5.1. Hypotheses and Discussion
Using multilevel structural equation modeling, the purpose of this study was to investigate the research questions proposed earlier. To address the first question, this study analyzed the relationship among U&G motivations and attitude. Based on the results, the hypotheses at both levels were supported. This study supports Fishbein’s [74
] definition of attitude, in which he defined attitude as “learned predispositions to respond to an object or class of objects in a favorable or unfavorable way” (p. 257). The results from this study found that U&G motivations have a positive relationship with attitude, results consistent with previous research, meaning that U&G motivations positively influenced attitude [11
]. In other words, tourists who seek information, convenience, entertainment, and social interaction have favorable attitudes toward smartphone use while traveling at Level 1 and 2.
Second, this study measured the relationship between attitude and e-tourist satisfaction. The hypothesis was supported at Level 1, but the one at Level 2 was rejected. Luo [37
] found that satisfaction was influenced by attitude toward the Internet in the UGT context. Moreover, Park and Lee [56
] found that satisfaction with campus life was influenced by attitude toward Facebook use in the UGT context as well. In addition, Moutinho and Smith [53
] and Wu and Chang [77
] argued that customer satisfaction was affected by brand attitude and risk attitude. The study reported here found similar results to those from previous research exploring the relationship between attitude and satisfaction. Based on the results from this study, a favorable attitude toward smartphone use can lead to utilitarian satisfaction, hedonic satisfaction, and overall satisfaction during trips at Level 1; On the other hand, attitude was not found to influence e-tourist satisfaction while traveling at Level 2. That is, there was no group effect found between attitude toward smartphone use and e-tourist satisfaction. Tourists’ attitude toward smartphone use is likely to be individualized by their media usage, meaning their attitude toward it tends to influence individual satisfaction, not group satisfaction. Thus, tourists’ individual smartphone choices do not affect the group satisfaction of travelers.
The third question addresses the indirect effect in the relationship between U&G motivations, attitude, and e-tourist satisfaction in the mediation model. Based on the results, the hypothesis was supported at Level 1, but the one at Level 2 was rejected. Attitude significantly mediated an indirect effect of U&G motivations on e-tourist satisfactions at Level 1 but not at Level 2. The results from this study are consistent with Luo [37
] and Lee’s [55
] models which examined motivations, attitude, and satisfactions. Luo [37
] examined the impact of the three motivations on a variety of consumer behaviors, including attitude toward Internet usage and customer satisfaction using the UGT. Luo’s model explained that U&G motivations directly affect attitude, and attitude significantly influences satisfaction. Lee [55
] also investigated a conceptual model of tourism utilizing the variables of destination image, attitude, motivation, satisfaction, and future travel behavior. This study confirmed that motivation directly affects attitude, which, in turn, directly influences tourist satisfaction, meaning motivation indirectly influences tourist satisfaction.
Similarly, Park and Lee [56
] also found that U&G motivations had an indirect effect on satisfaction with campus life through the attitudes towards Facebook. To summarize, tourists who desired social interaction, information, entertainment, and convenience during their trips had favorable attitudes toward smartphone use and this attitude toward it influenced their utilitarian satisfaction, hedonic satisfaction, and overall satisfaction at Level 1. On the other hand, the group motivations of tourists did not influence group attitude, which, in turn, did not affect the group satisfaction of tourists. Tourists’ motivations for using smartphones are likely to be socially and psychologically individualized by their media usage and these motivations influence the attitude toward smartphone use of individual tourists (not group of tourists), which in turn, influences the utilitarian satisfaction, hedonic satisfaction, and overall satisfaction of individual tourists. These phenomena originate in the personalized and customized traits of social media and IT including the smartphone.
Fourth, to clarify which sub-factors of U&G motivations via attitude influence e-tourist satisfaction, this study also analyzed three path relationships (each sub-factor of U&G motivations, attitude, and e-tourist satisfaction) in the mediation model. At Level 1, U&G motivation measured as information and U&G motivation measured as convenience via attitude showed a substantial impact on e-tourist satisfaction, followed by U&G motivation measured as entertainment and U&G motivation measured as social interaction. U&G motivations, measured as information, convenience, entertainment, and social interaction, via attitude had a significant impact on e-tourist satisfaction in the individual level, meaning that tourists seeking these factors had a favorable attitude toward smartphone use, which, in turn, led to satisfaction with smartphone use by tourists during their trips at Level 1. At the group level, however, each sub-factor of U&G motivations via attitude did not have a significant relationship with e-tourist satisfaction. These specific motivations, attitudes and the resulting satisfaction are caused by individual socio-psychological attributes, not the group unit. This study supports previous research examining the relationship among the three U&G motivations, attitude toward the Internet and customer satisfaction [37
]. In Luo’s [37
] research, Internet users who saw the web as entertaining and informative tended to demonstrate a positive attitude toward it, while those who regarded it as irritating reported a negative attitude, meaning the former tended to search the Internet and felt satisfied with their searches.
