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Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism

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The Role of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) on Heritage Destination Visitations

YuJu Wang , Chihkang (Kenny) Wu & Jingxue (Jessica) Yuan PhD
a a b c

Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Department of Tourism Management, National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan

Department of Nutrition, Hospitality & Retailing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA Available online: 13 Aug 2009

To cite this article: YuJu Wang, Chihkang (Kenny) Wu & Jingxue (Jessica) Yuan PhD (2009): The Role of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) on Heritage Destination Visitations, Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, 10:3, 218-231 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15280080902988048

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Journal of Quality Assurance In Hospitality & Tourism, 10:218231, 2009 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1528-008X print / 1528-0098 online DOI: 10.1080/15280080902988048


The Role of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) on Heritage Destination Visitations

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Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

Department of Tourism Management, National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan


Department of Nutrition, Hospitality & Retailing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA

This study was aimed at exploring the role of integrated marketing communications (IMC) on visitors selection of a heritage destination. A survey was conducted in a popular heritage township in Taiwan in spring 2007. Results from the 197 usable questionnaires indicated that communication tools for message delivery can be placed into three types under the headings of public relation (PR), advertisement (ADV), and direct sale & promotion (DS&P). The relationship between the three IMC factors and heritage tourists social and demographic characteristics were also explored. The findings are expected to help heritage administrators understand heritage visitors and formulate marketing strategies and quality management plans to cater effectively to target segments. KEYWORDS IMC, heritage tourism, marketing communication
Received 27 August 2009; revised 1 April 2009; accepted 18 April 2009 Address correspondence to Jingxue (Jessica) Yuan, PhD, Department of Nutrition, Hospitality & Retailing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409. E-mail: jessica.yuan@ttu. edu 218

Research Note


Heritage tourism uses significant histories, or humanity to attract visitors to discover, to explore, and to enjoy attractions. According to the United Nation World Tourism Organization, heritage tourism accounts for 37% of global tourism and will continuously grow (Government of Western Australia, 2004). Revenues generated from heritage tourism infuse financial resources to the heritage sites for better management, preservation, and education as well as contributing to local and national economies. This unique form of tourism provides, moreover, an opportunity for many cultural, historical, and human interactions. Heritage tourism cultivates domestic and international understanding among tourists from different countries and cultures. Most heritage administrators focus their efforts on research, preservation, and education. As the competition has increased, however, marketing an attraction as a unique product and successfully communicating to prospective visitors becomes vital. The main goal of marketing is to build a unique image, to increase the spending of visitors, and to extend their stay at the heritage site (Pike, 2004). Robinson (1994) suggested that the aim of marketing heritage attraction is to persuade customers that the attraction is the place to which they prepare to travel. Many heritage sites practice branding strategy to carry out this goal. Establishing a strong brand becomes a competitive advantage for the heritage destinations as this enables them to distinguish themselves (Hankinson, 2004; Pike, 2004). One effective branding strategic tool heritage site administrators may use in building a brand image is through Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC). This communication strategic tool unifies a promotional mix to deliver maximum communication influences to target audiences (Burnett & Moriarty, 1998; Sirgy, 1998; Vargas, 2005). In practice, the IMC utilizes cross-functional marketing communication tools, for example, advertisement, direct mail, public relations, and word-of-mouth, to achieve its brand communication goals effectively (Pike, 2004). IMC could potentially create the greatest persuasive effect on consumers encounters with brand contacts (Madhavaram, Badrinarayanan, & McDonald, 2005). Although IMC has been successfully carried out by many manufacturing and service businesses, it is still relatively new concept to heritage management. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the roel IMC (communication message and methods) on marketing a heritage destination, using empirical data collected at Lukang, Taiwan, a well known heritage destination in the region. This study was exploratory in nature and aimed at providing a preliminary understanding of the relationship between IMC and heritage tourists social and demographic characteristics.

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Y.-J. Wang et al.

