Destination characteristics affecting visitors ́ travel distance: the case of Estonian foreign event visitors

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The attractiveness of a destination depends on many factors, for example destinations ́ policy, economy, social life, environment or culture (Tisdell & Roy, 1998; Voase 2002), but also on factors connected to tourists themselves, like socio- demographical characteristics and motivation (Goodall & Ashworth, 1998; Beerli & Martin, 2003). Travel motivation is an essential part in tourism development (Wahab 1975). Several theories have been applied to study tourists ́ motivation and travel behavior (Maslow 1943; Iso-Ahola 1982; Plog 1972), but the most often used theory in tourist motivation studies is push and pull theory (Dann 1977; Yuan & McDonald 1990; Fodness 1994). According to this people travel because they are pushed by internal forces and at the same time pulled by external forces such as interest in a destination’s characteristics (Uysal & Jurowski, 1994). Such pull factor of a destination may be for example tourism event. Different events play a significant role in creating and forming destinations tourism, they are seen as unique tourist attractions and as destination image creaters (Getz, 1991). Understanding why and how some tourism events are more attractive than the others (people are willing to travel longer distances), helps place marketers and event organizers to benefit more from tourism industry. This new knowledge also allows researchers understand tourists travel behavior and predict future travel patterns.
The aim of this study is to analyze Estonian tourism events in order to find out which destination characteristics affect visitors ́ travel distance the most. In this study the “destination” is considered to be an event and “destination characteristics” the attributes of an event. We used mobile positioning method to collect data from the biggest Estonian mobile operator EMT (market share in Estonia is 40–45%). The data was collected during the study period of 2005-2011 and the database consists of the locations of roaming call activities. During the time period 276 events were detected which had altogether 252 020 foreign visitors. Mobile positioning data has become widely used method in tourism studies (Ahas et al., 2008; Tiru et al., 2010, Nilbe, Ahas & Silm, 201x), because it helps to analyze and predict visitors movement in time and space.
In this study we analyze event characteristics and assess which of those affect visitors ́ travel distance. The distance travelled to an event is grouped according to the origin of a visitor – neighboring country, other European country or other world country; and the distance is assessed by the following event characteristics: venue, type, time, organizer, tradition (first time or repeated) and the size of an event (local, regional, national or international). In order to find out which of these collected events are most attractive and which characteristics affect the travel distance of visitors, three research questions were raised.
 Which events bring visitors from farer and which from closer countries?
 How do event characteristics affect visitors ́ travel distance?
 Which event characteristics affect visitors ́ travel distance similarly and which
differently?

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