The results indicate that that smartphone issues in the travel and tourism context were more important at the individual level than at the group level. This finding is consistent with the assumptions and crucial concepts of Uses and Gratifications Theory, which focus on individual motivations and individual use when actively selecting specific media choices and features. This theory assumes that users actively participate in the media environment and that they are goal-directed in their media usage. More critically, media users (tourists are referred to as media users here) seek specific gratifications (satisfactions) to fulfill their individual needs and wants (referred to as the four U&G motivations here). These needs and gratifications stem from individual psychological and sociological characteristics and traits [78
5.2. Conceptual and Theoretical Implications
Despite the previous smartphone research in the context of travel and tourism, there is limited research based on a strong theoretical background that seeks to understand how tourists are motivated and satisfied via smartphone use. This study extends previous studies by systematically investigating and quantitatively measuring how and to what extent tourists are gratified (satisfied) using smartphones during their trips based on the Uses and Gratifications Theory. This study provides several theoretical contributions. It found four motivations for using smartphones by tourists, referred to U&G motivations, specifically social interaction, information, entertainment, and convenience. The results suggest that these four motivations have a significant effect on tourists’ attitude toward smartphone use, which, in turn, significantly affects e-tourist satisfaction at the individual level.
This result demonstrates that the Uses and Gratifications Theory can serve as a useful and effective conceptual framework for aiding tourism researchers in gaining a better understanding of tourism phenomena. It can also lead us to a fuller understanding of the application of this theory to the new media and tourism, offering the possibility of investigating the issues of social media and IT in travel and tourism through the lens of this theory. This study also confirmed the relationships among U&G motivations, attitude toward the smartphone use by tourists and e-tourist satisfactions, as predicted. Although these relationships have been explored in advertising, communications, marketing, and management areas using Uses and Gratifications Theory, this study further extends the extant literature to the smartphone in travel and tourism including examining whether these relationships are valid in this context.
In addition, this study provides a classification of U&G motivations and a conceptual model of interactive e-tourism communication. This study represents the first development of a classification and conceptual model of Uses and Gratifications Theory in the field of travel and tourism. Thus, this study introduced and applied the Uses and Gratifications Theory to the travel and tourism area in addition to developing a classification of U&G motivations for this field. While Ko et al. [11
] suggested the classification of U&G motivations and Luo [37
], Ko et al. [11
], and Logan [34
] developed motivations items based on it for the communication field, this scale was not suitable for testing the U&G motivations in the field of travel and tourism because it had been applied only to the new media and communications fields. The classification of U&G motivations for the use of a smartphone while traveling and the new scale for measuring e-tourist satisfaction and experiences to enhance the understanding of e-tourists’ motivations, the behaviors and satisfaction proposed here consist of four constructs: social interaction, information, entertainment, and convenience motivations. E-tourist satisfactions are classified into three categories: utilitarian satisfactions, hedonic satisfactions, and overall satisfactions.
This study also extended the theoretical framework of Uses and Gratifications Theory by examining the causal relations among its four motivations and smartphone use while traveling and the level of satisfaction of tourists experienced using this platform in the tourism context. Moreover, this study created a new concept of e-Tourist and e-Tourist Satisfactions based on the extant tourism literature. Based on the unique characteristics of communication, this study explored conceptual knowledge by considering communication, consumer behavior and tourism within the e-tourism context. The development of the classification of U&G motivations and the conceptual model of e-tourism communication provides tourism researchers with a deeper understanding of the reasons why tourists use smartphones during their trips and the construct of U&G motivations and e-Tourist Satisfaction.
While previous scholars have investigated U&G motivations and satisfactions in the field of new media and communications [11
], there is little empirical investigation of the relationships between U&G motivations and other constructs in the e-tourism area. This study empirically tested relationships among U&G motivations, attitude toward the smartphone use by tourists and e-tourist satisfaction, analyzing how the motivations influenced attitude toward it and e-tourists’ satisfaction. More specifically, this study found that each U&G motivation factor serves as a significant predictor of e-tourist satisfactions at the individual level. The empirical findings from this study contribute to our knowledge of how gratified (satisfied) tourists are with the use of this platform (smartphone) in the travel and tourism context.
