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Research Corner | A partnership between Macau Business and the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM)


‘Flagshipness’ and ‘iconicit as tools to bolst


s tools to bolster A 16 DECEMBER 2020


esearch paper co-authored by two scholars from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) invites authorities in Macau to make use of visitor perceptions of attraction “flagshipness” and “iconicity” to formulate marketing strategies for


the city. The researchers argue this approach could help position Macau as a choice destination for travellers, both regionally and globally. “Perceived flagshipness and iconicity provide a new way of thinking about attraction segmentation and destination marketing,” the authors wrote. IFTM scholars Dr Connie Loi Kim Ieng and Dr Frances


Kong Weng Hang partnered with Dr Bill Xu Jing of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s College of Professional and Continuing Education, to produce the research. “The effects of perceptions of flagshipness and iconicity on word of mouth for attractions and destinations” was supported by a grant from IFTM and published earlier this year in the Journal of Vacation Marketing. The study results were based on a survey answered by 800


tourists to Macau, focused on the city’s tourism attractions. The sample comprised mainly tourists from Mainland China (81.8 percent). Taiwan region was the next largest source of respondents.


Novel approach


Flagshipness and iconicity are recent terms in the tourism context. A tourist attraction can be defined as being “flagship”


Research involving two IFTM scholars – and supported by the Institute – studies how perceptions of tourism attractions can help create destination marketing strategies


destination mark


ss’ and ‘iconicity’ stination marketing


when its appeal is attributed to distinct qualities – including uniqueness, location, international reputation and outstanding media attention – making it a “must-see” that is large both in relative scale and in its economic impact. An attraction is defined as being iconic if it serves as a universally-recognised symbol or representation of its location, culture or heritage, and evokes a powerfully positive image among both tourists and locals. Some examples of flagship attractions include Disneyland


Paris in France and Legoland in Denmark. Mount Fuji in Japan, the Eiffel Tower in France or the Great Wall of China, on the other hand, are iconic attractions for their respective destinations. For their study, Drs Xu, Loi and Kong used word-of-mouth


recommendations about a destination as a “meaningful surrogate” of tourist destination loyalty. The research found that visitor perception of tourism attractions, in terms of flagshipness and iconicity, impacted word-of-mouth recommendations for both the individual attractions and the destination itself. From a broader perspective, that meant that flagship and iconic attractions could help establish and reinforce a destination’s recognition and image. An attraction’s flagshipness and iconicity were both found leading indirectly to word of mouth about the destination, through the mediating effect of word of mouth about the attractions themselves. “However, the perception of iconicity was also noted to result in word of mouth about the destination in a direct manner,” they added.


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