LITERATURE REVIEW Heritage Resources

Based on their characteristics, heritage can be classified into nature, landscape, monuments, artifacts, activities, people, and sites (Ashworth, Howard, & Ashworth, 1999). Nature includes plants, animals, and ecosystems, geological and geomorphologic features. Landscape pertains to areas conserved for their aesthetic appeal and their cultural evidence. Monuments include memorial structures and works of architecture representing a specific era or building style. Artifacts are man-made objects that have been collected. Activities constitute our ways of life, such as languages, religious activities, and culture. People are represented as artists, presidents and royal families, etc. Sites represent mythical heritage, which might be connected to certain actual places without physical evidence. These heritage resources symbolize the place, values, and common characteristics of human beings. Archaeological and historic sites, buildings, locations, and facilities having cultural significance in the community should not be neglected (Li, 2003). When these are packaged and developed to attract visitors, they become heritage products (Taiwan Tourism Policy White Paper, 2002). From natural parks to archeological sites, the fascinations of these attractions which relive the past have become important tourism resources. Nevertheless, heritage resources themselves do not automatically become tourism destinations. For a heritage resource to become an attraction to visitors, the site must contain eight characteristics (Silberberg, 1995): perceived quality of the product, awareness, customer service attitude, sustainability, and extent to which a product is perceived to be unique or special, convenience, community support and involvement, and management commitment and capability.

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Heritage Tourism
Heritage tourism has significantly contributed to domestic and international understanding, providing an opportunity for cultural, historical, and people interactions. The educational components and information about heritage sites are also a significant motivation for visitors (Bonn, Mo Dai, Hayes, et al., 2007). People could see the loss of preserved culture and tradition in the development process. In addition, heritage tourism brings revenues to the community and taxes to infrastructure, and provides employment and heritage preservation (Li, 2003). Nevertheless, heritage tourism also comprises a threat to the destination, physical damage to the destination, potential erosion of heritage authenticity because of commercialization and overuse, and makes conservation difficult (Li, 2003).

Research Note


Heritage tourism denotes an experience of visiting historical places (Boyd, 2002); it also describes a tourism through which tourists may learn about, witness and experience the cultural heritage of a destination (Greenwood, 1982; Klieger, 1990; Williams, 1998; Li, 2003). Apparently, old castles, landscapes, villages, and so forth are heritages that frame the tourism products. Once landscapes, natural history, buildings, artifacts, and cultural traditions are passed down from one generation to the other, they become tourism products for heritage tourism (Prentice, 1993). Cultural tourism, cultural heritage tourism, and heritage tourism are considered synonymous concepts among scholars. Table 1 summarizes the definitions of these three terms found in the literature.

Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)

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Communication provides source of information and largely influences visitors behavior. Potential visitors receive messages from all sorts of sources
TABLE 1 Definitions of Heritage Tourism Author Silberberg Year 1995 Definition Cultural tourism is part of cultural heritage tourism. Visits by persons from outside the host community are motivated wholly or in part by interest in historical, artistic, scientific or lifestyle/heritage offerings of a community, region, group or institution Heritage tourism is traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and peoples from the past. Tourism is inspired by, organized in connection with or visiting the cultural and/or natural heritage of an area. This heritage includes, for example, areas of natural beauty, buildings, geographical features, monuments, natural areas, sites of archaeological interest and other natural or manmade places of importance for aesthetic, anthropological, ethnological, historical, scientific, or other reasons. Heritage tourism is a phenomenon based on tourists motivations and perceptions rather than on specific site attributes.Heritage tourism is a subgroup of tourism, in which the main motivation for visiting a site is based on the places heritage characteristics according to the tourists perceptions of their own heritage. It has a sense of belonging. A form of heritage is inextricably linked to the area in question and has a clear association with it. It involves a sense of time that is based on the history or geography of the place. Heritage tourism is tourists motivation and perception on the past sites visitation Cultural heritage tourism means traveling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes irreplaceable historic, cultural and natural resources.

Ohio Division of Tourism and Travel Beaver, A.

1997 2002

Poria, Buttler, & Airey


European Commission


Sigala & Leslie The National Trust for Historic Preservation in the U.S.

