global knowledge basis by sharing advice based on personal experience (Buhalis D., 2003).

The ways that consumers search for already evaluated travel informaton is currently changing with the rising popularity of websites that contain content submited by real travelers (e.g., TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube) (Cox, Burges, Sellito, & Buultjens, 2009). This is possible now using Web 2.0, which refers to the second generaton of web-based services letng people collaborate and share informaton online in more sophistcated ways. Web 2 enables any individual to post their own content, opinions, videos, audio, or imagery on the web for other users to see and respond to.

The fast development of E-Commerce has dramatcally changed the tourism industry (Buhalis, 2003; Ho & Lee, 2007; Buhalis &Law, 2008). By employing the Internet, Intranet and Extranet, many tourism organizatons have successfully integrated this functon in promotng destnatons, providing tourists with pretrip and in-trip informaton, helping small and medium tourist enterprises to promote their products, and internal management tasks. In tourism, a wide range of ICT technologies are used in order to reduce the cost and tme required for undertaking partcular actvites. Computer reservaton systems (CRSs) and global distributon systems (GDSs) represent technological solutons and transacton mechanisms between travel agencies, hotels, airlines, tourist destnaton, car rental frms, etc. CRSs and GDSs empower Internet travel portals enabling tourist enterprises to reach travelers directly.

Promotng travel destnatons by websites

ICTs and partcularly web based advertsing tools have been used to redefne tourism and deliver products to end consumers (Law, Qi & Buhalis, 2010; Aaron, 2006; Gretzel, Yuan & Fesenmaier, 2000). Businesses, including customeroriented and informaton-intensive tourism enterprises, are increasingly adoptng E-Business models to achieve their organizatonal goals.

Internet advertsing signifcantly impacts travel and purchase behavior (Buhalis & Licata, 2002; Tierney, 2000) and provides a medium to disseminate informaton to consumers in the form of interactve scenarios between travelers and companies. Tourism literature has found that atractve and stmulatng advertsing content design produces a positve percepton of destnatons promoted in websites (Wu, Wei, & Chen, 2008). Travel is one of the most popular items people tend to be comfortable with purchasing over the Internet. A major issue of the Internet is its ability to bring travel and hospitality services and products “live” to consumers and also the consumers' ability to access the informaton without tme and space limitaton. Thus, travel marketers must pay atenton to the Internet applicaton on marketng strategies and travel informaton distributon (Lin, 2005). According with several travel organizatons and survey companies such as US Destnaton Marketng; Forrester Research, Trip Advisor; Bust Media and AC Nielsen, features such as room availability and rates, travel promotons, travel bulletns and alerts, chat/forum links and, informaton about travel destnatons are those that most encourage internet user to utlize travel websites around the world. Over one–half of travel web users traveled to cites featured in tourism portals and approximately one-third of them research trips via internet. Forecast statstcs demonstrate that in USA online leisure and individually booked business travel sales are projected to reach US $162.4 billion in 2012, and travel planning online increases spectacularly by means of thousands of websites (e.g. Lonely Planet, Travel Online, Travel Notes, Itravel net, When We...Get There, etc.) existng now around the world (Miller, Washington, & Miller, 2009).

Traditonal media were previously used to deliver messages; if consumers notced a tourist-destnaton advertsement, they had to physically travel to a store to make a purchase. Now, Internet stores combine both advertsing and purchasing, thus enabling consumers to make a purchase instantly. Internet aids destnaton managers in identfying target markets and in accurately matching traveler’s demands, hence, websites beneft enterprise–consumer relatonships, help increase brand value, and allow the creaton of a tourist image. Diverse studies demonstrate that 85% of advertsing, marketng, and sales companies believe online advertsing aims to increase trafc to the websites promoted. Viewing a banner on a website can convey a message; therefore, regardless of whether the consumer clicks or not, simply viewing a banner increases the chance of a purchase. (Wu, Wei, & Chen, 2008).

Online promotonal sites content includes variables such as: web interface, background colors, pictures, sound effects, textual content and dynamic techniques that also contribute highly to advertsements’ results. Consumers recall advertsements more effectvely if they display images and texts. In contrast, confusing website designs have negatve effects on the percepton of tourist products and destnatons, and decrease purchases generated by the website. Animated informaton is more likely to be recalled correctly; however, animaton does not help the recall of advertsements. Users may remember animatons on web pages, but those animatons are not necessarily related to advertsing content (Wu, Wei, & Chen, 2008).

