How images and stereotypes influence travellers’ attitudes toward tourism destinations

Both Australia and Indonesia recognise the potential for growth within the tourism sector and have supported each other in this sphere for the past decade. In particular, two-way tourism represents a tremendous economic opportunity that can bring mutually beneficial outcomes, so it is therefore not surprising that Australia and Indonesia continuously aim to enhance bilateral tourism cooperation. More than 1.2 million Australians visited Indonesia in 2016 and Australia was the 10th most popular destination for Indonesian tourists, with around 150,000 visitors in the same period. However, despite the two countries increasingly promoting new destinations, Bali is still the top Indonesian destination for Australian tourists. Similarly, Sydney and Melbourne are still the most popular cities for Indonesian tourists.

This research aimed to provide data towards development of a tourism marketing campaign that can potentially renew how Australian and Indonesian tourists perceive each country as a destination. The overall aim was to understand how Australian and Indonesian tourists might be encouraged to expand their travel experiences in the other country and by extension come to know more of its society and culture.

Through a series of surveys and experimental studies, this research found that better alignment between tourists’ travelling motivations and destination image led to more positive attitudes toward newly promoted tourist destinations. It further revealed that the destination community’s support for tourism played a more significant role when promoting new destinations in developed countries compared to developing countries.

This research aimed to find the optimal match between destination images and societal stereotypes for developing positive attitudes in potential tourists, and to determine under which conditions the match would be most optimal.

The findings are expected to bring new insights in how to better promote destinations in  both countries not normally considered by potential tourists. The idea of tourism powering economies and supporting communities can thereby be enhanced. Successful implementation of such a marketing campaign would not only strengthen Australia and Indonesia’s bilateral tourism flows, but extend beyond tourism to realms including defence, trade and political relations.

This survey was a preliminary study to explore whether mapping tourists’ travelling motivations and images of a newly promoted destination would influence attitudes toward the tourist destination. To examine this effect, after Australian and Indonesian participants indicated their main reason for travelling to the other country in their last visit, they were presented with three pictures of newly promoted tourist destinations. Each picture portrayed one attribute representing the image this particular destination was seeking  to portray. They were then asked to select a destination they would consider in a future visit. In this research, we focused on three travelling motivations: seeing beautiful scenery, experiencing cultural richness, and shopping/culinary adventure.

Findings and recommendations

The study found that Australian tourists who travelled to Indonesia for cultural richness were more likely to choose a new destination that similarly highlighted culture richness. However, it also found that those who travelled to Indonesia to ‘see beautiful scenery’ were also willing to expand their repertoire by choosing a new tourist destination that highlighted culture richness.

Indonesian tourists similarly selected ‘seeing beautiful scenery’ as the primary motivation for travel to Australia and were in turn likely to choose a new tourist destination that also highlighted beautiful scenery. However, like the Australians surveyed, some could also be persuaded to shift their motivations, with those travelling for ‘cultural richness’ also likely to explore a new tourist destination highlighting beautiful scenery.

The main conclusion of this research is that in order to increase the attractiveness of a ‘new’ tourist destination in both countries, a marketing campaign should map travellers’ motivations to travel and then match them with a like image. Significantly, the research also found that potential travellers could be persuaded to try new experiences on their next visit, including those which are ‘cultural’ in nature. This aligns with the findings of the AIC Perceptions report.

Another related and important finding in the study concerned congruity with destination community support for tourism.  Where there is a high level of support, in general this will increase the attractiveness of the tourist destination to potential visitors.


Public seminar

‘Tourism between Australia and Indonesia: Understanding travellers’ motives, influences and experiences’, Monash University, 23 November 2018.