2005 2005


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such as the destination itself, mass media, and travel operators or exhibitions. They react to these messages by forming motivations, positive expectations, and finally a decision to travel (Leiper, 1990). Visitors use information in different ways: evaluating alternatives in making a choice; reinforcing past choices as a rationalization process; resolving conflict between buying and postponing; reminding them when to buy; and acquiring knowledge for epistemic purpose. Integrated marketing communications (IMC) is a major communication paradigm rooted from communication theory (Clow & Baack, 2002; Fitzpatrick, 2005; Kliatchko, 2005). The American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) defined IMC as:
a concept of marketing communication planning that recognizes the added value of a comprehensive plan that evaluate the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines, e.g. general advertising, direct response, sales promotion and public relations-and combines these disciplines to provide clarity, consistency and maximum communication impact (Pelsmacker, Geuens, & Bergh, 2001, p. 8).

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In IMC, traditional communication instruments are combined in such a way that a synergetic effect can be reached and the resulting communication efforts become homogeneous. Based on the customer-centric and datadriven method of communicating with consumers, IMC focuses on consumers attitudes, needs and motivations (Clow & Baack, 2002; Burnett & Moriarty, 1998). This strategy is not only a powerful tool in reaching target markets with persuasive messages, but also effectively decides on promotion mix elements (Pitta, Weisgal, & Lynagh, 2006). With use of IMC, a consistent set of messages is conveyed to all target audiences by all available forms of contact and message channels (Pelsmacker et al., 2001). In addition, IMC has an impact on cost-effect, improves the marketing communication program, and increases persuasive value for customers and destination (Yeshin, 1998; Duncan, 2002; Fill, 2002; Kitchen, 2005). IMC could potentially make organizations more efficient and effective in communicating with their intended target markets (Madhavaram et al., 2005). Consequently, effectively implemented IMC strategy can increase marketing benefits and reducing costs based on changing customers behavior (Holm, 2006; Duncan & Everett, 1993).


Located in the center of the west coast of Taiwan, Lukang was the second largest harbor from 17th to 19th centuries. Animal and agricultural products

Research Note


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were exported and imported from north central Taiwan and other countries around the world. In Chinese, Lu represents deer and Kang means harbor. The townships name was derived from its major trade of deerskins during the Dutch colonial period. In the early 20th century, Lukang lost its shine and competitive advantage due to subsequent silting of the harbor and the rejection by residents of railroads to pass through the center of the town. Having lost its sea and land transportation, Lukang had no advantages in trade, and the township faded from the modern development of Taiwan. Once one of the most flourishing port and township, Lukang is well preserved with glories on all aspects of heritage: nature, landscape, monuments, artifacts, activities, people, and sites. Lukangs cultural and historical richness is like a living-museum, and the old township is accordingly helpful for shaping the image of Taiwan. In recent years, highquality infrastructures were constructed to meet the needs of increasing numbers of tourists.

A survey questionnaire was developed to measure the role of various marketing communications on visitors decision-making on heritage destinations. The instrument was developed from heritage tourism and IMC literature. Validity of the items was examined by a panel of experts who specialized in heritage management, tourism, and hospitality management. The instrument was pilot-tested among graduate students in the hospitality program at a State University in the United States. Reliability test of each construct produced alpha values of 0.7 or higher. The instrument was then translated into Chinese and back translated. The process was evaluated by three faulty members in the program who are fluent in both Chinese and English. The survey included 21 items testing the role of various marketing channels. These items were developed to reflect the major classifications of mass media. These categories include (1) print media (newspaper, magazine, guidebook, and travel book/journal); (2) broadcast media (television and radio); (3) out-of-home media (outdoor media and transit media); and (4) supplemental and new media (Internet). Each question asked the respondents to rate a particular communication medium on the decision making in visiting the heritage destination. Measurement for the 21 items were anchored with a 5-point scale where 1 5 no influence and 5 5 very high influence. The survey also included questions on demographics.