Finally, the degree of personal involvement is a signifcant mediator for tourists’ attudes toward the website and its promotonal effect. It has been determined that websites that engage and entertain travelers are more likely to be “clicked”.

Due to the widespread use of the Internet as an important source of informaton, many tourist enterprises have shifed from printed brochures to the Internet during the last few years. Today, millions of travelers use the Internet to make travel plans such as getng informaton on destnatons or checking prices and schedules. Several studies have shown the direct ft of the Internet environment for the marketng of travel and tourism products (Lin, 2005; Buhalis & Licata, 2002).

Web site development and Internet access have become popular and easy to use, broadening the scope of the producton and consumpton of this media. The typical user visits 25 websites a week spending as litle as 48 seconds on each site. Hence, this short amount of tme means that alternatve tourist destnatons

are advertsed seductvely for the virtual tourist’s gaze, designed specifcally to atract the hurried user (Holman, 2011). However, other studies demonstate that travel planners can also stay for longer periods of tme searching on tourist websites in order to choose the right leisure place, and, if the Web site contains the informaton that potental tourists are looking for, the informaton search process will be more efcient and satsfactory (Pan & Fesenmaier,2006).

All marketng strategies and sales tactcs are based on implicit beliefs and concepts about consumer behavior. Consumer behavior concerns the process that consumers use to select, use and dispose of products, services, experiences or ideas to satsfy their needs and desires. Thus, knowledge of consumer behavior can be an important compettve advantage for tourism enterprises.

Essentally a marketng strategy is a set of decisions and commercial actons focused to provide superior customer value to target markets. These decisions and actons consttute the marketng mix; that is to say, the product, price, communicatons, distributon and services provided to the target market. In the web market context, online consumers perform all the functons of traditonal consumers on a computer while interactng with a system, thus, the physical store has been transformed into a virtual store through many tools of ICTs.

In the past seventeenth years, online consumer behavior has become an emerging research area with an increasing number of publicatons per year. Most of the components of consumer behavior theory have been applied to the study of online consumpton; however, results demonstrate that there are signifcant differences between ofine and online consumer behavior that warrant a distnguishing conceptualizaton.

Early studies on online consumer behavior largely were oriented to explore how consumers adopt and use Internet tools. Later, other studies found that: a) personal innovatveness is a key personality trait that explains consumer online purchase, b) internet shopping is strongly affected by the presentaton mode, search engines, and navigaton structure of product items, c) trust in an Internet store is a salient determinant of online shopping, and, d) consumer trust and satsfacton were the key antecedents of contnued purchase.

More recently, studies seem to be oriented to build models to understand the main aspects of consumer behavior online (e.g. informaton acquisiton, purchase decision, reasons for not shopping online, etc.). Several studies aim to determine if online consumers think and act differently than ofine consumers; other studies atempt to explain why online consumers are more demanding and utlitarian in their shopping expeditons; and, fnally, diverse studies try to determine the reason by which customer loyalty on the web is generally low in comparison with ofine customers.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) electronic commerce depends not only on consumer acceptance of Internet technologies as viable transacton means, but on consumer recogniton of web retailers as reliable suppliers. The Internet infrastructure generates an implicit uncertainty around on-line transactons because it exist a spatal and temporal separaton between consumers and web retailers. Certainly, a risk of monetary loss exists, since consumers have to rely on electronic informaton and thus become vulnerable to incomplete or distorted informaton provided by web retailers, and also, a risk of loss of privacy derived from providing personal informaton to web retailers (Pavlou, 2003).

Product informaton search can be a fun-seeking experience and can improve consumer decision making through complex, nonlinear, and non-directed queries being an important incentve for people to shop online (Koufaris, 2002). In the new electronic competton, web stores have responded to the call for customer control by providing various site features like internal search engines and systems to enable consumers to easily fnd what they need, learn more about products/ services and quickly purchase them.

