In tourism research, travel motivation is regarded as one of the most important concepts that underpin a better comprehension of travellers‘ behaviours. Means End Chain theory (MEC) discussed here provides an integrative approach to understanding the motivation of travellers and to address problems identified in the prior literature. In this thesis, MECs are used to describe travel motivation at the level of a person‘s attributes, consequences, and values, and therefore provides a link between the destination attributes and the person‘s motivational drivers. A MEC approach examines travel motivation on each of these levels as well as the structure and interrelationships between them, to provide insight into the integrated dimension of travel motivation and develop a rigorous measurement scale.
The overall question of this research is ―What are the hierarchical motivations for Chinese outbound leisure travellers, in terms of attributes, consequences, and values levels and how are they related? To answer this question, this research aims to firstly, identify the travel motivations of outbound Chinese travellers in terms of attributes, consequences, and values levels using MEC theory and secondly, determine the relationships between these levels of travel motivations. By testing MEC theory in the leisure travel research field, this study not only enriches the literature of travel motivation, but also provides meaningful insights into the research on the Chinese outbound leisure travel market, which is an emerging market with strong potential for future growth.
The research methodology used is qualitative in nature reflecting the exploratory nature of the research questions. After a pre-test and pilot test, 60 in-depth interviews were undertaken using a laddering technique, commonly associated with the MEC approach. Based on content analysis and construction of a Hierarchical Value Map (HVM), 58 motivation items emerged from data analysis. Among these motivations, 20 items are at the attribute levels, representing the concrete and abstract destination attributes which attract the respondents to visit; 20 motivation items are related to the consequence or benefit the respondents preferred from these destination attributes; and there are 18 motivation items reflecting the personal values respondents would like to realize from their outbound leisure travel, located at the instrumental and terminal value level. A HVM is used to illustrate the interrelationships between these three different levels. In the HVM the thickness of the lines connecting all the elements represents the varying frequencies of relations with a cut-off level of five. The results shown in the map include 313 ladders in total which represents 736 MEC relations. The relations marked by thicker lines indicate dominant links between attribute-consequence-value concepts, and the key means-end chains. These chains serve as the basis for understanding the underlying motivations of Chinese travellers to travel outbound.
By providing insights into the motivations of Chinese tourists for outbound travel, this study makes six contributions to the tourism literature: (1) it is the first work to discuss Chinese outbound travellers‘ motivation in terms of hierarchical levels of attributes, consequences, and values; (2) it is the first to explicitly indicate that one person‘s travel motivation may be linked to different motivation at a higher level; (3) it enriches the MEC literature by applying MEC theory in the travel motivation research field; (4) it contributes to the knowledge of Chinese outbound travel motivation in an Eastern context; (5) it supports the use of MEC theory and its laddering technique as a valuable method to examine travel motivation at the value level related to long-term goals determining travel behaviour; and (6) it is the first study to explicitly conduct motivation research at an early stage of the decision process. The research findings provide practical implications to help destination marketers better understand the Chinese outbound market.