Data Collection
The survey was conducted at Lukangs old streets and in front of the Tien Hou Temple, the most visited sites of the town, during two weekends of a


Y.-J. Wang et al.

cultural festival sponsored by the city government in March 2007. The festival is a traditional event held to attract more visitors to the destination. In order to maintain consistency of the data collection, field workers received training prior to the data collection sessions. Respondents who identified themselves as visitors and were willing to participate in the study were given a copy of a self-administered questionnaire. Respondents over 60 years old were interviewed in local dialect to compensate for any illiteracy or deteriorated vision. Data collection occurred from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m on each day. Survey response rate was 90%, with a total of 197 usable surveys collected.

Data Analyses
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Demographic information was summarized by descriptive statistics. Items on IMC were subject to a principle component analysis with varimax rotation to explore their interrelationships. Goal of this analysis was to reduce a large number of variables to a smaller number of dimensions. The measurement items with loadings 0.4 or higher were included in factors labeled by content analysis. For the factors having 0.7 or higher reliability alpha, all the items within the component were averaged to create a composite variable. These composite variables served as the dependent variables for analysis of variance (ANOVA) comparing responses among social-demographic groups.


The sample consisted of 197 respondents, of whom 88 were female (44.7%) and 108 male (54.8%) (Table 2). The dominant age group was 21 to 30 years of age (42.1%), followed by 31 to 40 (26.9%), indicating that young people were interested in visiting Lukang. More than 48% of the respondents were from northern Taiwan and 41.1% from the middle region. More than half respondents (57.3%) had college degrees and above, followed by junior college degrees (26.4%), suggesting that those who visited Lukang were well educated. With regard to respondents monthly income, about one-third (31.0%) earned less than US$600 followed by those earning $1,500 to $1,799 (13.7%), representing a low income level.

Use of the Marketing Communication Tools

Aspects of marketing communication tools involved 21 items. The principle component analysis technique with Varimax rotation was conducted to categorize the 21 communication tools into manageable groups. The

Research Note TABLE 2 Demographic Information (N 5 197) Variable Gender Male Female Age , 20 2130 3140 4150 5160 . 60 Education Elementary school High school Junior college College > Graduate school Residence in Taiwan Northern Middle South Eastern Offshore Monthly Income (US$) , 600 600899 9001,199 1,2001,499 1,5001,799 1,8002,099 2,1002,399 > 2,400 N 88 108 15 83 53 18 10 17 3 8 52 82 31 95 81 13 1 5 61 25 24 26 27 14 3 9 % 44.9 55.1 7.7 42.3 27.0 9.2 5.1 8.7 1.7 4.5 29.5 46.6 17.6 48.7 41.5 6.7 0.5 2.6 32.3 13.2 12.7 13.8 14.3 7.4 1.6 4.8


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selection criterion of Eigenvalue was above 1.0. The 21 variables formed three factors, explaining over 68% of the total variance (Table 3). Labels of these three factors were: (1) Direct Sale &Promotion (DS&P) (a 5 .89), (2) Public Relations (PR) (a 5 .93), and (3) Advertisement (ADV) (a 5 .90). After the three factors were identified, items within each factor were averaged to create a composite variable with the factor name as the variable name (i.e., PR, ADV, and DS&P). Composite variables were further analyzed by analysis of variance (ANOVA) using demographic variables (age, gender, income, and residence) as the independent variables. When the ANOVA revealed significant difference in a particular group, it was further examined by Tukey test with a pre-set error rate (p , .05). Results of the ANOVA and post hoc tests on the socio-demographic variables are presented in Table 4. There were significant differences between age groups on PR (F5,183 5 4.25; p , .001), ADV (F5,183 5 2.42; p , .037), and DS&P (F3,183 5 3.93; p , .002). Differences were also detected on PR (F3,184 5 8.395; p , .001), ADV (F3,184


Y.-J. Wang et al.