As well as in ofine purchasing, price, quality, and product type consttute three key elements in shaping consumers’ percepton online. Atributes such as ease of use, quality, security and reliability are included in the study of electronic commerce systems. Indeed, web specifc factors such as ease of navigaton, interface and network speed are also considered. Finally, factors pertaining to merchant and intermediaries characteristcs like service quality, privacy and security control, brand/reputaton, delivery/logistc, and post sales services integrate the broad feld of online consumer behavior (Koufaris, 2002; Pavlou, 2003; Cheung et al., 2003).

The destnaton choice process from websites

Nowadays, in tourism business, destnatons must design online marketng strategies to succeed in their efforts to atract visitors. In 2005, a survey of 18,000 online consumers in 18 countries showed that in 14 of those countries the web was the most important source of informaton employed by Internet users in deciding where to go for their vacatons. Through the increased use of the Internet, the tourism website has emerged as a useful lens with which to examine the shifing nature of global flows of informaton, experience and consumer behavior.

A strong country brand with a clear focused image can be used to atract tourists, investors, and businesses that will stmulate the economy and create economic growth. Countries can be taught to use marketng to manage their promotonal actvites in creatng a brand that facilitates worldwide tourism. In Europe the shaping of image and marketng of a country has been put into acton in countries such as Germany, France, Portugal, Estonia, and Poland. Destnatons are treated as products and specifcally, holiday destnatons are considered place-products within a marketng system. Destnaton branding involves the creaton of a single, strategic idea that captures what the country/destnaton has to offer. The capacity to offer travelers a flexible and personalized relatonship is probably one of the most important advantages offered by e-commerce to tourism retailers. It allows them to provide accurate and tmely informaton to consumers which, in turn, ofen generate additonal sales. Also, personalizaton increases the level of loyalty consumers hold toward a retailer.

Consumer decision process intervenes between the market strategy - as implemented in the marketng mix - and the outcomes. A company can succeed if consumers see a need that its product can solve, choose this product, proceed to buy it and become satsfed with the results of the purchase. Thus, consumer satsfacton is a major concern of companies.

A central component of consumer decision process is the problem recogniton. Problem recogniton involves a discrepancy between consumers’ desired state (what they would like) and their actual state (what they perceive as already existng). Hence, if this discrepancy is sufciently large and important, consumers will search for solutons. Relevant informaton from consumers’ memory (internal search) or from external sources is used to determine if a satsfactory soluton exists. Memory of past searches, personal experiences and learning are the mayor internal sources.

Today, a most relevant external source of informaton used by consumers is the Internet or World Wide Web (WWW). WWW consists of search engines, websites, specifc addresses or fles in the network, to access to those with the requested characteristcs. The Internet contains market data in the form of advertsing messages associated with search, entertainment, and general informaton sites and Internet presence Sites (IPS) also called home pages. A home page is a Web site created and maintained by organizatons (enterprises, government agencies, altruist organizatons, cultural organizatons, etc.) or individuals that provide detailed product and organizatonal data. Into the Web pages, banner ads are a very important promoton tool.

Banner ads represent today a powerful mean to lead consumers to the company or product home page. In tourism industry, the banners ads play a very important role connectng travelers with thousands of websites of travel agencies, hotels, transportaton companies, restaurants, car rental companies, etc. and, maybe more important, with thousands of tourist destnaton sites available to be chosen.

Tourist destnaton managers must visualize major decisions concerning the use of Internet. Having a destnaton Web site, they need to decide if the site should be actve or passive. A passive Web site focused on providing only specifc informaton about a tourist destnaton whereas an actve Web site allows the destnaton managers to develop a relatonship with visitors over tme and provide them with additonal informaton related to the site facilites and other tourist atractons and services. No mater if a Web site is actve or passive; it needs to be easy to access, up-to-date, logical and oriented to travel needs. The more complete and interactve the Web site, the more effectve and useful it will be for marketng and commercial purposes.

Web 2.0 enables any traveler to post their own content, opinions, videos, audio, or imagery to the web for other travelers to see and respond to. Web 2.0 includes the ability to integrate informaton in new forms, the desire to harness distributed knowledge, and the need to engage users as co-developers (Cox, Burges, Sellito, & Buultjens, 2009). Hyung-Park, Lee, & Hang (2007) establish that online consumer reviews are ofen considered more trustworthy and credible than informaton which is provided by suppliers of products and services, presumably because consumers provide more trustworthy informaton.

