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Lisa Ruhanen and Megan Axelsen
Edited by Dimitrios Buhalis
Peter Fredman and Jan Vidar Haukeland
Edited by Peter Fredman and Jan V. Haukeland
Destination marketing organisations (DMOs) seek to provide positive pre-travel online destination experiences (ODEs) to attract tourists. Thereby, DMOs understand official destination websites (ODWs) as central sources of information influencing tourists’ travel decisions. Although experiential marketing theory postulates that customers are reached through sensory, affective, intellectual, behavioural or social experiences, this theory has rarely been applied to analysing tourist experiences on ODWs. Past research and theories remain similar to models from product brands, yet fail to acknowledge the peculiarities of destination experiences. This research explores how users of ODWs experience unfamiliar tourist destinations in the pre-travel phase. To gain a deeper understanding of the nature of ODEs on ODWs, a qualitative multi-method study was conducted involving eye-tracking, retrospective think-aloud protocols, semi-structured interviews and video observations with 15 German millennials selected via purposeful sampling. Data was analysed in a qualitative directed content analysis following an abductive approach. Findings expand on previous theory by adding a spatio-temporal experience dimension. In the pre-travel phase, potential tourists explore the spatio-temporal accessibility of expected experiences and the experience density in the destination. Furthermore, this research provides new insights into the different dimensions of ODEs and proposes an advanced conceptual framework.