TABLE 3 Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Channel Factors Subscales Direct Sale & Promotion (DS&P) Carnivals Travel exhibitions Travel agency ads Festivals Radio travel news Travel information news Travel info brochures Radio program Recommendation F/R Public Relations (PR) Print media columns Print media travel news TV travel news TV travel programs Internet travel information Travel news Web Advertisement (ADV) Outdoor boards Internet advertising TV commercials Broadcast commercials News/magazine ads Total Factor Loading Eigen Value 5.623 0.8105 0.7971 0.7748 0.6804 0.6514 0.6407 0.6011 0.5867 0.5303 4.887 0.8172 0.7701 0.7451 0.7364 0.6784 0.6754 3.853 0.8354 0.8353 0.8330 0.8085 0.7260 68.399% 0.946 18.350% 0.899 2.968 1.029 23.271% 0.927 3.702 0.870 Variance Cronbach Mean Explained Alpha 26.778% 0.917 3.356 SD 0.854

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Extraction Method: Principal Component Analysis. Rotation Method: Varimax with Kaiser Normalization.

5 3.25; p , .02), and DS&P (F3, 184 5 3.25; p , .02) among respondents from different areas in Taiwan. Respondents in different income groups displayed mean differences on ADV (F6,175 5 4.03; p , .001).

This study explored the role of integrated marketing communication (IMC) channels on visiting a heritage destination. Results indicated that communication tools for message delivery can be placed into three types under the headings of public relation (PR), advertisement (ADV), and direct sale & promotion (DS&P). The public relation communication featured print media, TV travel news, TV travel programs, and Internet travel information. This type was made up of news and travel information through TV channels, Internet, and newspapers and magazines. The second type, advertisement, contained advertising delivered through varied media to people, such as Internet, outdoor boards, TV, broadcast, and print media. The third type contained carnivals/activities, travel exhibition, travel agency ads, festivals,

Research Note TABLE 4 Variation in Communication Tools by Socio-Demographic Characteristics Independent Variable Mean Score for Dependent Variables PR Age , 20 2130 3140 4150 5160 . 60 Education Elementary School Junior High Senior High Junior College University > Graduate School Residence Northern Middle South/Eastern Offshore Monthly Income (US$) , 600 600899 9001,199 1,2001,499 1,5001,799 1,8002,099 > 2,100 Gender Male Female
a, b, c, d


b b b b a b

DS&P 3.85 3.43 3.57 3.59 2.40 3.18 3.20 3.07 3.52 3.39 3.58 3.21
c b b b a b

3.82 3.76 3.76 3.95 2.54 3.41 3.50 3.39 3.70 3.63 3.79 3.62 3.83 3.74 3.37 2.03 3.73 3.60 3.90 3.93 3.52 3.70 3.68 3.63 3.76

3.36 3.03 2.77 3.21 2.09 3.08 3.00 3.07 3.37 3.10 2.92 2.52

b b ab b a b

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b b b a

2.98 3.08 2.64 1.72 3.08 3.50 3.30 2.69 2.41 2.84 2.38 2.84 3.06

b b ab a b c c ab a ab a

3.56 3.45 3.21 2.40 3.50 3.55 3.50 3.58 3.10 3.57 3.44 3.41 3.48

b b ab a

mean in same column within different superscripts were different (p , .05)

and friends/relatives recommendations, and was thus named direct sale and promotion. In terms of the role of marketing communication factors within different demographic groups, findings suggested that perceptions of respondents between 51 and 60 years of age differed from the rest of the sample on all three factors. This group attached much lower ratings on each factor than did the other groups, particularly lower than the 41 to 50 group on PR, and the , 20 group on ADV and DS&P. Apparently this group did not pay as much attention to the coverage of communication media. No differences on the factors were found between the educational levels. Residents living offshore gave significantly lower scores to all three factors than people from northern, middle, and south/eastern areas. However, it should be noted that only 5 subjects came from the offshore area, as opposed to the 95 and 81 subjects from the northern and middle areas, respectively. The results could be


Y.-J. Wang et al.