Consumer characteristcs of travelers affect perceptons about benefts and search costs of use websites. A satsfying experience with a partcular destnaton increases the probability of a repeat choice of this destnaton. In contrast, a negatve travel experience decreases the likelihood of travel to the same place and/or choice a similar destnaton. Travelers who are highly involved with a destnaton category normally seek informaton relevant to the destnaton category on an ongoing basis. Research has demonstrated that tourists use different types of online informaton sources depending on where they are at in the travel planning process—that is the pre-trip, during trip and post-trip stages (Choi, Letho, & O'Leary, 2007; Seabra, Abrantes, & Lages, 2007).

Concerning how travelers make destnatons choices, they can follow sequental process based on atributes or on attudes about alternatve places to be considered. Atribute-based choice required the knowledge of specifc and distnctve atributes of each place and atribute-by-atribute comparison across places. In the feld of tourism, it is extremely important for destnaton managers to understand how travelers search for and review informaton at the various stages of their travel decision making process (Choi, Letho, & O'Leary, 2007).

The meaning of the product is one of the variables that predict searching and buying behavior. Meaning is derived from the practcal utlity of the product and is intrinsically linked to its convenience, efciency, and the exchange value per se (Vaz & Pérez-Nebra, 2007). The symbolic meaning is the result of social experiences, which lead to the subjectve categorizaton of the product, by means of social insttutons, communicaton systems, and the culture of a society. In the feld of tourism, research has found that tangible and abstract atributes of tourist sites influence destnaton choice behavior. These atributes can be considered by tourists as symbolic meanings of places affectng their destnaton choice process (Klenoski, 2002).

Pan and Fesenmaier (2006) note that travel consumers tend to seek informaton related to 10 key sub-decisions regarding the trip-travel partners: the destnaton; expenditure required; actvites; travel dates; atractons to visit; transportaton providers; length of trip; rest stops; and food stops. Jeng & Fesenmaier (2002) note that travelers generally collect and review various forms of travel informaton early in the travel decision making process in order to minimize the risk of making a poor destnaton decision. The central role that individual consumers have in submitng, reviewing, and responding to online content is reflected in terms such as user-generated content (UGC) or consumergenerated media (CGM) that are commonly used for Web 2.0 (Gretzel, 2006, 2007). In the marketng context, UGC sites are effectvely a form of consumer to consumer e-marketng (Ahuja, Michels, Walker, & Weissbuch, 2007).

The role of the hypertext in the travel destnaton choice from websites

Destnatons satsfy the need for travelling and are recognized as a set of products, facilites and services that comprise the total tourist product. With the contnuing growth of the Internet and, in partcular, the World Wide Web (WWW) a new marketng potental exists for tourist destnatons. Websites offer informaton on a variety of categories, including travel, geography, tourist informaton centers, reservaton services and an events calendar. All destnatons bring together many tangible elements and atractons (e.g. museums, theatres, parks, monuments, etc.) and also a number of intangible aspects (e.g. art, ambience, culture, etc.) as well as facilites and services (e.g. hotels, restaurants, informaton ofces, etc.) for tourists.

Despite the prevalent use of Internet sites in the travel planning process, there is stll limited research available on the informaton search process and decision making behavior related to online vacaton planning (Ho & Liu, 2004; Pan & Fesenmaier, 2006). A vital aspect of Web pages is to be visually atractve to their readers The problem is that many Web pages tend to contain too much text, too litle graphics and not enough atractve appearance. Then, the challenge for Web pages is to offer relevant travel-related informaton together with useful links and graphical illustratons of tourist atractons.

Hypertext is a term originally used by Theodor H. Nelson in the 1960s. It refers to a form of electronic text that follows a non-sequental writng and “allows choices to the reader, best read at an interactve screen”. Computer hypertext contains an enormous number of signifers and it can be defned as a “text composed of blocks of words (or images) linked electronically by multple paths, chains, or trails (Landow, 2009). Specifcally, hypertext is a medium of gathering informaton linking verbal, nonverbal and other forms of data. Hypertext expands the noton of text beyond the solely verbal concept, linking passages of writen discourse to images, maps diagrams and sounds (Landow, 2009).