5.3. Methodological and Statistical Implications
The scale of U&G motivations, attitude and e-tourist satisfaction was developed from the perspective of the unique features and traits of e-tourism communication to provide a theoretical basis through expert review, an extensive literature review and four pilot studies. This scale demonstrated content validity, convergent validity, discriminant validity, and internal consistency through expert review, four pilot studies and multilevel confirmatory factor analysis. As a result, the scale items developed in this study are expected to contribute to future research applying the Uses and Gratifications Theory to tourism.
Previous research on smartphones and tourism has primarily depended on qualitative research; however, this study is a quantitative one using Multilevel SEM. The Multilevel SEM adopted for this study aids the researchers in testing and measuring causal relationships among concepts and variables in measuring group effects by examining hierarchically structured data.
This study differentiates itself from previous research because it collected data only from tourists travelling in groups and analyzing the data by considering the interdependency of their responses. Consequently, using MLM in this study was an effective method for analyzing these data and to test if there were groups effects among travel groups.
5.4. Practical and Managerial Implications
Tourism marketers can enhance the information motivation for using smartphones by travelers by disseminating up-to-date and useful information concerning tourism destinations. For example, some information on restaurant reviews from Yelp and Eater can generate positive eWOM for specific tourism destinations and providing information on transportation such as Uber and Lyft or navigating around the destination using Google maps can also trigger value co-creation [27
]. Information on interesting attractions or special events at the destinations can attract more travelers, and tourism practitioners can improve the social interaction motivation for using smartphones by connecting tourists with travelers at the destination. These interactions are enhanced because mobile phones and the Internet have transformed the ease and convenience of social interactions and communication [8
]. For instance, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and smartphone companies can join to develop a platform hosting discussion about destinations. Sharing of travel experiences and providing tips and comments to other tourists can fulfill the social interaction motivations of travelers.
Tourism marketing practitioners can trigger the entertainment motivation of travelers for using smartphones by offering various smartphone applications that can generate a positive attitude toward smartphone use, leading to a high level of entertainment and satisfaction at destinations. For example, travelers use smartphones to record their memories by taking photos and videos and sharing them with friends, both those at home and those with them at the destination, via social media such as Twitter and Facebook [2
]. Tourism marketers can increase the convenience motivation of using smartphones by travelers via rapid and easy access to information. Thus, they can help tourists efficiently check for updated tourist information while on the move. Doing so makes travel easier and more enjoyable because of the minimal effort required to transcend time and space. One managerial implication from this study is the need for DMOs and tourist attractions to integrate customized and effective Social Networking Services (SNS)s strategies into their marketing communication mix. Currently, many travelers depend on the information provided in smartphones applications, and this type of promotional effort can generate a favorable image of a destination.
As a new communication channel for travel-related products and services, smartphones can serve as an effective tool to satisfy tourists’ information motivation regarding travel activities as well as to enhance their convenience motivation. Tourists who have been satisfied with the use of smartphones are expected to utilize them in their next travel plans. Thus, DMOs (Destination Marketing or Management Organizations) are to supply tourists with customized and updated information for flexibility and immediacy at a specific location and time. Recently, smartphones have enabled tourists to be more involved and innovative in creating or savoring their own travel experiences [21
]. In addition, these new media offer DMOs the tools that satisfy, or gratify, the U&G motivations of tourists so that DMOs can successfully address the changing interests of travelers.
5.5. Study Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research
Despite the contributions of this study, it has several limitations that can offer opportunities for future research. This study did not use moderating variables such as gender and age. It would be more meaningful to measure and explain e-tourist satisfactions if future research can address this issue. The results demonstrate that smartphone use by tourists is dynamic, meaning the nature of this technology use can substantially change during trips. This finding substantiates the affordances of smartphone, and since the nature of the tourism experience may change and differ across the three stages (pre-trip, on-site trip, and post-trip) of the trip experience, further research is needed to address three different stages individually. Moreover, 46.5% of the respondents in this study were members of the younger generation (under 30 years old), and they used their smartphones during this trip, meaning they are generally more open to adopting a new media technology to acquire a wide range of information channels during their trips. Thus, DMOs and tourism marketers are advised to target and customize their offerings to younger tourists who bring and use smartphones when they travel, and then they need to segment by generation.