biased due to the unbalanced sample sizes. The group with monthly income .$2,100 gave lower attachment to ADV than those with income between $600 and $1,199. No gender differences were found with regard to any communication factors. Public relation (PR) has worked on heritage visitors younger than 50 years old. Travel information and news delivered via this type of communication channel reached this group of travelers with high effectiveness. Travel programs and news reports on television and on print media were important communication tools when persuading younger visitors to make travel decisions on a heritage destination. Tentatively speaking, this type of communication media made the heritage visitors more prone to actions. Advertisement (ADV) appeared to wield less influence than did the other two communication types. Furthermore, direct sale and promotion (DS&P) played an effective role to help people make up their mind despite a visitors demographic background. Results of this study suggest public relation (PR) type of communication affects people who are middle-aged and living in the major island of Taiwan. Advertisement (ADV) affects younger people with lower monthly income. Compared to the other two types of communication tools, direct sale & promotion (DS&P) more effectively impact those who are younger than 50 years old and living in the major island of Taiwan. Different subgroups have thus revealed varying degrees of reliance or preference for different type of communication tools. According to previous studies, visitors with high education levels and children were a target market in heritage tourism. The study found, however, that visitors aged 30 years and younger who received high education, would have a better opportunity than those aged 50 and older to enjoy heritage tourism. Heritage destinations offered a positive experience in order for visitors to retain a pleasant attitude of their travel experience and to deliver the impact to their friends and relatives. These findings aid heritage attraction administrators in better understanding the key visitors and formulating marketing strategies to cater effectively to the target segments. Heritage administrators are encouraged to segment visitors into subgroups to implement marketing plans for maximum profits. A number of research studies indicated that related information should be provided by specific communication channels in light of the visitors unique features (Cai, Feng, & Breiter, 2004). However, very few studies have explored visitors information content preferences in relation to their decision making process. Integrated marketing communication (IMC) is able to create greatest persuasive effects on visitors encounter with brands. IMC that integrates sources, messages, instruments, and media supposedly could boost awareness and sharpen the image of heritage destinations. Heritage administrators are suggested to employ proper IMC strategy to increase persuasive value for destination brands. Heritage administrators could use the results to establish a new marketing plan, based on visitors

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Research Note


preference, and the influence of communication tools to improve marketing efficiency and reduce marketing cost. Eventually, adopting the concept of integrated marketing communication (IMC) to establish marketing plans becomes inevitable. At the same time, administrators could design unified messages to deliver to target visitors for a stronger destination image. Not only can heritage administrators improve destinations awareness and image for higher market share, they also can educate the concept of preserving heritage resource for our next generation.

Limitations and Future Study

This was an exploratory study on the possible connections between integrated marketing communication (IMC) and heritage site visitations. Generalizability of the results appears to be limited. Data was collected using convenience sample (i.e., cultural festival visitors) at a unique heritage site. The media promotion was done by the local township to attract residents from the region. Findings of the current study should be applied with caution to other heritage destination settings. Results from this study need to be validated by studies of similar nature in other heritage tourism surroundings. Also, the small sample size and convenience sampling approach would have an impact on the analysis and the conclusions. Due to the limitation of the research design, no questions were asked regarding the number of visits to the study site. A comparison based on returned and first-time visitors may yield some interesting results in future studies. The results of the factor analysis on the categories of various communication tools provided an initial understanding of the role of these tools. However, the practical applicability of the factor analysis results may be limited. Future studies need to find a better method to examine the research objectives so that more useful practical implications can be produced for local destination management. Such studies may deliver more useful information to the heritage site in terms of media usage in marketing and promotions.

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Research Note


Sirgy, M. J. (1998). Integrated marketing communications: A systems approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Taiwan Transportation Tourism Bureau (2002). Taiwan Tourism Policy White Paper in 2002. Taipei, Taiwan: Author. Vargas, R. D. (2005). Integrated marketing communications: An effective, comprehensive approach. Business Ventures, 1: 1. Williams, S. (1998). Tourism geography. London: Routledge. Yeshin, T. (1998). Marketing communications strategy. Oxford: ButterworthHeinemann.

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