Utlizing hypertext users have the possibility of creatng, adding, connectng and sharing informaton from diverse sources, and the possibility of acceding to documents in non-sequental way, unlike more traditonal informaton systems in which the access is naturally sequental. This flexibility allows readers to navigate across different documents and/or the Web pages interlinked around a central subject.


One of the most unclear and understudied issues in the travel industry is the role that Web site links (e.g. hypertext tools) have in the users’ travel behavior and decision making processes. However, academicians and practtoners agree that websites are a very important source of informaton for prospectve travelers when they are in the research phase (i.e. informaton search) of the travel planning process and, partcularly when they need to choose a leisure destnaton.

Studies conducted in the USA demonstrate that approximately one third of website users are influenced by links with social content sites when making purchase decisions (Cox, Burges, Sellito, & Buultjens, 2009). This suggests that the potental for websites to have a strong and credible influence on travelers’ destnaton choice depends on how credible and transparent the informaton appearing in these sites is.

To explore the importance of hypertext in the travel destnaton choice from websites, a quanttatve study was conducted using a survey of individuals who were known to use the Internet to gather informaton when choosing leisure destnatons. The survey was developed based on website features such as texts, photographs, videos, links with tourist services and other web page elements.

A questonnaire of ten questons was designed and used to collect the informaton needed. This instrument was developed based on website features such as texts, photographs, videos, links with tourist services and other web page elements. It contained two sectons: the frst secton was focused on discovering the type of links considered by travelers as the most useful when they search informaton about leisure places and, more important, when they choose a tourist destnaton. The fnal secton asked for the demographic characteristcs of partcipants.

The sample of the study was integrated by individuals having experience as Web browsers. Experience of Internet use was, therefore, a flter, and non-users were excluded from the survey. In order to determine the proporton of Web browsers, the questonnaire was applied to 1000 individuals over a two-week period in the city of Puebla, Mexico, in diverse university campuses and travel agencies. The proporton of Web users was 66% and the proporton of non-users was 34%.

To obtain effectve measurement tools, the questonnaire was submited to a pilot-test. During this stage, the questonnaire was refned and the size of sample (345 individuals) was determined following the probabilistc-proportons formula (where Z=1.96, 95% confdence level; p=0.66; q=0.34; E=0.05).

The survey process was carried out applying 365 valid questonnaires in order to antcipate a 5% of invalid questonnaires. The database was processed using the sofware SPSS 18 (Statstcal Package for the Social Sciences).


Respondents were split between male 134 (36.71%) and female 231 (63.27%) individuals. Ages ranged from 18 years to 57 years, with a mean of 21.3 years (σ = 2.83). The great majority of respondents were students (98%) and, 83.3% of them use the Internet daily, whereas only 16.7%, some days a week.

The importance granted by individuals to Web page links was measured by means of queston 1 utlizing a 4-point ordinal scale, where the value of “1” is assigned to the most important link, and the value of “4” to the less important link. Results demonstrate that the images shown, the search secton, and the informatve texts are the three more important features of tourist Web pages (ranked frst (53%), second (35%), and third (29%) respectvely). Chi-squared tests were performed to identfy if correlatons between the three more important links identfed by individuals and their age and gender exist. Results demonstrate that there are not statstcally signifcant correlatons between these variables (see Table 1).

Table 1. Correlatons between the most important links and demographics of individuals
VariablesPearson Chi-Square χ2dfSig.†
Web images vs. gender 3.880 2 0.140
Informatve texts vs. gender 2.880 2 0.236
Search secton vs. gender 0.383 2 0.826
Web images vs. age 30.692 30 0.431
Informatve texts vs. age 37.098 28 0.117
Search secton vs. age 14.035 16 0.595
† * Sig.<0.05; ** Sig.<0.01

The use of links (hypertext) appearing in tourist websites was evaluated by means of a 4-point nominal-type scale anchored at value 4 (always use the links) and 1(never use the links). The most frequent answer was point 2 (many tmes use the links) with 48.5% of responses, followed by point 3 (few tmes use the links) with 47.7% of responses.

The importance of links in tourist websites was determined using a 4-point nominal-type scale anchored at value 4 (extremely important) and 1 (not important). Results show that point 2 (very important) was the most frequent answer with 65.7% of responses. Indeed, Chi-squared coefcients were calculated to explore if gender, age and occupaton of interviewers could be correlated with the use of hypertext links in tourist websites. Results show that links usage and gender are correlated variables, with women using the hypertext links more frequently. In contrast, age and occupaton of respondents are not correlated with the use of links in tourist websites (see Table 2).

Table 2. Correlatons between link’s usage and demographics of individuals
VariablesPearson Chi-Square χ2dfSig.†
Links’ use vs. gender 8.850 3 0.035*
Links’ use vs. age 57.477 45 0.100
Links’ use vs. occupaton 7.728 15 0.934
† * Sig.<0.05; ** Sig.<0.01

To explore the existence of correlatons between the demographic characteristcs of Web users and the importance assigned by them to hypertext links, Chi-squared tests were performed. Results also demonstrate that there are not signifcant correlatons between these variables (see Table 3).

Table 3. Correlatons between links’ importance and demographics of individuals
VariablesPearson Chi-Square χ2dfSig.†
Links’ importance vs. gender 2.795 4 0.593
Links’ importance vs. age 67.860 60 0.227
Links’ importance vs. occupaton 9.014 20 0.983
† * Sig.<0.05; ** Sig.<0.01

To identfy the types of links preferred by tourist websites users an ordinal scale was utlized. In this scale, the value of “1” corresponds to the most preferred link, and the value of “4”to the less preferred link.

The most preferred links (45.9% of responses) were those that connect users with tourist services (e.g. travel agencies, hotels, transportaton frms, etc.) others than those appearing in the website. In second place, the links offering informaton about the website’s atractons (41% of responses) and, in third place, the links containing informaton about tourist services available in the website browsed. Also, Chi-squared coefcients were calculated to identfy the existence of possible correlatons between the demographic characteristcs of Internet users and the three most preferred links explored by them. Again, Chi-squared coefcients showed that there are not signifcant correlatons (see Table 4).

Table 4. Correlatons between the most preferred links and demographics of individuals
VariablesPearson Chi-Square χ2dfSig.†
Tourist services in other places vs. gender 1.131 2 0.568
Tourist services in other places vs. age 22.185 26 0.679
Tourist services in other places vs. occupaton 7.362 4 0.118
Site tourist-atractons vs. gender 1.950 2 0.377
Site tourist-atractons vs. age 15.486 26 0.948
Site tourist-atractons vs. occupaton 3.760 6 0.709
Site tourist-services vs. gender 0.692 3 0.875
Site tourist-services vs. age 30.090 30 0.461
Site tourist-services vs. occupaton 9.845 15 0.829
† * Sig.<0.05; ** Sig.<0.01

The level of influence of hypertext links on tourist’s destnaton choice was evaluated using a 4-point Likert-type scale anchored at values: 4 (essental for make a choice) and 1 (non-required for make a choice). Answers to this queston show a mean value of 2.79 (σ=0.706, mode=3, median=3) that, being close to value 3. This means that Internet users consider that hypertexts exert a powerful influence on the destnaton-choice-processes of travelers.

In additon, a t-test was performed to explore possible differences between the opinions expressed by men and women concerning the influence of hypertexts on their destnaton-choice decisions. Results show that the responses of men and women are very similar (t=-1.303, df=363, sig. =0.193>0.05), hence, the gender of respondents does not influence their tourist destnaton choice

Finally, an ordinal scale was used to rank the three more influental links on the travel-destnaton choice of Web users. Results of this analysis show that hypertext links having photos were ranked in frst place (47%), the links containing informaton about the destnatons’ atractons were ranked in second place (45%), and the hypertext links connectng with tourist services (e.g. hotels, travel agencies, transportaton services, etc.) available in the destnatons (24%) were ranked in third place.

No signifcant correlatons were detected between these three more influental links and the demographic characteristcs of individuals (see Table 5).

Table 3. Correlatons between links’ importance and demographics of individuals
VariablesPearson Chi-Square χ2dfSig.†
Destnaton’s photographs vs. gender 0.288 2 0.866
Destnaton’s photographs vs. age 42.719 30 0.062
Destnaton’s photographs vs. occupaton 15.404 10 0.118
Site tourist-atractons vs. gender 4.09 2 0.129
Site tourist-atractons vs. age 26.189 28 0.563
Site tourist-atractons vs. occupaton 3.394 6 0.758
Site tourist-services vs. gender 0.710 2 0.965
Site tourist-services vs. age 11.283 16 0.792
Site tourist-services vs. occupaton 7.395 8 0.495
† * Sig.<0.05; ** Sig.<0.01

Considering that this study was carried out to explore the importance of hypertext links on travel destnaton choice, two correlaton analyses were performed between the most important link of tourist websites and: 1) the most preferred link, and 2) the most influental link on the tourist-destnaton choice. The results demonstrate a low level of correlaton between these variables (ρ=0.062, and ρ=0.195 respectvely). Hence, we can conclude that the use of hypertext links showing beautful images of destnatons (the best ranked) are not correlated with the use of both the links connectng with tourist services others than those appearing in the website (the most preferred) and the links containing destnatons’ photographs (the most influental on the touristdestnaton choice).

Conclusions and managerial implicatons

Appropriate electronic distributon systems provide good mechanisms for purchasing tourism products and destnatons. The Internet has increasingly impelled the relevance of tourist-product suppliers and has contributed to replacement of traditonal distributon channels. Certainly, through the Internet, tourism companies have successfully promoted a great variety of destnatons.

Promotng travel destnatons online is today a great business and many travel developers provide informaton to viewers interested in leisure destnatons. This study examines the influence of hypertext links appearing in tourist websites on the travel-destnaton choice of leisure travelers.

Important conclusions can be drawn from the fndings of this study. Results show that the use of links in tourist Web pages is a very frequent practce (48.5% of responses) for young individuals (21 years, average), and, principally, for female undergraduate students (64%). Thus, hypertext links available in tourist websites must be considered as a very important promotonal tool utlized by individuals when search and evaluate tourist destnaton alternatves.

Hypertext links containing images of destnatons, informatve texts, and search tools are the three most important features utlized by tourist website browsers. Then, we can conclude that hypertext links appearing in tourist websites exert a powerful influence on the tourist-destnaton choice processes of Internet users.

Results demonstrate that links connectng with accommodaton services, travel agencies, transportaton companies and other complementary tourist services were ranked the most preferred types of links used by individuals. Specifcally, links containing photographs of tourist sites (47%) and informatve texts (45%) were classifed by individuals as the most influental features when they choose a tourist destnaton. Only the gender of respondents seems to be related with the use of links available in tourist websites. In contrast, their age and occupaton are not related with the importance, use, and types of links preferred by them when browsing tourist websites. Hence, Regardless of age, or occupaton, individuals “click” on hypertext links that allow them to visualize destnatons, to get relevant informaton about these places, and to contact tourist services suppliers that facilitate their travel decision.

Previous studies have established that the search of travel destnatons in the Internet is determined by the relevance of the link anchors as pictures, texts or other hypertext features. For managers of tourism destnaton companies, tourist wholesalers and other tourism business, the results of this study can serve as a reference to help them identfy the strengths and weaknesses of their websites and take compettve advantage in the market place because more effectve tourist websites draw consumers into purchasing viewing destnatons in a more favorable light.

Results of this study suggest that the demographic profle of individuals browsing tourist websites is not a salient factor influencing the destnatonchoice processes of individuals. Furthermore, results of this study also suggest that tourist websites designers must emphasize the inclusion of hypertext links containing atractve visual features, non-extensive texts and search tools enabling Internet users to get relevant informaton about tourist destnatons. Hence, companies competng in tourism markets must include more atractve hypertext tools in order to improve the effectveness of their promotonal Web pages.

Studies concerning online tourism behavior have focused principally on consumers’ profles and tourist product characteristcs, but they have neglected other factors such as the influence of website features on the destnaton-choice decisions of travelers. This study expects to offer insights into new areas for further research on tourism websites design, applicaton and evaluaton. For this reason, this study focused on analyzing website hypertext links in different scope that other precedent studies. Nevertheless, it would be worthwhile for future research to analyze more deeply other important issues related to use of hypertext links and their implicatons on tourist behavior. The fndings of this study are expected to beneft researchers and practtoners by helping them beter understand the importance and the role played by hypertext links in the context of tourist-destnatons choice behavior.


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